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Why and how we created a safe space to talk about ‘quarter life crisis’

As a community platform run by community for community, Own Your Story is constantly crowdsourcing ideas and co-creating events or projects with our community members.

When the subject ‘quarter-life crisis’ is brought up, it immediately got our buy-in because many of us went through our internal crisis one way or another.

What is a quarter life crisis? Why does it exist?

In an article by ‘Psychology Today’, it says that teenagers nowadays are too busy studying for good grades to ask what they’ll be doing afterwards and why. These critical identity questions are postponed — until college, until graduating, until their first job, until they are 25 and asking with more urgency than ever before who they are and what is their role in the world.

Our career could be progressing right on the dot when a simple question appears out of the blue and shatters our illusion of a good life: “Is this it?”

What is quarter life crisis in Malaysian Millennials’ context? Why does it happen? How can we manage it?

How we do it

For this subject, the team decided to try out a panel discussion format so that we can harness invaluable life experiences from multiple individuals in an in-depth and meaningful way.

The panel selection was not so much of a challenge because we have community members from a very different background who share a common trait — they defy the norms and create their own path.

We engaged

  • Chin, a millennial in mid 20s who gave up his well-paid first job in a start-up company and created his own project ‘nomoneylah.com’;
  • Tien, a 20 something who gave up her life as a nutritionist in Canada and started a new career back home as a wellness coach;
  • Myself, a millennial in late 20s who went through multiple career transitions and self-published a book;
  • Lok, a Gen-X in 50s who comes from a totally different generation.

With the balance in gender and life experience, where some panels are going through a quarter-life crisis while some have gone through it, we have a balanced mix of panel to share a meaningful conversation.

What we learned from panel discussion

Panel discussion

The panel discussion was moderated by Kevin, a creative entrepreneur who had explored life through different continents and industries ranging from financial, wine making to film making.

We covered 4 areas — what is a quarter-life crisis, what are the indicators, why it happens and how can we address it as an individual.

From the discussion, we really appreciate the truthful and genuine sharing from each panel because their vulnerability and honesty demonstrated that being utterly honest with ourselves to recognise that we are not okay is the first step to identify an internal crisis.

Quarter life crisis is essentially a subset of existential crisis, where people in their 20s ask: why am I here for? We observed that as the urban population moved upwards in the ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’, people tend to strive towards self-actualization earlier in life.

There was an interesting question raised by an audience — if he recognizes that it’s okay to be not okay, why is there a need to change? Why couldn’t self-help books help him to excel in life?

For this, Kevin replied that self-help is a billion-dollar industry where it grows by making people consume more instead of fixing the root of problems. As a trained NLP practitioner, Lok mentioned that self-affirmation is a way of influencing our subconscious mind so that we make a better decision in a more positive state.

A safe space to co-create meaning

In the event, the highlight happened when an audience opened up about her 6-years depression and appreciated us for initiating a conversation about quarter-life crisis and mental health.

This meant a lot because we started ‘Own Your Story’ to create a space where everyone can be fully who they are and claim the right to tell their own stories.

We have been running our events based on the core values ‘authenticity, openness, courage’, conducting each experience in a way that gives people the power to share their stories, discuss about our experiences and hold space for the inner journey that everyone goes through.

It is important for us to hold our judgement, listen, and empathise, creating a community that embrace people for who they are, beautiful with all their scars.

There is a saying that goes, ‘there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story’.

We believe that problem solving is personal, meaning is collective. We may not be able to eradicate each other’s problem, but in creating a shared experience, we form a bond and a deeper layer of meaning that otherwise wouldn’t exist, shining light on the dark side of human experience that people shy away from.

Onwards

At the end of the panel session, we came to the consensus that going through a quarter-life crisis, or any internal crisis at any point of life is not a bad thing. It signals the misalignment between what we do, what we want and we are passionate about, and it urges us to change ourselves to get out of the vicious cycle.

From this dialogue, we did not identify a common fix for quarter-life crisis as it differs across individuals at different point of time.

Life happens in a cyclical pattern just like 4 seasons in nature, nobody is ever alone going through the winter season.

Nevertheless, we feel that there should be practical measures, steps or support that an individual can apply to manage family, relationships, career, finance and health while going through a crisis. Moving forward, we will have a community think tank in the pipeline to dig deeper into this area.


I am the co-founder of Own Your Story (OYS), a community-run platform that bridges creators and spaces through ‘fun, experiential & explorative’ experiences in urban centres, fostering a conscious community through connection and creation.

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