February 7, 2011

From the Department of the Quarterlife Crisis

This post has been a long time coming. In fact, it has been coming for so long that I'm not sure where to begin. I've also preemptively decided to put that "read more" break at the end of... probably this paragraph, because I can only stand to see my rambling for so long as I scroll down the home page. BUT I think this is important(?) rambling, so hang with me for a bit, if you'd like.

I googled "Quarterlife Crisis" in January of 2006 when I was living at the poverty line, in a rural town, my first year out of college, moving mechanically through my days, almost miserable, and completely unaware that I was about to fall in love (real, deep, important love) with my life in a few short weeks. In January 2006, I was looking around my tiny apartment and under the snow banks of my rural town wondering "WHERE DID ALL THE KIDS MY AGE GO?" and "WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO GO GROCERY SHOPPING?!" and "WHAT THE EFF IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE?"

I had stumbled upon the poem "Quarterlife Crisis" [note: not the original link I found] on someone's myspace page (remember when that was a thing we some people did?) and thought that maybe the term "Quarterlife Crisis" fit my life, maybe? An additional google search turned up almost nothing.

So, I went home for a weekend and dug out the books I read, underlined, and memorized in high school: Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Something More, & Yesterday, I Cried. (What? Those aren't the typical books sixteen year-olds read? Really? Come on, Twilight hadn't been written yet... Okay, more on why I was reading those books later...) I made lists and goals and schedules. It all kind of worked...

And then Life and Important Stuff (life/death) stepped in next to a guaranteed return to school in a matter of months (Hello, life I knew and loved! - the school part, not the life/death part). It gave me a different perspective and my life began to feel like mine again. It began to feel "right" again. Quarterlife Crisis diverted. Thankgoodness, because that little poem was not gonna do it for me...

[Enter Law School from stage right. Exit every other aspect of life stage left. Role camera. Zoom in on tired, bloodshot eyes carrying big, dark bags. Cue loss of identity. Instruct main character to remain clueless.]

[Fast forward three years later. Freeze frame graduation caps (ugly, baker's hat type graduation caps). Leave main character center of frame, remove scenery, remove rest of cast, create blackout conditions, turn bright spotlight on main character. Cue breakdown. Hold camera steady as main character crumbles.]


It took me a while to realize that Something Wasn't Right. Took me a while to realize that I wasn't sleeping and crying more often than not. Took me a while to realize I had run straight into a brick wall. Took me a while to realize I repeated at least once an hour "NOTHING is working."

So, I started writing again. Because I was writing often when I was living in the rural world totally confused by my life and the writing process was amazing. Back then I had a blog that maybe two people read (Hi, Bee!) written in almost cryptic language. But I loved it. So yes, I started really writing in this blog.

And I picked up a camera because a bestie (can I use that term? do we like that term?) was doing amazing things with hers and wow - "me too! me too!" was the magnetic reaction I had.

And those were the two things that didn't feel like crap in my life. Well, those things and hugs from friends & family who knew I was struggling and loved me through it. THANK YOU.

Writing on a blog for real meant spending more time on the internet - "How did she get her blog so pretty? What is this html stuff? WHY IS THE FONT ON MY BLOG SO TINY?!" I started finding things I loved - images, quotes, photographs.

Then I found Tumblr. HELLO, CREATIVE OUTLET; WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE? I made an account and stared posting. I think I called my tumblr "Unwritten and Undone" or something like that. Because I had no freakin' clue what I was doing and I wanted to make that very clear to the entire world all of tumblr. Also, I intended it to be a place where I collected inspiration rather than a place where I posted things I had "done" or "written." Whatever. That didn't last very long. BUT...


I was re-connecting to who I was. It was helping. Thankgoodness.

I stumbled upon this quote on tumblr, loved it, and reblogged it:
i know my way back perfectly well. like the back
of my hand, as it were. but look, the labyrinth walls
are high hedge and green. this also could be joy.
While feeling lost was debilitating for months, I was slowly actually enjoying untangling myself and my life. I eventually changed the name of my tumblr to "this also could be joy" and even later recognized that I had been collecting joy on my tumblr for months. Yes.

