So, you’ve finished your college studies (or you’re just about to graduate), you are twenty-something years old, and basically, “real life” is just about to start. But, you feel stuck. Instead of being excited, you feel anxious, confused and indecisive regarding your future. Seems like you’ve gained a lot of responsibilities overnight. You feel a pressure to get a job, earn money, start a family… Especially if you’re comparing yourself to your friends who seem to already have it all figured out. This phenomenon has been described in literature as a “Quarter-life crisis”, and it most commonly occurs in a period of life ranging from early/mid twenties to late twenties/early thirties.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Professor of Psychology at Clark University in Massachusetts, and the author of “Emerging Adulthood”, has been particularly interested in this topic. He proposes five main features that are distinctive for people who are no longer adolescents, but are not yet considered young adults:

  1. Identity explorations – trying out different options (especially in love and work) and ultimately answering the question “Who am I?”
  2. Instability in different aspects of life, such as love, work and place of residence
  3. Self-focus, as obligations to others reach a life-span low point
  4. Feeling in-between, in transition, neither adolescent nor adult
  5. Possibilities/optimism, when hopes flourish and people have an unparalleled opportunity to transform their lives

Although it may not seem like it (because no one prepared you for that), this is completely normal and common. It’s OK not to have it all figured out, and as a matter of fact, you probably never will. Constant learning, new experiences, new people, and even career changes, are things that keep people motivated and help them grow. The most important thing is to take one step at a time and focus your energy in what you can control, but also in what makes you happy and excited, and therefore enables you to move forward.

Nataša Nikolić is a student  from Serbia, currently completing her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at the University of Novi Sad.  Her main goal would be to combine two of her major passions – psychology and art/design. She is participating in a summer internship programme at


Emerging Adulthood. A Theory of Development From the Late Teens Through the Twenties. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett. University of Maryland College Park.