Quarterlife Crisis, a Conflict of Choice

Earlier today my personal essay about what quarterlife crisis feels like went live on The Bold Italic. I actually have some additional thoughts on the topic that didn’t fit in story so I thought I would share them here.

When we were little, we had our families to tell us what to do. Parents taught us what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is wrong. In school, teachers instructed us what to do and provided grades as measurements of how well we were doing. We applied to schools using standardized tests and a pre-determined system. Then upon completion of our education, we are told by that the world is our oyster, go wild. The expectations from others remain, but no longer can someone else tell us exactly what to do when and how, step by step. “It’s your life,” they say—Indeed we have our three-fourths of our lives ahead of us. Married couples with children say they envy us for having no one to be responsible for except ourselves, “You are free to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.” However, these statements often terrify twentysomethings instead of making us feel powerful and liberated. Why? Because there are simply much more options to choose from than ever before.

This is termed the Paradox of Choice by a psychology professor named Barry Schwartz in 2004. He published a whole book on the subject and the main concepts are outlined in his TedxTalk. To sum it up, Schwartz points out that when presented with too many choices, one often feels paralyzed and unable to choose. And when we do finally make a choice, we can’t help but wonder about the other options we’re missing (FOMO, anyone?), thus feeling much less satisfied than if we had picked from a smaller quantity of choices. And when presented with a plethora of options, logically we reason that one of them should be the Perfect One, and when we realize or doubt that our chosen choice may not be the best, we start to blame ourselves for not having the foresight to choose better. It’s a vicious cycle, and Generation Y grew up in the midst of this culture of overchoice and information overload.

The examples Schwartz gave in the video were commodities—the insane number of salad dressings available at the supermarket and the dizzying different types of jeans to purchase. If deciding what to make for dinner and which pair of pants to buy are already stressful, imagine what it feels like to face that kind of anxiety every day about your own identity. That is quarterlife crisis in a nutshell, trying to navigate murky waters saturated with too many choices and conflicting information, and swim towards self-actualization. Twentysomethings worry about “choosing wrong” for which professional industry to pursue, which city to live in, which person to date seriously, whether or not to go to graduate school, etc. It feels like standing at a crossroads with thousands of paths that are obscured by thick fog— you know you can’t stand still forever but you are unable to see far down the routes, so you hesitate to take a step forward. It feels like having all the time in the world while simultaneously having so little time because there is so much that you could be doing.

Ten years after Barry Schwartz’s, Ruth Chang a philosophy professor from Rutgers University also spoke about choice on Ted Talk, although this time the focus is on how to making difficult choices. Her point is that certain decisions are only difficult to make when the options are different yet equal. Chang advises that instead of trying to compare the pros and cons of these options, it is better to think of each option as having different values and determine which values you can stand behind. 

For example, let’s say you recently have two new job offers. One is at a non-profit company supporting a cause you care deeply about, and one is a much higher-paying job at a huge corporation. Both paths have their various merits. Chang would suggest that you examine within and see if you care more about ideals and helping others vs. prestige and money (Obviously most situations aren’t as black and white as this hypothetical one).

She also reiterates this philosophy in a New York Times Op-Ed: “Instead of looking outward to find the value that determines what you should do, you can look inward to what you can stand behind, commit to, resolve to throw yourself behind.

No matter what kind of issues you’re going through—self-identity, location, career, relationships, family, etc— I think at its core, quarter life crisis can be boiled down to the conflict of making difficult decisions in the present world of overchoice culture

Hope all of this helps you as much as it helped me, 

Chin

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Life Lessons I Learned from Yoga, or How Yoga Keeps Me Sane

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Here’s a pretty nature scene photo I took in Taiwan, because it’s kind of weird to take photos in yoga class.

I’ve been doing yoga consistently for about 10 years now. If it were a person, I would marry it.

In the past year or so, I took a hiatus from blogging here, not on purpose but just due to the sheer amount of the priorities I made willingly. I switched jobs twice. Some new faces entered into my life while some left. I continued some hobbies and dropped others. I know everyone goes through changes like these, and for me, yoga has been a trusty companion that helps restore my physical and inner balance through my ups and downs.

