It’s officially been a year since I uploaded my first YouTube video proclaiming to the whole world that I was going through a quarter-life crisis. That I’ve found myself stuck in my life, not knowing where to lead it.
I write this now, not because I want everyone to care about what I’m doing, but because I know there are others out there who are going through something similar. For one, what helped me a lot was hearing from others that I’m not alone in this. And two, the best thing to get us out of being stuck is to hold ourselves accountable to what we say.
So what’s happened since that last video? Well, I’ll just say that my future is even more unpredictable (cause none of us are fortune-tellers anyway) and it’s uncomfortable and risky, maybe even a bit stupid. But what keeps me going is the acceptance of this fact, as well as the reframing of the inevitable negative thoughts that we feel towards excitement instead.
I Woke Up to Complacency
If anyone’s been following my social media for the past year, you’ll know that I’ve been working on improving my emotional intelligence, something I lacked in multiple capacities as a kid.
I held down a lot of my feelings, especially the negative ones because of the reaction I would get from people who didn’t know how to handle them. I suppressed them so much that I started losing the ability to really feel what was happening in my mind and body, out of touch with who I was and wanted to be.
I was just letting life sort of happen and I ended up stagnant in my career, love life, and interests. Every week was looking the same, always waiting for the weekend to make me come alive again.
I decided I couldn’t do that forever. I couldn’t disappoint my future self like that. I had to change something. I had to get out of my comfort zone.
Being a creature of habit and lover of the familiar, this year has been very out of character for me. I started doing things I would have never done a few years ago, like reading books (like, wtf?), listening to podcasts, invested in online programs, and joined entrepreneurial networking communities.
I listed a way for people to schedule a call with me directly and had an intense experience I was not ready for.
I joined a local men’s group where we get together every week to get uncomfortable on purpose and to connect our minds back to our bodies and its feelings, something I struggled with in terms of allowing others (especially other men) truly see me.
I got certified by an ICF-accredited organization in life coaching, something that taught me some amazing skills, yet also doesn’t necessarily guarantee me a set career.
And I quit my job without having another offer lined up (wahh, no employer benefits and healthcare!).
I have completely lost my previous sense of security at this point.
I uploaded that quarter-life crisis video a year ago, but I had been confused with what to do with my future for many months before that. Being risk-averse, I was only noticing the safe, easy paths to take, which were limiting and unsatisfying.
I was the kid who didn’t do anything but study in school. I don’t do anything I’m told not to and a lot of my teachers seem to favorite me. I was a straight shooter.
I didn’t miss a day of class until senior year of high school for Senior Skip Day. One of the popular kids threw a party at his parent’s place while they were out of town and of course, there was alcohol.
I don’t know what got into me that day, maybe because it would have literally been the lamest thing to be the only kid who showed up to class. But being the good Asian son I was, I couldn’t stay at home on a school day. My parents would freak out!
So I show up to the party and everyone is just as surprised.
“Yoooo, Victor is here! What are you doing here?”
Without even waiting for the answer they toss me a luke warm can of beer. “Happy Senior Skip Day dude. Here ya go.”
I never had beer before. My dad would let us try champagne for New Year’s, but it tasted so bad to me. And I had heard about the dangerous effects and behaviors that come with drinking too much so I avoided it.
I stare at the can while I open it cautiously and as I bring it up to my lips, someone shouts, “Let’s get a picture!”
I immediately drop the beer. No way will I have this documented and posted on MySpace!
All this to say, I don’t take any risks. I like my security. I don’t like causing trouble or jeopardizing my future, which probably gives you a sense of how I feel going off and starting an online business, something I have no experience in.
Yeah, it’s terrifying.
From the outside, traditional perspective, it is stupid. There are a lot of things that could go wrong, with little chance of things going right. And to jump off the ship before even knowing whether or not there is another one nearby is plain foolish.
I wouldn’t recommend this route for everyone. Some people can only think clearly when everything else is somewhat stable and orderly, while others might thrive under chaos and pressure. You have to increase your self-awareness to understand which camp you’re in. Reflect on your previous projects, on your school homework assignments, when you’re most creative, who you’re with, if anyone at all. Think about where or when the best ideas have come to you, then put yourself in that environment or situation more.
If you’re in a similar stage of life right now, you might be thinking about making a career shift. And to everyone else, what we want to do might seem crazy, risky, scary, and stupid. It might look like we’d be wasting the time, money, and energy that was spent doing what we’ve been doing by switching into something completely different.
Those are all someone else’s fears being projected onto you!
It’s only crazy to them because they fear unfamiliarity, the unknown path. It’s only risky to them because they fear insecurity and instability. It’s only scary to them because they’re only paying attention to the worst things that could happen while ignoring the good. It’s only stupid to them because their vision of what being smart looks different than yours.
All of that can instead be reframed into excitement. The nerves and anxiety are real and natural. But if those feelings are also what brings you more life and a more hopeful outlook, why wouldn’t you do it?
Excitement, optimism, and hope are complicated emotions. Depending on the mood and mindset, it can easily turn into anxiety, which can spiral into feelings of unworthiness or disappointment. It’s why people warn against hyping things up too much. And the last thing we want to do is be overly positive with expectations and ignorant of the realities of life.
On the other hand, not allowing ourselves to get excited or to look forward to anything is debilitating. It can chip away at our confidence and it’s why we end up stuck, frozen in place out of fear of diving too deep or uncovering something we won’t be able to handle. And that keeps us from dreaming, from doing something that will not only help the world but more importantly, ourselves.
So I am excited about being in a quarter-life crisis because I’m learning to find balance in the many spectrums of life, thinking vs feeling, faith and trust vs planning, optimism vs being grounded in reality, taking risks vs stability. Right now is the time where we can work on maintaining a healthy level of excitement for our future that propels us forward while also coming to terms with the fact that we’ll never know what our future will look like before we get there.
We’ll be OK, as long as we can learn from every peak and valley of our highs and lows. Wherever you are, remind yourself that it won’t last as long as you think. You’ll get out of this crutch in no time, but you also can’t be flying high the whole time either, so thinking that you’ll only be happy when you get to that point is also unrealistic. But at least there’s excitement in the change of scenery and I think we can all have fun with that!
Who Can Relate?
If you’re reading this, you might be feeling very similar things. What are we doing? Where are we going? Which path should I pick!
Don’t allow yourself to spiral. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Open up to a trusted friend or family member or mentor. Be vulnerable in your current state, allow yourself to feel what’s true to you.
Seek out the tools to help you develop more emotional resiliency through this transitional period. I’ve even consolidated some of them into a PDF on my website.
Originally published at https://victorung.com on April 30, 2019.