What is Quarterlife?

What is that time of life between adolescence and midlife? Some call is “early adulthood” or “young adulthood.” Others call it “emerging adulthood” or “extended adolescence.”

I call it Quarterlife.

This critical period of adult development deserves far more inquiry and understanding than is offered either by the psychological community or pop-culture. Yes, most Millennials are Quarterlifers, but many members of the Millennial generation are heading into midlife. The media has yet to catch-up. Many members of Generation Z are Quarterlifers now as well. The derisive click-bait headlines will soon come for them too…

It’s time we looked at this stage of human development as a psychological stage. It is not remade every fifteen years or so when a new generation enters their twenties. So why do we know so little about what is needed for people in this time of adulthood.

Quarterlife can encompass the beginnings of life’s major thresholds: partnership, career development, creative work, parenthood, and more. But it is rarely, if ever, an easy road. The epidemic of anxiety and depression within Quarterlife has not been brought-on by a virus… something else is happening. Perhaps it is the result of technology, social media, and helicopter parenting, but I think something valuable is also occurring.

Quarterlife today resembles the widespread awakening-to-self called “midlife” that marked adult development a half century ago.

Individuals coming of age today want to live their lives with meaning as well as a sense of safety and stability. There’s very little guidance on where one should look to find that sense of purpose and connection, let alone practical support for loans, savings, cooking, dating, and all the rest.

My hope is to provide resources, consulting, counseling, and courses to help quarterlifers find themselves and continue to create a world that feels safer and more meaningful for everyone.

“True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Photo copyright Satya Byock, 2010

Photo copyright Satya Byock, 2010

Symptoms of the Quarterlife Crisis

The popularly named “quarterlife crisis” often manifests with an existential uncertainty about one’s life plans or purpose. Fear, mood swings, depression, anxiety, and general uncertainty are common. People may have a deep feeling of being called towards something but an inability to pinpoint the exact calling, or alternately a feeling of emptiness and of being lost.

Self-loathing and shame are common, as are relationship issues. Symptoms can be ascribed to any number of psychological diagnoses, but the root may not be an issue of brain chemistry.

Quarterlifers often hope to align the fruits of their search for meaning with their career and external life. This very individual search often has a very collective component: quarterlifers seeking meaning are also regularly seeking ways to creatively, meaningfully contribute to the betterment of a world they believe could, and should, be different.

“If there is a path, it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”

-Joseph Campbell