Amalgam of Thoughts

"Cogito Ergo Sum" - I think therefore I exist
-Rene Descartes

17 May 2006

QLC - your take on it?

I turned 25 couple of months ago, and I assume most of my fellow-bloggers are also in the same age group. Most of you would have heard about the term 'Quarter-life crisis' or QLC and would probably have read this e-mail forward before. When I first read it, I was overwhelmed by how true it was in my case and soon found out that most of my friends think the same. After a while though, it does appear bit far-fetched to me at some places, but still I must say it does a good job of catching the general mood of this age, termed by an author (in Marathi) as "emotional sea-sickness."

Few questions arose in my mind regarding this, which I am trying to jot down here. First of all, is QLC really a crisis or is it something which is being hyped a lot? Is it a totally new thing or did it exist before, unknown to us? And is it felt by all or just a particular group of people?

And why particularly at 25? I distinctly recollect feeling dejected when I turned 14 thinking that I have already lived around 20% of my life without achieving anything worthwhile. At 19, I was bit sad that I was out of teens and now in mid-twenties with receding hairline and expanding waistline middle age seems to beckon me with its own Pandora's Box. So, at every age we tend to evaluate ourselves. I guess, the reason behind all this is; however insignificant our lives be as compared to this incomprehensibly huge universe; they are of utmost significance to us and as a result, on special occasions like birthdays we tend to look back and think about the achievements, the failures, how things would have been et al. (I like the Sanskrit word "Simvhavalokan" for it. A lion usually looks back over his shoulders after walking few steps each time, hence the term.) And it is the human tendency to be overly self-critical while looking back (and on the contrary, being overly naïve while being nostalgic.)

So, what is it with 25 which warrant so much attention? My guess is that's because this is the age at which you are in the middle of perhaps the most significant transition of your life.

I cannot resist myself from mentioning an analogy which one of our Physics teachers had pointed out during 12th standard classes. While teaching about the electrons falling from unstable state to stable state, emitting energy in the process he drew our attention to progress of human life seemingly trying to reach stability. Nature, he said, strives to attain stability at the cost of energy - be it in case of electrons or our lives. Consider a class of KG kids, a class of engineering students and a pensioner's club. You will see the progression of stability at the cost of energy. At quarter life, you are in between. Trying to seek the stability in personal, professional life and losing the energy of yore - like an electron caught in between the stable and unstable state.

Having said that, one reason why this so-called 'crisis' is getting noticed more recently is the increased demands from an individual in all respects of life. So does someone from my age-group who is well-settled in life (well-settled in his dream job for 4-5 years, married etc) feel the QLC the same was as I do? May be yes, may be no. So, what I am writing next might be applicable only to a small group; but that's what I feel could be one of the major reasons of this QLC talk.

The increased competition is forcing quite a few people to continue studying till their mid-twenties. Finding a job after that, securing it and excelling in it, is becoming more and more difficult. Till 20-21, you are safe in your cozy world of family and friends, mostly protected from the big bad world outside. Suddenly you find your friends and you have parted ways and there are very few things that are now common between you; and you are now on your own. The fact that there is no one in the world for you but yourself - not even your parents, best friends and family members sometimes, is hard to digest; but you learn it (sometimes hard way) at this juncture. (No; this statement is not overly cynic and it does not mean your parents/friends/siblings don't care for you.)

[As regards with frinds - over the years, you can test the verity of the idiom 'birds of the same feather, flock together.' Barring few close friends, you and your earlier friends find that you are getting out-of-touch with each other. It might appear little harsh, but even the close friends - in most of the cases at least; tend to continue on the memory of their old friendship. Meet your close friends from school and college - you will be delighted to meet them and will exchange the pleasantries, tell what you are doing currently, discuss and decide unanimously how the time spent together was great etc, but that's that. It is a fact that they have ceased to be a part of your daily life causing the distance to grow a bit, however unwilling you/they might be to accept.] Bit of digression here, but in short the age of settling - achieving the holy trinity as per Indian middle-class standards of 'finishing your studies, finding a good job and getting married' - has gone up, in general, from early twenties to the late twenties/early thirties causing confusion (termed as QLC) becoming more frequent.

Is it really that simplistic a reason? Perhaps not. The reasoning is certainly not comprehensive and might even be flawed. But then that is the aim of this blog -- to do some vichaar manthan (churning of thoughts). So, we look forward to your comments, thoughts and reasons.