Welcome to My Quarter-Life Crisis

Turning this age in a few months won't be a piece of cake (photo credit: The Shopping Sherpa).
Turning this age in a few months won’t be a piece of cake (photo credit: The Shopping Sherpa).

Everyone says your 20s are the most formative time in your life are the most formative time in your life, and I would certainly say that is true for myself and everyone that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. – Sophia Bush (From a 2010 interview I conducted with her for University Link Magazine)

Well, it’s been way too long, fine people of the Interwebs. I had so many plans to stick around and post actual blogs instead of Throwback Thursday posts but I got in the way of myself.

As many of you already know from knowing me personally and/or through this blog and social media, my main narrative for the past few years has been trying to find a full-time job as a writer or in online media. Yes, I know it’s a difficult job market for everyone, moreso for anyone with a journalism degree. But I know I can do it if I’m getting responses to my applications, getting interviews, and finding at least one good job posting in my area a couple of times a month. It’s an up-and-down elevator ride that is gradually breaking me down. “You build up hope, but failure’s all you know” is a lyric from a wonderful Linkin Park song “Iridescent,” and is the most perfect painful testament to these last two years. The acceptance, the invitations to find out more about me and what I can offer to a company excites me and I think, “Maybe, maybe this could finally be it.” But then I start to think that it’s too good to be true because of all the other times everyone else said no. So far, I’ve been right.

I’ve heard from some people that I should enjoy life without having to worry about working, but how would I know that I wouldn’t enjoy life more if I did? Right now, my life consists of going to my day job, writing/thinking about articles I write for the sites I contribute to, acting and feeling like a housewife even though I’m single and have no kids (The household duties here are lopsided), and all things related to finding that dream job—updating my portfolio, resume, and LinkedIn profile, scouring job boards, writing a unique cover letter, waiting to hear back from a hiring manager, preparing for interviews, going to interviews, and feeling mostly terrible after the confirmed rejection. If I could just eliminate one or two of those things because I’ve finally gotten to my ideal place, I’d be able to concentrate on being able to do the things I’ve held off on doing, like basically everything I wrote about in this piece for The Hudsucker in January called 25 Ways to Feel Happier and Be Fearless. Eventually, it’s up to me to get out of the pool of self-pity and just do them all regardless of what else I do or don’t accomplish at this point in my life, but let’s be real—when finances are tough and all your time and energy is devoted to your current work, your family, and making your dreams reality, it can actually be difficult to direct your attention anywhere else.

While I can’t say I regret any part of the life I’ve lived thus far, I’m finally beginning to realize that I may have lost my college years. When I was in high school, San Diego State was my college of choice. I got accepted because I guess it’s easy to get accepted into state schools for the most part, but my parents were not happy, and they were not happy either when I got accepted to San Jose State. Isn’t it weird that my parents were not happy about their first-born being accepted into college?! I only applied to four state schools and got accepted to all of them, but they wanted me to stay at home (For financial reasons, and probably because I’m a girl and girls are so helpless according to their extremely flawed mindset), hence a big part of why I ended up going to San Francisco State. I probably could’ve gone to SJ State as a commuter but commuting wasn’t an option as I did not have a driver’s license at the time. SF State was only a walk and a shuttle bus ride away and the ‘rents wouldn’t have to pay for anything other than tuition. Visiting the campus during my senior year of high school also helped me decide on my own terms, however, that I wanted to go to school there, though maybe back then, I didn’t really feel like I had a choice.

I did a good four-and-a-half years at SF State and met some wonderful folks there. But being a commuter at a commuter school, I did not bother getting involved in extracurricular activities, other than journalism-related stuff and even those were more of our core requirements. It was almost a continuation of high school, except in high school, I was Miss School Spirit as the newspaper editor and almost-four-year class/Associated Student Body officer. Socially though, I was as introverted as I was before. I spent most of my time with the same few close friends from high school. I never partied or even dated anyone. I spent every waking minute immersed in what I had to do to pass my classes. It was stressful. I was lonely. There was even a time during my second or third year that I ended up seeing a psychotherapist on campus because there was no change from the depression* I sometimes felt during my time in high school and I finally needed to do something about it.

