Why Having a Crisis is Good for You (My Quarter-life Crisis)

crisis /ˈkrīsis/ Noun:
1. A time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
2. A time when a difficult or important decision must be made: "a crisis point of history".

I turned Thirty Two a few weeks ago. "Oh &#!+," I thought to myself, "I'm old." Your age becomes no more than a number after it surpasses a certain number. Everyone has a different number. For me, it was 28.

I had a crisis when I turned 28. I freaked out. Why 28? I have no idea. Probably because that's when my dad married my mom. I thought, just like him, I'd have everything when I turned 28 - a house, a wife, know what I was doing with my life, have enough friends close-by to never have to make new friends, know where I'll live for the rest of my live...etc.

But I didn't have any of that when I turned 28. I was living in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, in a relationship that wasn't going anywhere, having second thoughts about where my career would take me, with the majority of my friends an airplane flight away, and puzzling over how long I could survive in a foreign land where I couldn't speak the local language.

I had a daily routine of staring out the window next to my desk wondering why I was refreshing my inbox inside a building when the weather was perfect outside with a blue sky and so much life going on. As ridiculous as it may sound, the thought of not being able to enjoy the sun really bothered me. The fact that it bothered me so much probably had a much bigger implication than wanting to enjoying the sun - I wanted to enjoy life more, and being in an air-conditioned box wasn't helping.

So I freaked out. Every night after work, on that 12-minute walk from the train station to my apartment, I would talk to myself in the head, trying to figure things out. And it didn't work. Every night I'd end up in my apartment stressed out about my life. I had an awesome job, in a fantastic city, with adventures at every corner, but something was bothering me. I didn't know where I was going, or rather, I didn't know if where I was going was where I wanted to be.

I started drinking more, partying more. The summer of 2008 was filled with drunken forgotten nights and countless hangovers. I saw more sunrises than ever before, waiting for the first train at 5am to take me home. I made more one-off disposable friends than I could add on Facebook. I woke up not knowing where I was - thank goodness the city was safe.

But after months and months of this endless confusion. The daily struggle became a meditation. I started to understand myself more. I realized what I had was mostly my perception of what's expected of me. And I found my desire to utilize my creativity outside of Excel spreadsheets and PowerPoints. The crisis was a trigger that got me started looking inside for a new direction.

And then things got better. Much better. I met my wife a few months before I turned 29. I figured out what I wanted to do not long after that.

But I'll never forget all the confusion and sense of loss I felt the year when I turned 28. It has also become a benchmark. Whenever I have doubts about the decision I made to leave a life that was easy and comfortable, I remember why that wasn't enough, and the recollection steers me back to what I need to do.

Crisis is good for you. Struggles and confusions are tools for you to know more about yourself. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to re-evaluate your circumstances. If Apple never had to come to face with bankruptcy, Steve Jobs wouldn't have returned as CEO.

Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Like the first monkey shot into space. (- Fight Club)

So if you are in the midst of a crisis now, just know that it will always get better, and you'll come out on top as a better person.

further reading: thanks to cold_water's suggestion, here's an article by William Wang (CEO of Vizio) on surviving an airplane crash and new perspectives.