IT’S 3:00 AM AND YOU’RE AWAKE AGAIN.
Shaken out of a restless sleep by the sense that something is terribly wrong.
You kick free of a tangle of sweaty sheets. Gulping air, you try to check your cascading breaths.
But you can’t quiet your panicky mind, tossing questions like darts, bursting pinpricks of pain.
Everyone says you have a great life. You do have a great life. Don’t you?
You did everything they expected of you. You got the right grades, the right degree, the right job, the right city, the apartment, the Kate Spade, the Prada, the Macbook.
This is success, this is happiness. Right?
All your friends seem happy. You should be happy. Why aren’t you happy?
WHY DOES THINKING ABOUT YOUR LIFE MAKE YOUR HEART HURT?
Isn’t there meant to be more than this? Kisses in the back of a gondola under a full Venetian moon? Falling asleep in the Sahara, burrowed into woolen blankets, as the stars wheel overhead? Watching the sun set on the Alps from the Orient Express as the waiter nestles the champagne bottle back into the ice bucket?
When do you get to live your REAL life? Where you are the hero of your own story, instead of the overlooked supporting cast in someone else’s? Running the show, creating your life and work according to YOUR rules? Getting to capitalize on all those brazen, beautiful qualities that just don’t seem to be appreciated in your 8-6?
IS THIS REALLY ALL THERE IS?
You can’t hush this voice that keeps waking you up at 3:00 in the morning.
No amount of cash dropped at Pottery Barn will buy it off. There isn’t enough Malbec in the world to drown it. And, no, taking that bartender home is not going to fix it either. Nice try, though.
You know what this is.
It’s a midlife crisis come WAY too early.
It’s terrifying. It’s agonizing.
EXCEPT THAT IT’S A GIFT.
Because it forces you to examine your life and what you want out of it RIGHT NOW, instead of staying on auto pilot for the next twenty odd years, pursuing the wrong goals, trying to squash yourself into someone else’s definition of the good life. (You can’t.)
Because it demands that you start really taking responsibility for CHOOSING your own life, instead of simply going along with what is expected of you and assuming that it will all work out for the best. (It won’t.)
Because that quarter life crisis is your brilliant, unconventional, never-to-be-seen-again-on-the-planet self reminding you that you have important stuff to do and NO MORE TIME TO WASTE. (Go on with your bad self, self!)
EVERYONE is going to get to that moment of existential crisis, that moment of: wait, THIS is my life? I always thought I was meant for more. I had goals and big dreams I was going to to fulfill someday…
Most people won’t get to that moment for decades, until after they have already spent so very, very long on the well beaten track of career, marriage, house, kids, and accumulating more and more stuff.
And the longer they wait to start working on that big dream, the less likely it is that they will EVER pull it off. Not because it’s too late. It’s never too late. But because, after all those years invested, it becomes harder and scarier to walk away, to forfeit the money, the prestige, and all of it to just head off that path and follow the heart.
Most people simply won’t do it. They will find a way to stifle the angst and keep going on with their lives unchanged.
But all those unfulfilled goals and dreams have a way of sticking to the soul. And, as uncomfortable as it is where you are right now, imagine that unease never really going away, always lurking just under the surface, ready to swamp your dinghy just when the waters seem calm.
Until, finally, at the very end of life, it becomes the single biggest regret: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
GOOD THING YOU’RE NOT MOST PEOPLE.
You’re not going to squander another twenty years building someone else’s dream. You’re going to renounce that trap in a New York minute and start building your own dream. And, yes, dammit, since you are the one choosing, you’re going to build it in Paris.
You’re not going to get to the end of your life and find regret. You’re going to look back at your brilliant, unconventional, never-to-be-seen-again-on-the-planet life and exclaim: OH, HELL, YES, THAT WAS ME!
AND ALL BECAUSE OF THAT QUARTER LIFE CRISIS. LUCKY YOU.