Yoga releases the stress caused by my demanding work projects or upsetting situations. It reassured me during my multiple waves of quarterlife crisis by calming my crippling anxiety and panic about uncertainties. I have silently shed a few tears during Child pose and shavasana multiple times. In my opinion and experience, this form of moving meditation is one of the best methods of anger management. When I would enter a studio furious or disappointed, after exerting myself to exhaustion for a while, I leave knowing that I can eventually forgive, let go, and move on. Yoga has provided important positive reminders of my blessings and confirmations of my strengths through all of my breakups and heartbreaks. When friends tell me about certain hardships they’re facing that I cannot help with besides offering emotional support, I pray for them and send positive energy towards their way when I shut my eyes during lotus pose.

There were plenty of triumphs and happy moments to share with my metaphorical old friend too. During the classes I attended right after achieving something important to me, I felt invincible from controlling my body to take actions in just the ways I want. Very often when my mind is cleared from moving from pose to pose, the things I appreciate and those I treasure in my life would randomly pop into my mind, and I would be grateful for their existence. And maybe it’s all the “heart-opening poses,” but when I am happily in love, I would smile and giggle through the movements and my affection for that person would feel intensified somehow afterwards. At the peaks of my self-confidence, I would feel extra powerful and beautiful from being able to move gracefully, making me feel like a badass Peaceful Warrior.

Through doing and the words from instructors over the years, I’ve learned the following from yoga:

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Yes, I Have Quarter Life Crisis, and “The Defining Decade” Book Review

I have type A personality so I like to do as much research and preparation before I set out to do something. This includes dealing with quarter life crisis.

I remember my very wise friend Natira telling me that quarterlife crisis comes in waves: At different age in your twenty’s, you freak out about different things.

I remember the paralyzing fear and anxiety I felt during the period after college. I went to the campus hospital because I was experiencing sudden bouts of nausea, intense headaches, and difficulty breathing. I thought I had developed a brain tumor or asthma, or caught some weird disease somehow.

When the doctors kept running tests and coming back with negative results, I vividly recall the nurse asking, “Is there anything else going in your life right now that we should know about?” When I answered with feigned nonchalanced, “Oh um, I’m just looking for my first real job. I graduated a couple of weeks ago. Not doing much,” the nurse’s face changed from puzzled to really, really concerned. She suggested softly “You need to go see a counselor, hon.”

Thus I made an appointment at the psychological services department. (Big shout out to UC Berkeley for letting students keep their health insurance for a few weeks after graduation! AND providing the first five counseling appointments FO’ FREE! Thank you, thank you, thank you!) Each session flew by quickly because I just had so much to say, things that I thought would make me seem weak or whiny if I told them to my peers or family. I thought I was one of the very few people going through similar things, or at least the ones taking it the hardest.

At the time, I had no idea that quarter life crisis was a thing. I also had no idea how common it is. After I’ve found a job (well, paid full-time internship is close enough), I told friends about the physical symptoms I had that lead me to seeing a counselor, and to my surprise, many of them apparently also made themselves worried-sick during their first real job hunt. We were just all too embarrassed to admit to each other. Most of them did not seek professional help like I did because they didn’t think this was important enough to warrant that.

Now I’m not so nervous about my future that I’m tossing my cookies randomly anymore, but now there’s just a quiet disturbance always bubbling beneath the surface. I didn’t want to wait until for it to erupt to learn about how to deal with it that when my other twentysomething coworkers told me about the book Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How To Make The most of Them Now By Doctor Meg Jay, I bought it immediately.

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I find it extremely helpful. The book couldn’t possibly give me personalized, specific recommendations on how I can work to improve my life, because every reader is unique, but the book did provide really poignant ways and realistic perspectives to think about how I can begin to improve various aspects of my life. Using examples from her anonymous clients, Meg Jay draws insight from these real-life twentysomethings’ often misled reasoning and how we could do differently to move forward. While I don’t have the same issues as them, I easily sympathize and quickly relate with each one. Sometimes I’d even think to myself, “Oh this sounds a lot like my friend ____!”

