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Coping With a Quarter Life Crisis

Posted in: PhD Survival
Coping With a Quarter Life Crisis

7+ years’ training-a batchelor’s and a PhD-and for what? Starting at the bottom in a profession that offers repetitive work, poor pay, long hours and frustratingly hard-to-come-by successes. And to make it worse, you can’t afford a decent apartment, your standard of living is low and your relationship is suffering.

Sound familiar?

If so, then you may be suffering from a quarter-life-crisis, a phenomenon that is being increasingly recognized by psychologists.

Like it’s more established cousin, the mid-life-crisis, a quarter-life crisis is about adjusting to a major life transition.

But instead of being all about the feeling of youth slipping away, which we all know is easily cured by getting a tattoo and buying a fast car, the quarter life crisis is about dealing with the transition from being an aspiration-filled youth to a twenty-something experiencing the mundane reality of everyday working life.

Bioscientists, are particularly prone to the quarter-life-crisis because they normally spend a prolonged time in education. In this bubble, life is filled with a heady mix of pursuing a passion for science, camaraderie amongst peers and continuous positive feedback from educators. This, of course, contrasts starkly with the real working world so when the time comes to transition to a job, the bump to earth can be hard.

In a saturated job market, (post)-graduates are likely to find themselves unemployed, under-employed and/or poorly paid. Of course, this leads to disillusionment; the feeling that all of that hard work was for nothing. This can be compounded by the financial pressures that come with trying to maintain a decent standard of living and pay off college loans on a small salary.

And to top it all… having to come to the same place, to do the same job EVERY day? With no summer break?? That’s just like being a cog in a wheel!

When reality bites, it bites very hard indeed.

So if you are suffering from a quarter-life crisis – where do you turn? Well, there are several good books that can help you through. Try Quarterlife Crisis: The Unique Challenges of Life in Your Twenties and Managing the Quarterlife Crisis, for instance.
Of course, you may have identified with the opening paragraph of this article even though you have been out of college for many a year. In that case I would say that you are just suffering from “being a scientist”, for which there is no cure! 🙂

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  1. Liam on September 5, 2008 at 7:07 am

    Bala & Th2 – It does actually happen to people, and has happended to me, but as mqadir says, risk is a great way to get out of it, and once you realise what is going on, you’re a much happier person. Oh, Th2, only constructive comments please.

  2. Th2 on September 5, 2008 at 4:59 am

    Wow! Sounds like someone needs a Waaambulance

  3. Suzanne on September 5, 2008 at 1:21 am

    Great article!!

  4. mqadir on September 4, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    There is always a cure! It’s called “risk”

    Experiment with a new co-career (just coined it up)


  5. bala on September 4, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I’m not sure about the quarter life crisis liam, but i damn sure agree with you on the last point.. — there is no cure 😉

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