Photo: Alice Plati
On a weekly basis, I have quarterlettes plop down on my office couch in exhaustion and moan “what am I DOING?” into the pillows. After a few moments of silent reflection, they emerge from their cocoon of exasperation and make eye contact long enough for me to send the telepathic message: “Me too, sister.”
Of course, they aren’t necessarily aware that I’m sending them this message. They just know that a psychotherapist’s job is to be empathic, to imagine what they’re going through. And a lot of the time, I’m doing just that with clients who suffer from issues like debilitating panic attacks, substance use, and constant suicidal thoughts. However, being a twenty-something with a lost look and a million existential questions? Well, I have firsthand knowledge of that.
I became a therapist as a result of my own (first) quarter-life crisis. I was working a desk job in Boston at the time, glued to a computer all day with little more to do than Google chat with friends in the same boat. I’d complain about the job, my friends would complain about their jobs, and then we’d all complain more over a few bottles of 2-buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s after the workday was over. This endless cycle required very little physical energy, yet it left me exhausted.
After a year of this nonsense, it occurred to me that I could possibly do something about how miserable I was instead of bitch about it all day. So, I pulled up my big girl pants and started to think long and hard about what excited me, fulfilled me, and made me laugh (the Trinity of self-discovery, in my opinion). After writing notes, diagrams, and lists, the overarching theme was incredibly obvious.
People’s ideas and passions made me excited. Their talents and altruism left me fulfilled. And their comedic observations and self-deprecation made me laugh until I cried. So why the hell was I interacting with a computer all day instead of other human beings?
After that, I moved to LA with my then boyfriend/now husband, a comedy writer, to keep me laughing, went back to school for Clinicial Psychology to get me excited, and pursued a career as a therapist to keep me constantly fulfilled.
I can’t say that I haven’t had mini crises since. I’m still in my quarterlette years and expect small breakdowns from time to time (the most recent was while playing mini golf…). However, I can honestly say that I’ve acquired the big-ticket items on my happiness wish list and wouldn’t bypass these years for anything in the world.
If I could offer any small piece of parting guidance, it would be this: Think long and hard about where you find meaning in life and go after it. Use it to fuel your journey to discovering your passions. And always, always, always find ways to laugh until you cry.