I’m not going to spoil the book for you, and it is definitely worth reading for yourself, but here are the three main points that I personally find the most valuable:

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Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E6-E9

(Post about the season 2 premiere is here, the post about S2E2 is here, the one about S2E4 is here. S2E5 here. No, I didn’t write about episode 3, and I slacked off for 4 episodes. Stop yelling at me.)

Tonight is going to be the season two finale of the HBO show Girls, in order to honor Lena Dunham, I decided to finally stop procrastinating, hunker down, and blog about the last 4 episodes during my one-month blogging hiatus.

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“Boys” Season 2 6th episode or #16 overall

Or the episode where you realize that Ray is a lot more screwed up that you thought before

(Official HBO recap video and “Inside the Episode”)

This episode is aptly named because just like none of the four central female protagonists have matured into real women yet, none of the male ones are real men either. They’re dudes, they’re guys, and they’re boys.

I love, love, love the scenes with Adam and Ray. When Adam randomly asks Ray for help, he was flattered that someone would deem him manly enough for “extra muscle type of backup.: And when Ray agrees, Adam awkwardly says “Ummm alright. Ummm thank you,” it’s so endearing but you realize that he is simply not used to expressing gratitude. When will our society stop pushing socially constructed gendered roles and instead encourage open communication in men, starting when they’re young’uns? I want to know.

Anyway, I think what happened is that before, Ray at least feels like he’s better than a few people in the world and that included Hannah, but now that Hannah might become a semi-legit writer, he feels the need to belittle her to feel better about himself. Ray tries to get Adam to agree with him, thinking it’ll be real easy to hate on an ex, but Adam surprisingly is very honest about the situation, which is that “everyone’s difficult” and they are both flawed.

LESSONS:

  1. If you have to barf in public, try to do it into a trash can– When Hannah gets offered an e-book deal verbally (…seriously, I would ask for that stuff in a legal document to sign and date), she gets so nervous that she throws up right outside a café, onto a tree by the curb to much of the other patrons’ horror. I used to get sick a lot when I was in elementary school, so I know from personal experience that you should try to master the skill of holding that in or run for the nearest dumpster, ditch, or toilet.
  2. Women and men have very different ideas about what outlines the steps mark the progress of a romantic relationship.- When Booth Jonathan asks Marnie to host a party at his house for him, both Shoshanah and Marnie immediately assumes that this means he thinks she’s girlfriend material when really, Marnie’s just a good PR hostess to him. I can totally see the ladies’ reasoning: “Oh I’ll be presented as the lady of his house to all his friends and party guests? I must be his girlfriend! Totes.” It is tricky to know whether someone introduces you to his friends because he likes you and wants his friends to get to know you, or if as soon as you go to the bathroom, he smirks and boasts to his friends “Yeah so I’ve banging THOSE great tits wassup?!”  Continue reading

Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E5

(Post about the season 2 premier is here, the post about S2E2 is here, the one about S2E4 is here. No, I didn’t write about episode 3. Stop yelling at me.)

Yes I’m writing this blog post on Valentine’s Day, because that is what a single girl like me do on Single Awareness Day.

ANYWAY! So “One Man’s Trash” is definitely the hottest episode so far, but also the most thought-provoking. I feel like this episode was sort of a fairy tale. Not the kind with the “happy ever after” ending, but the Grimms’ Brothers’ kind that’s dark and with a deep moral (Did you know in the original version of Little Mermaid, she DIES IN THE END? Well, now you know).

I feel like both Hannah and Joshua needed this. They’re both at a f-ed up point of their lives, and they’re just two extremely lonely people who just want to give and receive affections without facing the reality. When they happened to meet at the same place and same time, they live out this sort of temporary fantasy to escape their situations, which are full of problems. It’s kind of like what people say about a foreign vacation fling: It’s only so much more magical and passionate because this stranger is exotic to you, and you don’t need to care enough to get to know them as a person since you know this won’t last.

From Hannah’s angle, she needed to know what happiness feels like, even if it’s built on a false foundation. Ignorance is bliss, no? And with a man who does not know about her past, she is finally comfortable to ask for what she wants, whether it was in bed or making Joshua beg her to stay. Hence the super hot sex scenes!…

As for Joshua, I feel like he was SO NICE to Hannah because he knows he was supposed to do all these wonderful things for his wife, who left because he got too busy and ignored her basically, and this was making up for his past mistakes indirectly.