I must have been googling "joy" or "finding joy" or something of that nature when I stumbled upon Stratejoy - Conquer Your Quarterlife Crisis with Fresh Strategies for Real Joy. YES. QUARTERLIFE CRISIS. Somebody had finally given it more thought than that silly poem and THAT must be part of what I'm facing. I was on the brink of it before. I bookmarked it but didn't return to the site until mid-summer. I have no idea why. That's just the way I roll.

In the meantime, I had a nice break from real life.  An amazing break from real life. Graduating (again!); time with besties (how are we feeling about that term now?) that I hadn't spent quality time with in a long time; a two-week, three-country, backpacking with a suitcase (ha!), trip with my awesome brother; and a move home were fantastic reprieves.

Until the days got hot and I was unemployed and spending a lot of time with myself and my life and was not supremely happy with it or certain where it was going. Because I didn't have a job.

Uh-oh. Red flag. I WILL NOT DEFINE MYSELF BY A PROFESSION. I had made that promise to myself during the dark days of the winter prior. Hm.

So, I went through my old bookmarks and found the Stratejoy one and had the Gutsy Girl's Guide To Success emailed to me. And this part really resonated with me:
If you stripped down to the very base of yourself – if we took away your job, your bank account, your schooling, your relationship status – who would you be?
Sold. I needed/need to figure that out. (Figure it out again, because I was super clear on that at one point in my life. Remember those books I was reading in high school?) I read the rest of the guide and kept up with the daily posts of the Stratejoy ladies who write openly and honestly about the QLC, as I learned to abbreviate it.

I hopped over to Nikki's personal blog, The Grateful Sparrow, and thought "Ah, yes, gratitude, I can get on board with that." Also, this lady rocks and isn't blogging about her infant's nightly sleep routine (or lack there of). (Not that I don't read and love those blogs, but omg I cannot relate at all.)

I started seeing this phase of my life (it was a lot longer and more complicated than I could have ever imagined) as an opportunity. Started thinking about how the Chinese symbol for crisis is a mix of two other symbols: danger and opportunity. (Or something like that, right?...)

I decided/realized/knew that this time period, one of the worst in my life, would ended up being one of the best in my life. I knew/know this because I lived it. Remember those books I was reading in high school? You don't pick those up at sixteen unless you're really desperate to shape your life into to something stable. (My parents divorced when I was sixteen and that, among other things, shattered my entire world. As if 16 isn't hard enough...) I learned so much about myself, my life, and my strength during that time period that I wouldn't trade it for anything. It was hard. I lived through it. My life is better because of it. And I became determined to mine the same outcome from my newly labeled QLC.

I promised myself a lot of things this past summer. One of them was to purchase the Joy Equation when I finally had a real paycheck. I'm making that purchase in March (before an iphone!).

I'm telling you all this because some of my new co-workers have nicknamed me 'Life Coach'. And ask me if I ever have bad days. And I want to say "HOLY FUCK, I HAD ABOUT 400 BAD DAYS IN A ROW AND PROBABLY 900 BEFORE THOSE WITHOUT REALIZING IT. THAT IS ENOUGH FOR NOW!" I also want to tell them that I have been an avid Martha Beck fan since I was 16. (I went to an Oprah conference so I could see her speak live. No joke.) I also think Molly from Stratejoy rocks the QLC like none other and guess what, she's a life coach. I pay attention to these women.

I'm sure that all of my intake of personal development strategies and philosophies will impact what I write here. It already has, as I'm sure you have noticed. But I'm also much better at telling you guys when I'm having a shitty day than telling my co-workers (um, I've known them less than three weeks), so maybe it's not an issue, but I promise you I have crappy days. We all do. Also, I'm not even close to having my life together, but I am working towards it. You know this, I know, but all of this is really to say:

That line beneath the title? The one that says: "The Chronicles of an Aspiring TwentySomething"? Well, I'm aspiring for Joy. It just took me a while to figure that out. And you're all along for the ride with me. It's thrilling and it's hard and I'm excited to see where it takes us.


  1. i love your writing, your journey, your tales...i love that i feel like i lived some of it with you and that it's like puzzle pieces fitting into place, except no one knows ow big the puzzle is! but we love that part of it and hate it at the same time. love this post and t makes me smile. things happen for a reason....

  2. Could you BE anymore beautiful????

  3. You make me feel warm and fuzzy - I love you!

  4. "Can't smile without you..." I love you, Brooke, and I am so glad you have been there for all of it, even if I do tell it in bits and pieces.