Quarter life crisis – work and the need for adventure

I’ve written before about how even in a job that I love, working with people who are great, I at times get dissatisfied. And I think that’s a pretty common symptom of the quarter life crisis.

Later this week I’ll reflect a little more about the factors that come together to create this effect, but for now let me simply say that there is both good and bad in the dissatisfaction with how things are and the desire for something more fulfilling.

Like virtually all people who enter adulthood, whether after university or having skipped it, I need to work in order to pay my rent, keep my stocks of ready meals intact and occasionally have some fun. For many work is simply a way of paying the bills, but for many also this is not all they want work to be. There is a desire that while the pecuniary aspects are essential, fulfilment of some sort would be a nice accompaniment.

On the spectrum of work satisfaction I consider myself fortunate to be towards the positive end. Although I could hardly write this if I were to vent my frustrations and hatred of my place of work. I like variety, and in work I get variety. I like challenging tasks, I get those, I get to write, solve problems and work with some great people in a cause I believe passionately in.

And yet. And yet it doesn’t give me everything I want. Sometimes the workload is heavy and the problems too complex and I decide that becoming a tree surgeon might be a serious option. At other times I want something more tangible, perhaps providing clean sanitation to children in The Sahel would sate my appetite for doing good. But what I’ve come to realise is that I would always want something else.

There is a need for adventure in all of us. There is a desire to be living a story that has purpose and be playing a role quenched with meaning. Last week I got to go to a screening of Blue Like Jazz and hear from the director afterwards. Part of what he said was the story of Don Miller’s follow up best seller: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years which chronicles the process of writing the screenplay for the film and in the process learning what it felt like to edit your life down to a meaningful and worthwhile story. What if, he pondered, we did a better jump of knowing the story that we are living and the part we get to play?

It may be that you are fortunate to be living out a story that melds your work and your passions together. But I don’t think the Paul’s overriding passion in life was to make tents. It may be a cliché to fall back on, but I think it helps, sometimes our jobs will pay the bills and our adventure will come alongside. However, I wouldn’t write off just working to pay the bills, or marking time until the next big thing comes along. I spent a year making sandwiches and coffee and was challenged for the way I tended to say that this was ‘just what I was doing for now’. It was important and I learnt a lot through what I was just doing which I thought was to just pass the time.

How should we embrace the need for adventure without giving into every wave of dissatisfaction that comes? How do we integrate all parts of our life into a story that is consistent with the purposes we seek?

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