woman posing with a black scarf

When I was still in college, I used to complain a lot. The exams, assignments, and group presentations were all a giant thorn in my side.

While I do admit that certain parts of my five-year higher education weren’t exactly smooth sailing, there was one aspect of being a college kid I never truly appreciated until it was gone: stability.

There’s immense comfort in knowing that all you’ll be doing in the next couple of years is studying for your degree. With graduation as your only focus, the intimidating world of adulthood seems so far away.

But once you get your degree and finally set out into the world, there’s often a sense of confusion.

While college offers you a predetermined path to follow, real life does not. It’s filled with uncertainty and self-doubt, so it’s no surprise that many 20-somethings fall into a quarter-life crisis.

When I was going through my quarter-life crisis, I actually had no clue that such a thing existed. I simply thought that I was failing at life.

“Is this all there is?” was a question that was constantly on my mind and I was terrified that the answer was going to be “yes”.

Now that the crisis is more or less behind me, I can see that in many ways it was necessary.

The lessons I learned about myself and the world around me during that time turned out to be absolutely essential to my growth, and I couldn’t have learned them any other way.

1. All Decisions (Yes, Even the Bad Ones) Are Valuable

When you’re in your mid-20s, there’s a lot of anxiety around making bad decisions, especially if they’re career-related. The pressure to succeed and grow quickly is intense, spurred by the fear of being left behind in the rat race.

With all of this weighing heavily on your mind, it’s no wonder that you’re experiencing a crisis.

But what I’ve learned is that making a bad decision is not a complete waste – if you’re willing to dig deeper, you’ll find an opportunity hiding somewhere underneath.

You’re bound to make mistakes as you go but don’t view that as proof that you aren’t meant to be happy or successful.

Instead, seek to understand what you can learn from the situation. After all, mistakes are a part of life so it helps to adopt a growth mindset and see the positives even when things aren’t going as planned.

2. Relationships Aren’t The Be-All-End-All of Your Life

People in their early 20s often put a high premium on relationships – especially romantic ones. And while they do have immense value, sometimes they threaten to overpower every other aspect of your life, creating an imbalance of priorities.

As a result, it’s easy to get stuck in unfulfilling relationships where you might get manipulated or even future-faked, especially if you subconsciously tie your self-worth to being coupled up.

But what these experiences can teach you is incredibly valuable. Perhaps you need better boundaries or you should reconsider your standards. Relationships can be beautiful and exciting, but putting all your energy and focus on one person is never healthy.

3. Growing out of Friendships Is Normal

Friendships are important at every stage of life.

But what’s less talked about is the process of growing out of friendships and how painful it is to wake up one day and realize you have nothing in common with someone you were close to for years.

When this happens, it’s easy to believe that someone must be at fault.

However, the truth is that the immense changes people go through in their 20s often put them on different life paths. It’s nobody’s fault and there’s no need to play the blame game.

4. You Cannot Control Everything

Accepting that I can’t control every aspect of my life was a major lesson I learned from my quarter-life crisis.

There will always be outside forces that turn your life upside down and you need to have faith in yourself that you can handle the unexpected.

The need for control is usually tied to deeper issues like anxiety, and this is a good opportunity to dig deeper into your behavioral patterns and unearth what lies underneath.

5. Life Is Not a Race

Turning 25 was a major point in my life. It felt as though I had stepped over an invisible threshold and now lived in the realm of adults – and that’s when the comparisons kicked in.

Everywhere I looked, people seemingly had their lives together, buying houses and cars, getting married, or getting into prestigious grad programs. In comparison, I felt like my life had barely lifted off the ground.

The reality is that we tend to undervalue our own achievements – no matter how much I accomplished, it wasn’t enough, so I could never live up to my sky-high standards.

What’s more, there is no finish line in life. There is no race and no one to hand you a trophy for being the best, so take it easy and give yourself credit where credit is due.

Final Thoughts

Going through a quarter-life crisis is exhausting and confusing, especially if you feel like you’re the only one who feels this way.

There is so much pressure to have everything figured out right now that it’s hard to relax, let go, and enjoy the present moment.

Even if you are one of those people who knows exactly what they want to accomplish in the next 10 years, know that life often has an uncanny way of reminding you that you’re not always in charge.

This is a stage of life filled with trial and error and it’s okay to feel lost or like you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going.

On the other hand, a quarter-life crisis can also teach us invaluable lessons – we just need to be open enough to receive them.