The closest thing I had to an away-from-home college experience was when I had my three-month internship for HollywoodLife.com in Los Angeles during the summer of 2010, about six months before my college career came to an end. It was the most thrilling and most trying of times. I moved there on a whim and subleased a room at a sorority house near USC with the coolest rotation of housemates, although I was never particularly close to any of them. However, even though I was doing what I dreamed of doing forever and then some—interviewing celebrities, being on red carpets, going to parties and private events, being a beat reporter for a reality TV competition—I didn’t have all the practical resources. I still didn’t have my driver’s license so I had to navigate the difficult and shady public transportation system to get me everywhere. My internship was unpaid and I didn’t have a job and a lot of savings either, so I had to rely a lot on family. That was the most difficult part, and I hated myself every day for having to put them through that. But maybe that’s why they wanted me to stay at home after high school, and also, I realize now that I just can’t move to LA, NYC, or anywhere else without the security. I always thought that people could just pack up and move and live their dreams and I realized the hard way that it doesn’t work that way. I cherished and learned from the good, and cringed but learned from the bad.

Besides, I like it in San Francisco too much and I can see myself getting my start here with all the geeky startups. But one more annoying thing about the never-ending job hunt—which is both a blessing and a curse—is that it made me question even more what I want to do for the rest of my life. When interviewers ask me “Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?” I usually tell them what I’ve told most people two years ago: Be a film reporter/critic for a site like The Hollywood Reporter or Variety. That’s still true for the most part. But when I’m interviewing for jobs as editorial assistants for lifestyle sites, in social media marketing, or community management, I don’t know if that’s what they want to hear. I don’t want to lie to myself and or to them, but I wonder if that kind of aspiration keeps me away from them. I feel like I can’t win: Is it possible to want a job now just because it sounds awesome, because it is relevant to my skills and interest and will help me at least break into the field? Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

I recount my time in high school, at SF State, and in LA because they were still formative to me, even if not in the ways society would think of. I’ve grown much wiser. I’m not going to make huge impulsive and impractical decisions to make it to the top. Since I graduated college, I’ve still had some incredible professional opportunities and personal experiences that have contributed to my success and happiness. However, there’s still emptiness and a feeling that the high school/college craziness and depression never really went away. My 25th birthday is still four months away but that is an age that scares me. About ten years ago, when my family moved to our current home and my depression sort of started, I constantly wrote in my journal about how I wanted to go to college in SoCal, get a job either in journalism or performing arts, and get married and have kids, all in my early 20s. It’s so silly now because I’m nearing the end of my early 20s and none of that ever happened. Now I just want a job and be on my way to being a self-sufficient person (The “get married and have kids” part can wait, or maybe never. Really, sometimes I laugh and shake my head at that possibility.). I can not wait another five or ten years; I didn’t spend all that time in school to be miserable and inadequate for the rest of my life.

So, 25: It’s time to blossom and bust out of this decade-long slump.

(On a blog-related note: I can’t believe how awesome some of you all have been even though I haven’t written a real blog post since about January or February. Thank you all so much for the emails, comments, blog follows, Facebook likes, etc. I really, really hope I can write here more consistently soon! You all keep going.)

*Writer’s note: I was never officially diagnosed with depression, just with a depressive personality, according to my therapist. I say this because while I never look down on those who actually have depression, I’ve been pretty fortunate, even though times of self-doubt, sadness, and guilt have made me feel very low.

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6 thoughts on “Welcome to My Quarter-Life Crisis

  1. The way I see it (or at least try to convince myself to believe), so long as you are learning and growing along the way, none of the opportunities you take along the way to your career/the rest of your life is a wasted one. We all have to carve our paths in our own unique ways. It will probably take longer than desired to reach that dream goal (it might even change too!), but we just have to remember to keep following our passions, be open-minded, and think about what we’ve gained. Vulnerability and self-reflection, as you have displayed here, are valuable traits that will help you through it all!

