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17th February 2024

A ‘quarter-life crisis’?: Finding your feet after a break-up

Do you feel like you are experiencing a ‘quarter-life crisis’ in your final year? Have you experienced a break-up? Read on to find out how you can find your feet in these (perhaps not so) difficult times
A ‘quarter-life crisis’?: Finding your feet after a break-up
Credit: Designecologist @Pexels

Words by Kate Dening

I sat down a couple of weeks ago, trying to write an article about ‘break-up season’. I hoped to write about why so many third-year couples are breaking up, but I was struggling to connect with what I was writing. This came down to feeling like I couldn’t pinpoint anything specific; a break-up is deeply personal after all and (at the time) I was happily dating. I put the article to the side to focus on my exams and to start thinking of different concepts to write about.

And then I got dumped.

In the article that I was writing, I discussed a ‘quarter-life crisis’ that many in their final year of university are facing. I explained how this crisis occurs when facing the daunting concept of your future. I then wrote about how this ‘crisis’ leads to a serious period of reflection and one in which I noticeably was prioritising myself and my future.

Dating alongside the stress of trying to juggle the pressure of academic achievement, friendships and a social life meant that I didn’t have time to check in with myself. So, maybe we could view break-ups as a check-in point. A point where we can look introspectively at how we were really feeling during the relationship now that the rose-tinted glasses are off.

As the bleak winter season rolls around, and the stress of your final year of university increases, it seems as though a relationship would fit soothingly right in the agenda. Wouldn’t it? In my previous article, I wrote that I could see many obvious reasons why there seems to be an increase of loved-up individuals on campus. Having considered that, I now want to aim this article towards those who are experiencing a break-up, relationship difficulties, or general romantic confusion. I can only hope that this article offers some comfort and maybe some insight into rationalising this quarter-life crisis.

I am by no means perfect and I do not have my life in total order. I am overwhelmed by deadlines, don’t have a job lined up for  next year, haven’t signed a lease and going through the motions of being dumped. All this said, as someone who has dealt with break-ups before, I know the importance of using this period of confusion to work on myself and find my feet. This time round, this reflection feels especially important.

To enable yourself to productively self-reflect, I feel that it is important to remind yourself that you have not changed, you have only lost something that is entirely external to you. You are, and have always been, the one in control of yourself and your emotions. Once you start to take back the power, this is when you can enact real and positive change for yourself.

Something that seems to offer me comfort is that, through remembering that I am in control of my life and my emotions, I have control over the way I view this quarter-life crisis. Although it is an inevitably daunting experience, you are wholly in control of the steps that you can take towards moulding your future. Realising that you have control in most areas of your life and being proactive about this can help you re-centre yourself if you’re feeling lost in romantic confusion.

Being freshly single, a noticeable difference is having significantly more time alone. It is inevitable that this much alone time will feel like a shock, but it is important to channel this time into other aspects of your life. Trying to find the balance between productive self-reflection time and keeping busy is tough, but you will be one step closer to balancing all the elements of your quarter-life crisis.

It is easy to catastrophize anything that seems out of the realm of your control, especially when it feels like (because you can’t avoid the fact that it involves) rejection. You might be left feeling like you have questions, doubts, and more times than not, you feel hurt. You may never have all the answers you need after a breakup, and I would say that in most cases there is little point in seeking them out. You will never be able to fully comprehend the innermost workings of someone else’s mind. But what you can do is start to understand your feelings.

I recently listened to the ‘On Being’ podcast by Krista Tippett. In a recent episode with Nick Cave about loss, he said something that I found incredibly profound.

‘One feels an enormous and new capacity to love’.

This really connected with me. There can be something beautiful about the experience of transforming our sadness and loss into a newfound sense of love. Taking those feelings of hurt and sadness from a breakup can actually help to deepen your appreciation of love in other areas of your life.

It is all a process, a cycle that people have been going through from the beginning of time. I hope to have reminded you that you can take back that power that you forgot that you had. You can use this power to control how you view the quarter-life crisis and be proactive in making changes for yourself. Most importantly,  your experience of losing someone romantically can open up some space for your appreciation of love in other parts of your life.

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