How I Survived My Quarter Life Crisis…


Are you feeling panicked about where your life is (or isn’t) going? If so, you are not alone: It’s so common for people in their mid-to-late 20s/early 30s to melt down that it’s called a “quarter-life crisis.” It’s a time in which everything you’ve been doing no longer feels right, but you’re not sure what to do next. Knowing that you want to change gears might be exciting; but it’s also overwhelming. Your relationship, your family, your friendships, your job and your home are all potentially on the chopping block.

The nitty gritty of how to pull it off can be paralyzing but it doesn’t have to be as scary as you think. You might assume that you’ll break hearts, cause confusion, and hurt the people you care about, but it might not be messy at all. Maybe you’ll find encouragement in the story of my quarter-life crisis, which started at 23 and lasted on and off until I was 31.

In my twenties, I worked very hard to build a life I thought I wanted. After college graduation, I landed a high-paying sales job that sent me traveling around the US. This was much better on paper than in real life. My clients were so intensely demanding that I spent most of my long commute stuffing back tears so that I could put dinner together when I got home. I tried to infuse my job with creativity and fun where I could. But mostly, I just had to make cold calls and help corporate bigwigs promote industries I didn’t believe in. I felt like a sellout.

I pretty much lived for the weekends. My job was making me miserable, but I was unhappy in other much more subtle ways. My stylish wardrobe, sizable paychecks, fit body, and stable relationship with my college sweetheart were almost enough to cloak a nearly constant feeling of malaise. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but I did my damnedest to fix something.

You name it, I pretty much tried it. When our first apartment felt too closed-off and cold, we decided to move into a small house. It was cute. We couldn’t seem to find our groove in the new house so we decided that where we lived must be the problem. Moving from San Francisco to San Diego was an excellent excuse to slip off my golden handcuffs and find a better job, but I couldn’t land on anything that excited me for more than 6 months. I was also hopeful that the move’s excitement might jumpstart my sex drive; I was convinced that my job and dreary living situation were to blame for a seriously flatlined libido. But, post-move, not much improvement happened in the sack, either. I even questioned my sexuality because I was so uninterested in sex.

Then, as with a lot of relationships, time dictated that my boyfriend become my fiancé and then my husband. Six weeks before the wedding found me on my bathroom floor crying because I thought it was too late to change my mind. I felt like jumping out of my skin.

We got married when I was 25. It was a picture-perfect wedding, obviously my priorities were in the right place. We bought a beach house, and finally got the golden retriever that I’d always wanted. From the outside looking in, we seemed to have it pretty good.

I was a good girl, so I mostly ignored the doubts in the back of my mind. I cultivated as much happiness as I knew how and boosted myself up with a trip to Anthropologie whenever I needed a pick-me-up.

I seriously considered divorce once, at age 28. I remember having lunch by myself at a cafe and thinking “See? I can do this whole on-your-own thing.” But, thoughts about our dog and our mortgage reeled me back in; it would make such a mess to split everything apart. To further my confusion, I came across a study that said people who divorced are generally not any happier after they leave.

It felt like far too much effort to get divorced and start over, especially if I was unlikely to be happier as a result. I was starting to see that I had to make myself happier, whether or not I stayed married and no matter what my job was.
At the time, I blamed:

My husband for not earning more money, for partying too much with his friends, for not knowing how to cook, for not helping more with our house and yard. Our relationship was neither terrible nor spectacular.
My jobs for not fulfilling me. I was generally embarrassed to answer “So, what do you do?” at parties.
My lack of sex drive on residual anger at my dad’s infidelities. How could I enjoy getting laid when all it did was smear imaginings of my dad’s indiscretions across my brain?
My irresponsible spending on being “worth it”. I always found a way to deserve that $400 purse. Apparently I also deserved $20,000 in credit card debt.

There were 1,001 reasons for my discontent, but the common thread in all of them was me.

I worked hard at taking responsibility for myself and stopped wishing that my husband would grow up. Our relationship improved a little. We remodeled our house. Two weeks after I turned 30, I had our son.

When our baby was about 16 months old, a girlfriend encouraged me to finally admit that this marriage wasn’t right for me. With that admission, my quarter-life crisis started to come to a head. In an attempt to figure out what I wanted and supplement what I had, I learned how to tell the truth and daringly opened my marriage.

For a few months, our relationship was infused with life. We were talking more openly than ever. We overcame hurdles that usually rip people apart and came out the other side laughing.

Then, I met my soulmate. He was not my husband.

