Birthday Anxiety: Having an Existential Crisis in Your 20s

My birthday is coming up this month. In the past I’ve enjoyed celebrating my birthday. But the last few years, every birthday has been accompanied by feelings of anxiety and apprehension. It seems to be getting more common among people in their 20’s. Everyone seems to be concerned with where they are in life when it comes to their career, school, personal relationships, and health.

Last year was especially bad – you could say I had a quarter-life existential crisis. I thought back to all the things I told myself I wanted to accomplish over the years and how many of those things I did accomplish. When I was younger, I figured that by that point I would be working my dream job, be married to the perfect guy, and live in a nice house with a garden and a pond. I thought about where I wanted to be by that point in my life and wallowed in the fact that I didn’t feel like I had succeeded in my path. It felt like I was the only one out of everyone around me that didn’t have things figured out. That birthday really made me think about where I was in life versus where I wanted to be.

Fast forward one year later, I’m certainly not having an existential crisis, but it’s still not a birthday without some worry over life in general. I have tried to implement some practices for gratefulness and mindfulness like keeping a journal and meditating. These practices have helped at times where I can’t help but ask myself “what have you accomplished?” or “what are you doing with your life?” I remind myself that sometimes it’s okay to not know, or to still be figuring things out. In the meantime, there are things I’m really grateful for in my life. I may not be married, or working my dream job, or have a house with that garden or pond. But I do have a small cozy apartment, loving boyfriend, and great coworkers who I consider to be like family.

What do you think about your birthday? Do you feel like you have to meet a certain set of goals by a certain age? Have you ever compared where you are and your accomplishments to others your age? What advice do you have to avoid doing this?

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