Existential Crisis: Quarter, MidLife, And Late Adulthood

Life Journey

Our life journey consists of interwoven periods of solitude and being part of a group. From the moment you are born till late adolescence, you are part of various groups – first family, and later schoolmates, friends, colleagues, partners. In most cases life is relatively easy; you stay with the herd, follow some role models, and still can count on the support of the family and other close ones. Your life is nicely organized by the educational system and society’s expectations.

And then, at some point, you realize that there is no longer a predefined path for you and your peers, and you are required to make your own decisions and select your own goals. The impact of your group weakens and you realize that you face the challenge alone.  

Here comes adulting.

Suddenly you have to make your own decisions you are not prepared for and find answers to the questions you have not asked before: what your purpose in the world is,  how to shape your career, how to afford a satisfying lifestyle, and what this satisfying lifestyle is. Nothing is straightforward anymore, you feel lost and stuck and you experience the first existential life crisis: Quarter-Life Crisis.

Quarter-Life Crisis

According to the Collins Dictionary, a quarter-life crisis is a “crisis that may be experienced in one’s twenties, involving anxiety over the direction and quality of one’s life”. A person may also experience anger, feel terrified and powerless, feel aimless, and lack a clear life direction (journey again!). They can feel inferior to others, or “not enough”, they think they should have already achieved more.  They worry about their financial future or starting a family. And they simply do not know how to proceed and navigate in the adult world.

There are so many things at the beginning of an adult life to worry about; which ones cause your stress?

You feel your life lacks purpose and meaning. You are disillusioned with the world and you feel you do not belong here. It may lead to restlessness, disappointment, frustration, and a desire for change.

You question your beliefs, goals, values, and overall sense of self. It may lead to anxiety and stress over still not having a clear idea of who you are.

You feel pressure to establish a successful career, but you lack fulfillment in the current job, you doubt about career choices, and you are concerned about wasted time on education and training.

You have a general sense of being stagnant or unsure of life direction. You feel insecure, you are afraid of failure, and isolation from friends and family.

You cannot find pleasure in activities that used to bring joy.

You dream of something different in various aspects of your life, such as job, relationship, or social circle, but you do not know what that change should look like to feel fulfilled.

You worry about your student loan debt, entry-level salary, and increasing cost of living, which can lead to anxiety and uncertainty about the future.

You may experience difficulties in romantic relationships, friendships, or family dynamics, due to changes

You feel pressure to compare your life to others, leading to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or a fear of missing out (FOMO).

You feel pressure from parents, peers, or society at large, to meet certain milestones or conform to societal norms, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy or failure if expectations are not met.

You feel overwhelmed by the myriad choices and possibilities available to you, leading to anxiety about making the “right” decisions and uncertainty about what the future holds.


Believe me, you will eventually find your path. It may require some U-turns, going through swamps, but at some point, you will get used to sunshine and rain. You will build new groups of family members, friends, and colleagues from work and other activities. You will progress on the path you set before, concentrating on the path itself or seeing a goal in the distance and progressing towards it. Again you have your herd and a defined path.

But then you realize, much to your surprise, that you are close to the middle of your worldly journey. You stop, look around, and start evaluating where you have ended up. Is it what you wanted? Is it what you want now? Do you feel truly yourself in this place, are you satisfied with your life? You can choose to continue, more or less happy, or you may look for a bigger turn, changing your life and direction. And you again feel alone with the big life decisions.

Yes, it is an infamous mid-life crisis.  

Middle-life Crisis

Let’s look at the Collins Dictionary again: “A midlife crisis is a period of doubt and anxiety that some people experience in middle age, when they think about whether their life is the kind of life that they want.”  It’s funny how similar the emotions of a mid-life crisis are to the fears and doubts of crossing the gate to adulthood. But in this case, in addition to going through the door to late adulthood, we also need to close the door of youth, even if we will feel young in heart till the end of our days.

What do you feel when the middle-life crisis strike? 

You evaluate where your life is headed, and whether you achieved your goals. You ask existential questions about the meaning and purpose of life, mortality, and your legacy. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, or a sense of being “lost.”.

You reevaluate your sense of identity, self-worth, and appearance, possibly leading to feelings of insecurity, self-doubt, or a desire for radical change.

After years of working, you may find yourself questioning your career choices and feeling unfulfilled or stuck in your current job or career path. You may experience burnout due to overworking, lack of acceptance for the company practices, or longing for a profession with a true meaning.


You have a general sense of being stagnant or unsure of life direction. You feel insecure, you are afraid of failure and not having enough time to achieve new goals.

You dream of  making significant life changes such as career shifts, divorce, relocation, or pursuing new hobbies or interests in search of greater fulfillment and meaning.

You feel stress related to saving for retirement, paying off debts, or supporting aging parents, leading to concerns about your financial security in the future.

You may feel dissatisfaction with relationships, including marital strain, conflicts with children, or reassessments of friendships. It can lead to affairs (often with younger partners), or feelings of loneliness, disconnection, or dissatisfaction.

You compare your accomplishments, wealth, or status to those of your peers, leading to feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, or a fear of falling behind.

You miss the vibrancy of youth and past experiences. You revisit past decisions or missed opportunities, feeling regret, nostalgia, or a longing to reclaim your youth.

You realize that your health and fitness starts deteriorating, Your realize that you are mortal.  It may trigger fear, stress, and anxiety, but also a desire to recapture youth through impulsive or reckless behavior.

Late Adulthood

So we hopefully figured out all the challenges of a mid-life crisis, found a new meaning and direction, and continued on a renewed path to the new goals. We might modify our groups and we are on track again. 

And let’s stop here, even if we know that final solitude moment will happen in the distant future.

Photo by Brian Kelly on Unsplash