The quarter-life crisis

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
November 09, 2005


To steal a phrase from my friend, Rie, I’m soon to be “five-squared.” I suppose now is when I’m supposed to have a quarter-life crisis, but I did that when I hit college.

It was first few months of my college career in which I found out some particularly blowing to my ego: I don’t know everything.

Like every other graduating senior from high school, I had it all figured out. I had just spent the last year as “top dog” at school. Nothing could touch me. I knew where I was going. What I was doing. Heck, college was just a formality.

WRONG.

In no time at all, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Straight A’s weren’t a given. Friends no longer necessarily came built-in to all of my days. Responsibilities began to grow. And I had a fast wake-up call to life.

I consider my first few years of college my “quarter-life crisis.”

Now, right at 25, I’ve still got a healthy dose of “freak out” upon various ordeals. However, I deal with it better than I did then. I’ve already learned that hard lesson of life that I don’t know everything. The neat thing is that in knowing that fact, I’ve also found that you open yourself up to learning about the things you don’t know.

As a cocky teenager, the eyes and ears are often closed to the lessons going on around you every single day. Eventually, though, you just “go dumb,” as I like to put it. That’s a pretty scary time, and even a little bit lonely for awhile. I know I felt really lost until I realized that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Especially if you’re open to finishing it with, “but let me find out.”

There are so many things that I wish I’d paid more attention to in school. History lessons, health class, english, math, home economics and even driver’s education. All these classes I may have made straight A’s in, but it doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of things that I missed because I had the attitude of already knowing it all.

Today, I find myself asking the questions I should have asked back then. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

With that, though, I actually happily research whatever it is that has me so perplexed, and, armed with my research, I find myself more willing to debate the issue.

For me, the “quarter-life crisis” has never been about getting to a certain point in life by a certain time. It’s been about finding out the limits of my current knowledge and opening myself up to the lessons that are all around me every single day.

Five years ago, just as I was coming out of the brunt of my “crisis,” I took a “career awareness” course. The focus of the class was to help those taking it find their correct career path, and then it armed everyone with skills in interviewing, resume writing, and business etiquette.

We learned table manners through a seven course meal one night in Rudder Tower at Texas A&M. A business executive with a local company came in and gave us each a very grueling interview followed by hit-you-between the eyes feedback on what you did right or wrong in the course of the interview. We took personality assessment tests to help us find our future careers.

It was as if the class was built to help everyone through the “crisis.” It showed us that even if we have it all figured out, there are a lot of things we don’t realize that we don’t know. I certainly thought I had good table manners; never did it cross my mind as to what side is proper to be served from, how to signal a waiter that I’m finished with my meal, or even why meals are served in the order they are.

I was fascinated. Instead of snubbing my nose at the class, as I’d have probably done before, I was enthralled. I not only enjoyed the class, I wish I could take it again. I’ve already forgotten many of those lessons, and I’d gladly take a refresher-course to learn it all again.

As I stare 25 in the face, my starry-eyed optimism is peppered with realism. Sometimes it’s knowing your limitations that means much more than knowing what you know.

I don’t have it all figured out, but I trust that I will make every attempt to handle every challenge to the best of my ability.

I’m young enough to have fun, but old enough to know my limits.

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