    Alas, I’ll be joining you in this quarter-life crisis soon enough, so if you want to vent some more, feel free to drop me a line, haha.

    Keep on, Karen! πŸ™‚

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    1. Hiya Elizabeth!
      As much as I feel disappointed that I have not gotten to a certain point, I do count my blessings about all the opportunities I have had. If things had turned out different, who knows if I ever would have met all the wonderful people I met through my jobs, reunited with others, or if I had been able to write, report, and edit for the publications I have been a part of? Still, I just feel like I’ve been working and waiting too long. Gotta keep on trucking though!

      Thank you for your support and insight. I can’t believe you’re done with college! It seems just like yesterday both you and I were ranting about it. I’m so happy and proud of you and i know you’ll succeed in whatever you do. And if you want to hop on the quarter-life crisis bandwagon, I will be glad to lend an ear as well. πŸ™‚

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  2. You are an amazing young woman and an excellent writer. Everything you have done up till this point will pay off for you, I can guarantee it. I know it’s tough being a writer and getting yourself out there, but as long as you can be happy and content with who you are right now, there’s no telling where that optimistic mindset will take you. You’re a rich girl because you’re doing something you really believe in and not a lot of people can go out and be brave like that. I admire that greatly about you. You’ve got to keep fighting and persevering, and I promise you’ll be in the place you want to be.

    Life is unpredictable. We don’t always get exactly what we want (trust me, I know!), but that just means there is something bigger and better designed for us out there. At the end of it, it’s up to you to keep moving forward. You have that strength, so I know you can. Take each day as it comes because sometimes great things happen when you least expect it and will just fall into your lap with accordance to timing. Timing is everything and perhaps when you continue what you’re doing in your day-to-day life, you will find that spark and it will guide you. Don’t look too close to the present, look ahead to the future and know that things always get better. You can’t really go anywhere else but hope and these challenges we face in life, they prepare us for what’s ahead and we can handle.

    You are an important person, Karen. Always remember that! Your work means a lot to readers and I can see that passion when you write. It’s something that makes me extremely proud of you. You have stunning drive and I always wish you the best! I am positive you’re going to see much success in these years to come. πŸ™‚

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    1. Hi Tania,
      I never know how to reply to you because you always say everything so eloquently! But I can say thank you so so much for your wisdom and amazing support. I do know that I am much better writer and person because you’ve helped me with all of my work in The Hudsucker. I really didn’t know that I was capable of some of the work I put out through the incredible platform you’ve created. So thank you forever for that and again, much appreciation for all your kind words and encouragement. ❀

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  3. Karen,

    I like this article, very honest and real. Many people have experienced what you feeling, myself included. Two years ago I was 27 and worried that my college efforts had been worthless, as well as my previous six years in the Air Force. The notion that my life was not “on track” caused great anxiety, but, just like you, I refused to give up on my dream. I took menial day jobs, working all day and then hustling in the evenings and on weekends to improve my skills and create opportunities for myself. Eventually it did happen, and I can tell you that every difficulty and defeat has made success that much sweeter.

    Keep pushing, it is inevitable that you will break through if you work hard, make opportunities for yourself and refuse to give up. Once you have your foot in the door your passion for doing what you love will propel you forward much faster than your peers who are not doing what truly motivates them.

    Best of luck,
    Tom

    PS~ 25 is the new 18. Get into your profession and you’ll quickly form relationships with people who share your passion and inspire you.

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    1. Hi Tom,
      Thank you so much for reading and for sharing your story. It’s so uplifting to hear when someone wins the battle. I’m glad to hear things have turned out well for you. I’ve done a lot of networking through some of my past positions – it hasn’t gone as well as I hoped but I think I’m getting better at making and maintaining those connections. We’ll see what comes out of those, but for now, I just gotta do what I gotta do. Thanks again for your nice comment!

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