A little over a year ago, I graduated from university in a major I loved and a hunger to find my place in the real world. I felt like all the clichés of graduation symbolizing new beginnings were true and a door of endless possibilities was finally opened in front of me. But despite this romanticized view of such a pinnacle in my life, I ended up moving back home after eight years of living alone.
I will admit openly that my greatest fear—after checking off every goal on my mental university bucket list—was that I’d end up back home. Here, I was convinced my passions would be forcefully stalled until I was able to find a way out. And because of that fear, I felt like my life was at a standstill.
Throughout this time, the person I probably complained to most was my little sister. She always knew what to say to make me feel better. One day, as we were lying on the bottom bunk of our childhood bunk beds, she said:
“I just had an epiphany! Think of it this way…before, you were a caterpillar and now you’re in a cocoon and soon you’ll be a beautiful butterfly!”
Before I go any further, please don’t mistaken this for any REAL wisdom my 17-year-old sister would give—she actually is quite wise! (We actually laughed at this ridiculous idea for ages, and saved it in a note on my phone titled “Funny conversations with Noor”). So, no, I never took the silly cocoon idea seriously.
With time, I picked up a great training opportunity with a Fortune 500 company, fell into a comfortable routine, and I’ve always loved living with my family. So home wasn’t so bad after all. But was I making dreams come true? Moving mountains? Awakening the greatness within? Not really.
But then, a year of living at home had passed and only a few months were left before I’d leave again. I started to question what if Noor was right? What if, since I’ve been home I entered into a cocoon that kept me sheltered and gave me an excuse to hide away from the world? What if my passions were meant to stay pending for what seemed to be the right time? What if, after I finally found comfort, love and support here, I wasn’t ready to leave?
In the midst of my inability to answer my own questions, I realized something very important: I was definitely in a quarter life crisis.
Search this term online and you’ll find hundreds of articles trying to explain this psychological trap us 20-somethings fall in. They try to give reasons as to why we become aimless graduates. They criticize us for our inability to choose or follow a path when we reach a fork in the road. In fact, we apparently are so knee-deep in this sudden panic of trying to figure out what comes next that we aren’t even sure if we want to choose from the options in front of us. And the sad part is that the majority of us reach a point where we truly do fall under one category or other that defines the symptoms of a quarter life crisis.
But despite all the research and the strangely accurate explanations that make you feel like a walking cliché, I came to the realization that it’s not just about the fear of what comes next. It’s about the fear of living up to expectations. And possibly the hardest expectations to overcome are your own.
Who doesn’t have ambitions, aspirations, passions, or a flat out bucket list they hope to fulfill? We all do. We all know exactly what we want…or at least have a pretty good idea of it. But the problem is that we have a tendency to shy away from really pursuing it when the moment finally presents itself. We don’t fear what comes next. We don’t fear falling into society’s norms. We fear chasing our dreams and failing to achieve them. We fear listing the things we truly want in case we fall short of acquiring them. We fear disappointing ourselves.
And so the excuses begin. Life is unfair. We don’t know what we want. We can’t do it. And no, we’re just never ready.
Looking back at my year at home, I now realize how psychotic it was to try and convince myself that I was in a cocoon that sheltered me from exposing my passions. I feared I wasn’t ready to move on after finding my place back home. I feared being able to make it like I once did before. But if I were to stick to that ridiculous metaphor, then a cocoon’s real purpose is to allow transformation to grow within it; to foster strength, beauty and prepare the being within for something much bigger.
My time here has been anything but a standstill. It has been a tornado of lessons learned, some of which I’m still learning; and a storm of tests, some of which I’ve failed. And my greatest privilege is to have experienced every step of it with my family, who not only supported me, but also taught me and tested me. In all my eight years of living alone, I did not experience struggle, then smooth sailing; discouragement, then encouragement; ultimate lows, then ultimate highs like I did in one year living at home.
The quarter life crisis warns that us 20-somethings have a tendency to stumble into a race we may not want to be part of just to escape ending up in our old childhood bedrooms. But home gave me a moment to slow down, remember my dreams, and look for the path that would allow me to follow them. Home stopped me from rashly falling into just any race and reminded me to run my own.
I believe that we create our own expectations because we are the only ones who are completely aware of our capabilities. We are the only ones who are completely aware of the extent of our reach. And I wish I could promise you that nothing will stand in your way but something will. Life always will. All I know is that in a little over a month, life is going to break me out of that cocoon whether I’m ready or not. I can choose either to fly, or fear. And I’m done with fear for now.
: : : Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us : : :
– – A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson – –