Apparently I am too young for a midlife crisis

So my mom sent me this link and asked what I thought about it.

The post-tenure slump is a real thing that lots of academics experience, but I didn’t.  I felt great about tenure.  Then I moved to a location far less sucky and I feel super-great these days!  I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time.  Perhaps I’m not old enough yet?

My friend had a quarter-life crisis but I was too busy working on my degree and having grad-school woes to have a crisis about my age and stage in life; I was having crises about the state of my research instead.  At quarter-life (25) I felt overall good about where my life was heading, despite the struggles.  That feeling did take a dip in my previous shitty city, but it’s back these days too.  Quitting a sucky institution in a sucky state and moving to paradise will do that for ya.

You should ask me again in 10 years!

#2 was too busy to have a post-tenure crisis.  She did have a bout of pre-tenure angst, though.

Have you had any fraction-life crises?  How did they go?

27 Responses to “Apparently I am too young for a midlife crisis”

  1. hollyatclubthrifty Says:

    I think my husband has been having a quarter-life crisis for the past year! He’s very unsure of where he’s going, and where he should be. I’m trying to be supportive but I just don’t get it sometimes.

  2. taylorqlee Says:

    I have constantly been in a state of quarter-life crisis for the past say, oh, three to five years? Most of my companions seem also to be in the midst of it. I think it might be contagious.

  3. Flavia Says:

    No post-tenure slump for me, though I’ve seen it in others for sure. I did arguably have a bit of a quarter-life crisis, though it’s hard to distinguish that from grad school depression! (What am I doing here; who am I even; will I ever move on; why did I think I could do this; am I stuck with this unhappiness forever.)

    As I look at my friends, now all hovering around 40, I do see a lot of “huh. So this is where I am. I guess I…keep doing this?” That is, I think we’re all realizing that there’s no next big obvious step, and that where we’re at now (in terms of life stage, family, career position) is likely to be a long plateau. Luckily, I think we’re all mostly satisfied with what we’ve got, and stability is a good thing! But it’s a strange shift for people who have spent a decade or two focused on Becoming, and eagerly anticipating The Next Big Thing.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      #2 still has a lengthy career bucket-list that she hasn’t managed to hit. I suppose I may become depressed after my first AER/QJE/JPE paper, but I would like that opportunity to find out!

  4. Tragic Sandwich Says:

    I had a quarterlife crisis in the early 90s, before they were called “quarterlife crises.” I called mine a “mid-20s midlife crisis,” and when a friend said I was too old for a midlife crisis, I said, “You don’t know. I could die when I’m 46. This could be the perfect time.”

    My mother also had one, sometime around 1962. They’re not new.

  5. Foscavista Says:

    After studying for my quals and passing them, I had the equivalent of postpartum depression.

  6. CG Says:

    Also too young for a midlife crisis, but am definitely experiencing pre-tenure angst. (Will I get tenure? Do I WANT tenure? If I didn’t do this, what would I do?) I could walk away from my job today with no impact on our standard of living (since our child care costs would go away), so it’s not that that’s keeping me here.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My friend is going through that right now. My guess is she won’t stay in academia, even when she gets tenure.

    • Kellen Says:

      Child care costs will (hopefully?) not outlast your working years remaining, as children grow up and go to school instead of daycare. And continuing to work even if salary = cost of child care now might result in increased salary later. (vs not working now, and then starting again when children begin school.)

  7. chacha1 Says:

    Interesting question. :-) As soon as I was awarded my master’s, I undertook a move across the country to a city I’d never visited. That plus the consequent new-job-seeking, job-changing, etc., kept me busy/occupied for several years. Then at 33 I started ballroom dancing, and that precipitated a relationship & financial crisis, but there wasn’t any slump. It was more “OMG I love this and I want to do this and I’m going to do this so I’m going to make it happen.”

    Then it was several years of financial recovery, and then ditching a really toxic job and starting over, and then a layoff and starting over, and now I’m 49 and self-publishing and really fine. I fully expect to have at least one more job change before I can leave L.A. But not being an academic, there are very few expectations laid on me career-wise, by myself or by others. My professional self-esteem is calculated based on “am I doing a good job for my employers and giving good client service.” I will never be the head of anything, I never want to go back to management, and my personal Success Meter is fairly well detached from my employment.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Wow, good for you! You’ve been busy. Seems like your personal Success Meter is pretty well-calibrated to your life.

      • chacha1 Says:

        :-) well, fwiw, one of the top 3 reasons I didn’t consider going on to a Ph.D. is because it was made clear to me that no matter how good my teaching was, how much I published, or what grants I brought to an institution neither my job security nor my chances for professional advancement were going to be helped. In that profession (as a historian), my “success” was going to be assessed based on factors I couldn’t control, and that wasn’t acceptable to me. It was also becoming clear to me that my personal Success Meter involved “earning a good wage” and that was not something that academia could promise me.

  8. Linda Says:

    I remember feeling very down at my 25th birthday because I hadn’t yet met my (then) personal goal of finding the right guy. I had planned to be partnered up around then and spend the next five years having fun with that person before starting to have babies at 30. I’m very glad that all never happened and don’t regret anything in my personal or professional life since then. :-) It’s all turned out pretty well.

  9. Cloud Says:

    My husband teases me that my recent career change was a mid-life crisis, but I don’t think of it that way. I think of it as me finally shaking off the I “should do X” ideas I picked up from society and doing what *I* want to do. It is too early to say how it is going to turn out overall… but I’m happier right now!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I would like to think that we at grumpy rumblings can take some part providing a voice in that conversation telling you you don’t have to listen to what society says (unless you want to). Down with patriarchy! Up with happiness!

  10. omdg Says:

    I had a quarter-life crisis when I was 25 and I felt like my brain was dying while working as a receiving manager in a warehouse. Thus I ended up doing an MD-PhD. No more premature brain death for me!

  11. Ana Says:

    No “crisis” (sounds way too dramatic for me!) but some of that “what now” feeling. Its weird to not be continuously moving on to the next thing. While there are still rungs of the ladder left to climb, that in fact I HAVE to climb if I want to stay in my position, I’m not feeling the same drive to climb them anymore. In many ways its nice standing still for a while

  12. Kellen Says:

    I’m very happy with my move to a new job, but it’s harder to see the “rungs” ahead of me. Some days, it feels like I will just do this same level of work forever. And some days, that thought is comforting (I don’t HAVE to take on stress and responsibility) and on other days, when I think I *would* like to achieve more, it is terrifying (how do I acquire the skills to be comfortable taking on the added responsibility the next rung would require? Would anyone hire me to a position at the next rung?) At the CPA firm, there is a clear ladder, and generally people get promoted up it seemingly based almost entirely on time with the firm. Promotion #1 only available after 5 years? Almost default that if you are still there in 5 years, you get the promotion.

    It probably boils down to knowing what I want though–if I knew for sure that I did/did not want to move up the ladder, I could focus on achieving the goal and not waste time being depressed or stressed about the decision.

  13. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I just think I had a life crisis. A lot of them. But they didn’t really destroy me they just pushed me and that’s ok. There is definitely no “That’s it?” feeling for me at all there’s more like “There are better things” and that’s been good. My co-worker is having a total and complete mid-life crisis in all of its stereotypical fashion. It’s crazy to watch.


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