When Hannah started crying in Joshua’s bed, I started crying too. She’s so happy that she’s finally happy for once but she realizes that this isn’t real. This person doesn’t know her at all, and she doesn’t know him either. It hit her all of the sudden that she wants this level of happiness but with someone else. She tries to share parts of herself with Joshua and asks him to do the same, and unsurprisingly, he avoids it and runs away.

*SIGH* Here are some things I thought were meaningful from the show:

  1. 1.    If you’re planning on apologizing to someone, say “I’m sorry” early or you just sound like you’re excusing yourself.- Ahem, Hannah! People tend to ramble a bit when they feel bad about something, but verbalize it sooner than later. And when in doubt, apologize again in the middle and or the end.
  2. 2.    If someone’s seems too good to be true, they probably are.- Handsome and fit doctor with a great house? Yep, still married.
  3. 3.    If you’re dating someone and you have the ability to lift them up on a counter, DO IT because it’s SO HOT.- Just be careful. Don’t drop them and make sure there are no sharp or breakable obstacles.
  4. 4.    People are afraid to admit that they’re lonely, but we all really are sometimes.- Hannah has friends and family, but she only realized how lonely she is in “such a deep, deep way” until she had a taste of conditional intimacy with Joshua.
  5. 5.    There are many things in life one can try to achieve: financial success, popularity, the dream job, “being cool,” etc., but the one thing that is the hardest to accomplish and the most important one is happiness. 

Lastly, to people who say that Lena Dunham isn’t attractive enough to sleep with Patrick Wilson, you’re part of the reason why 1 in 150 fifteen year old girls suffers from anorexia.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Chin

Quarterlife Lessons From the HBO Show “Girls”: S2E4

(Post about the season 2 premiere is here, and the post about S2E2 is here)

You may have noticed that I didn’t blog about the last episode “Just Say No” this past week. That’s because I felt like there wasn’t any cautionary tale out of it besides DON’T DO COKE, SERIOUSLY.

If you totally were bummed out by that, here’s this awesome Spotify playlist I found that features every single song featured on the show in chronological order.

Back to this #13 “It’s A Shame About Ray” episode. I have to say this was the most emotionally intense one so far. I cried during the subway scene because it was SO REAL. And I was depressed for about an hour after the show.

I knew that Jessa and Thomas-John’s marriage was doomed from the beginning but their fight was so vicious, and to witness Jessa, who seems to walk through life with a “eh, whatever ha!” attitude, break down so completely was heartbreaking. Hindsight is always 20-20 and I felt that she really thought this could work and it was the best thing to happen to her ever in her life, but now, she has to start all over again, and that sucks.

ANYWAY, onto the “lessons”:

  1. Don’t invite people to a party whom you know would have potential conflicts– Come on, Hannah. Exes don’t mix well especially with the current partner involved. Anyone with half a brain can tell there are still a lot of remaining feelings between Marnie and Charlie, and his new girlfriend is very volatile.
  2. Don’t invite unwanted people to events “out of politeness”- It’s your own goddamn party and they might just show up with your permission.
  3. The more you explain about a lie, the less likely people are to believe itI love you, Shosh, but you are not good at pretending. Stick to one-liner excuses only!
  4. It’s important to master the art of backhanded compliments and subtle insults– Don’t lie. You enjoyed watching the catty exchange between Marnie and Charlie’s GF, too. (It reminded me of the reading scene in Pride & Prejudice where Lizzie artfully made it clear to Mr. Darcy that Caroline Bingley is a pretentious cow.) Occasionally in life, we need to throw some shade to stand up for ourselves, something, or someone else. Remember that in an argument, the person who appears less mad is the winner, so work on your poker face and thinking quick on your feet to create incognito offenses such as “So where did you get your headband?” as in because that’s the only interesting thing about you.
  5. Choose conversation topics wisely and appropriately for the occasion, time, place, and participants– When in doubt, avoid the following because they’re controversial: sex, drugs, violence, religion, politics, and the right way to raise children. Jessa and Hannah covered most of these at the dinner tables. Continue reading