People entering their ‘mid life’ have a clear-cut template when it comes to the inevitable identity crisis. If you’re a cis man, a mid-life breakdown will probably mean buying a sports car and fucking a 25 year-old. If you’re not a cis man, it’ll probably involve doing a little bit more ‘secret crying’.

For us quarter-life crisisers, the path is not so obvious. Shagging someone half our age is a criminal offense, and the insurance premium on a sports car purchase doesn’t bear thinking about. So how do you know if you’re having a quarter-life crisis? What are the tell-tale signs?

Well, according to the research done by me, on a sample of me, here are some of the main symptoms:

1. Existential angst

You have started the inevitable decline – your cells are now dying faster than they’re being replaced (be aware that any scientific details in this article will have been sourced entirely from memes). Suddenly, you understand that life is finite, a flicker in the wind, and you’ve spent the majority of yours watching reruns of Friends – first on E4, then on E4+1, and now on Netflix (still can’t believe they rejected my business proposal for Netflix+1).

2. Hatred of youth

I don’t care if Sigrid is the next big thing, she’s eight months younger than me, and that makes her unforgivably little. Obsessively searching the ages of rising stars is a sure-fire sign that a quarter-life crisis is gaining momentum. Kylie Jenner is a baby-making billionaire, despite the fact that she would have been in the same school year as those absolute chumps who had to sit on the floor during assembly, while we year-sixes got to lounge on the benches. This role reversal is perverse.

stupid baby-making polo-neck-wearing billionaire

3. Dreaming of what could have been

Realising you can no longer say “I want to be an astronaut when I grow up”, because, well, you have grown up, is a truly sobering moment. The adults who used to coo “that’s nice dear”, when you spoke of an ambition to go into space, now ask things like “do you have a degree in astrophysics?” No, I don’t, Auntie June. Do you have a degree in being a class A bitch???

4. FOMO becomes a full-time affliction

Remember when FOMO only came into play when you were considering whether or not to join a dank student night in the city’s grottiest club? Now, Fear of Missing Out encompasses far more than glowsticks and Jaeger-bombs – it’s a constant state of being. As we make our way through our twenties, it feels as though all the “lives not lived” are falling by the wayside. You find yourself bemoaning, “maybe I should have gone to law school”, in the same way you used to wail “maybe I should have gone to the Saturday Smirnoff Smash Session at Lola Lo’s.”

So those are some of the main signs and symptoms, but what’s the treatment? How are we supposed to power through the quarter-life crisis, and emerge, resilient and prepared for the “biological-clock crisis” that’s waiting just around the corner. Well, that’s what we’re going to work through together. In this column, every week, (or maybe every fortnight if watching ‘The One Where Ross Can’t Flirt’ for the umpteenth time takes precedence) I’m going to outline the different elements of this confusing affliction, and guide my fellow quarter-life crisisers through the turmoil.

I’ll see you next week, when we’re all a couple of cells lighter.

Illustration by Georgia Turner. 

Image by Hayu –, CC BY 3.0,

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