My Incredibly Inconvenient Late-Twenties Quarter-Life Crisis (Who’d have thought?)

by Megan M. on April 10, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

It was Tiara who called it a quarter-life crisis. Funny, huh?

I have spent a lot of time being sure of myself.

I was sure of myself when I started Virtual Magpie, way back when. I was sure that I could design brilliant materials, build really great websites, and provide enough value to the people I worked with that they’d be happy to pay me for my efforts.

I was sure I could run a business that paid my bills. I was sure I could move to Austin and let go of my last available safety net (that is, living in proximity to family—who have to take you in whether they like it or not).

I was sure that Marty could break amazing ground with his artwork, that it made no sense for him to work all day at a job he hated just to pay bills. I was so sure, I constructed a mad plan to allow him to quit that job… and do what he loved. I was sure I could make that difference in his life, and make it work.

I was right about all those things.

This last year, I decided that I wasn’t going to do anything I hated anymore. No more taking jobs just for the money, no more subjugating my master plan for a temporary fix. I was really vehement about it, too. I stopped doing business the “traditional” way and started treating my clients like friends—and only dealing with clients I felt truly friendly about. Pretending I was someone else simply wasn’t worth it. The world would have to accept me as I was.

The world did. Everything got better from there. Projects started to go more smoothly (and arrive more frequently). Clients were happier. I was happier. The money was better. My life became perceptively more positive and even more reliable. I started feeling really good at making my own living.

But then something kind of funny happened: I stopped really understanding what it is I do.

I got so caught up in listening to the tiny voice telling me what to do, what was best for myself, that I got halfway down the path and realized I didn’t know the destination. I didn’t know what I was striving for. I was following instructions—really good instructions!—but I didn’t understand what the instructions were leading me to. Without an explanation, I had no context. I was still going, but I was lost.

As of right now, I still am.

I know that I care a lot about the world and the people in it. I know that it evokes a powerful emotional reaction from me to see people laying about and wasting their potential when there is such need in the world for clever, skillful doers. I know that it makes me incredibly angry to see children being taught ineffective systems, to see people slogging through work they despise because they were taught that adults hold down jobs and pay bills, and that’s the end of it. I can’t stand it.

I can’t stand it.

But try as I might, right now I don’t understand what my purpose is. The little voice tells me what to do (sometimes) but doesn’t tell me why. That’s not useful, little voice. I take orders from myself great, but I need to know what’s going on here. It’s important, man. You’re decreasing my productivity. I need the explanation. The explanation is my will to live. It’s the thing that gives my life meaning.

And if someone asks, I’m not even sure what I’ll tell them.

Me?? I have that problem?


Everything you know is wrong. You know?

I know that there are probably lots of reasons for this little hiccup. I’ve been working unbelievably hard, and not really taking time off until very recently. I’ve been making impossible things happen as a matter of course. I’ve been the insane scientist focusing on the unlikely goals at hand, intent on getting what she wants even if no one else believes it’s possible. And that focus—that obsession—is causing me to lose sight of the whole situation. I can’t see the forest, because the trees keep coming at me with machetes. Those are some serious trees, yo.

So what’s the solution?

I think it’s what I’ve been avoiding all along: Step back. Be still. Wait.

That’s when solutions come to me. When I wait.

Oh, man. I can do this.


  • Megan
    So I was just googling my name and guess who I found! You! I'm totally with James. You're hilariously entertaining. Not that your crisis is funny. Just the way you tell it. =)
  • Norm
    Oh Megan,

    I'm reminded of the uncertain semi-agony at the1/4 crossroad. Took the right road and the story is still headed for a happy ending. Do answers mean more when you grow into them on your own?

    btw, your writing rocks like the 70's
  • Tom Bentley
    Megan, even the North Star has a down day or two (and you are indeed the North Star). Kick it for a bit—for you, probably 15 minutes, as your "time off" post implies—and your natural shine will return, buffed, polished, eternal.

    Personally, I think you need to be the first person to supply the full range of garden nutrients to the garden needy by operatic trills, coos and sonic blasts. It's a whole new field—get ahead of the scientific curve. Advertise Garden Opera—the world's zucchinis will never be the same.
  • DmentD
    Personal fulfillment and enriching your life are noble goals -- not just pursuits -- in and of themselves. But to enrich the lives of those around you... whether it be through sheer kindness, or to keep yourself fed, watered and sheltered, that borders on the divine.

    As others have said, the journey is the important part... traveling the path is what brings us enlightenment, not the destination. Live well, love often, learn always.
  • Tiara the Merch Girl
    The idea of a quarter-life crisis has been around for quite a while...

    Also: do we need A Grand Purpose to do what we do? Does it always have to be consistent? What if the journey was the purpose? Instead of worrying about whether it fits some aim (that probably changes anyway), we just enjoy the trip and see where it lands us?
  • James | Dancing Geek
    You need to know how much you rock. Cause really, you rock a lot!

    I love everything about this post, not least how inspiring you are in it.
  • Jeremy Meyers
    It may also be helpful to recognize that there may not be an overall purpose to all the things that drive you, and thats a GOOD thing! Having reached (in three weeks, *gulp* the end of my 20s, I feel like a lot of the focus of us 20-somethings is in defining 'who am i?' (much more so than ones teens, which is more about 'who arent i').

    The point is, who are you? You're Megan. Why are you here? To be the awesomest Megan you can be.

    Also be aware that you are already SO FAR AHEAD of so many people who never get to the 'im not gonna do anythig i hate anymore, and i can make it work!' portion. Give yourself some credit, woman!
  • becky blanton
    The hardest thing to do in life is to just "be." In our 20's and 30's we want to race out and save the world. We believe we just "KNOW" how so many people would be better if they would just - do-it-this-way. Dude. What if someone waltzed into your life, announced it sucked and wanted to change it into some form you really didn't like or feel comfortable with? Right. No go. All that energy, that vibe, that wanting to be and change and save? You're doing it. By being Megan and waiting for people to come to you and engage. It's permission marketing on a life scale. Keep following what makes YOU happy and you'll find the path.

    It really is the journey that matters, not the destination. Be the opera singer. Be the artist. Set goals. Volunteer - but that other thing? Being the best YOU that you can be takes a lifetime. Hint: I'm 53. I've learned that when I'm hot to go out and change something, or change the world it's because I've just made a change in MY life and want to share it - because it can sometimes lead to me finding out stuff I don't want to change in me and focusing on THE WORLD is a good distraction.

    Pursue what sparks, fans and feeds the fire in your heart and belly. THAT'S the path. When you hit 50 and half the "mid-life" crisis - you'll see - it's about (usually) realizing it's all about people and relationships. Imagine yourself at 50. What do you want to have accomplished? I have students write their own obituary. I tell them, what do you want to be remembered for - write it down. You'll figure out who and what it is you want to be. Have fun. You're brilliantly, wickedly awesomely inspiring!
  • kyeli
    It was actually John Mayer who penned the term "quarter-life crisis" in his song, Why Georgia?

    Yes. I am a geek.
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