I didn’t know yet that I’d met “the one”. But, it was clear from the beginning that we had something. Beyond an electric mutual attraction, we set each other’s minds on fire. I told my husband that I’d met someone. That this time, things felt different.

I wasn’t sure what would happen with this new man, but for the first time I could truly envision stepping into a different life. Not a fantasy life where everything is perfect. A real and different life. One that lit me up in every single way. One that would inspire me to be a better mother, a better daughter, a better human.

Suddenly I could see clearly what I wanted. And that something was quite clearly not what I’d spent almost 11 years building. The details of how it would fall apart and come back together became completely irrelevant. I was completely okay leaving my old life behind me.

looking distraught

Paralyzing questions were replaced with confidence as I headed into the unknown. I was just plain certain that we:
a)  had to get divorced, and
b) also still be friends.

I just knew that if I chose what inspired me and lit me up that it would be the best example for my son. I knew it would be worth it, no matter what unfolded.

With no guarantees of a future with my new man (he had moved to Peru indefinitely), I left my husband. I got an apartment that I absolutely adored. My ex and I continued to communicate well because I always told the truth and I refused to sink into anger or blame again. It came to me that I had actually married the right man because we got divorced so well. He was, and continues to be, a wonderful co-parent.

I shed everything as easily and joyfully as a puppy shakes off lake water. The minute I moved out, my quarter-life crisis clicked shut. No longer did my days hum with an undertone of not enough. Instead, all I heard was yes. Yes to whatever showed up, to feeling all of my emotions, to embracing change and owning the wisdom that had incubated inside all this turmoil.

Not needing answers felt like a blast of fresh air. And not assigning my new relationship a specific future is exactly what gave us one. Organically, my catalyst became my boyfriend… And 18 months after we met, we got married in our backyard.

No freakouts this time, no crazy expenditures or debt. Just us, in a circle of true friends, promising to always choose love. I have not one single doubt about our commitment, or my sexuality. We don’t need to supplement what we have with other people. We are two single bodies that we can each devour, honor, and cherish until death do us part.

Sounds delicious, no?

We built this relationship our way, on a foundation of truth, passion, chemistry, and communication. We both tried it the other way, the default path. But we’re together by choice, not because our singledom had an expiration date. That just didn’t work for us. All of this has given me clarity of purpose and incredible insight, which I now use to serve my relationship and intimacy coaching clients.

I can confidently tell you that your quarter-life crisis is the path to your life purpose. You might not be able to see it right now and your story might read completely differently than mine… But I am absolutely certain that clarity is always preceded by chaos. I also believe that change leads you in the right direction, even if you can’t see it immediately. Where ever you are right now is the exact right place.

If you’re in the midst of your quarter-life crisis, have hope. You are going to come out the other side with more self-assurance and insight. The experience and intelligence you gain will be fodder for you to fully serve the world, even if relationships with friends, a partner, or your family are left behind.

If you’re having a hard time coping with the chaos, here are two things that can help you instantly feel better in the midst of uncertainty:

1. Meditation: I fully committed to a meditation practice about a year after my son was born. Shortly thereafter, things unravelled in the right way. I don’t believe that was a coincidence. I meditated to help me get out of my over-thinking mind. I meditated on not taking things personally. I meditated to get clarity on what I actually wanted. I meditated to get out of the past and future and fully accept the present moment. I still practice regularly and I credit it with my continuously renewed creative drive, my ability to communicate to my new husband, and calmly navigating our son’s autism diagnosis and the chaos that followed.

2. Communication: Telling the truth is not something we are usually taught how to do. We’re just told that it’s the right thing to do. There are many approaches to honest communication, and after what I learned by going through my divorce, I developed my own techniques to help me stay in integrity, be heard, and ultimately get what I want, for the benefit of everyone I touch. Telling the truth about what you really want is the key to moving from crisis mode to creativity mode.

Those two simple, but not easy, things will help you handle uncertainty and move into the next phase of your life with much more ease and awareness. Life will continue to throw waves of chaos at you. But if you’ve learned how to surf them, you can confidently say “yes” to wherever the ride takes you. With your faith and openness to the full breakdown, the breakthrough will come and you will be unstoppable. It might not even be as messy as you think.



Emelie Archer

Emelie Archer is a paradigm f*cker, poet, and the curator of, an online hub for forbidden conversations about sex, intimacy, love, and relationships. When not helping clients re-architect their perceptions of love and intimacy, she can be found hiking, eating bacon, or playing with her husband and 3-year old son in their permaculture garden.



  1. Just to make things clear.. You figured that all the things that was wrong with your life had to do with YOU, and then you found your soulmate (NOT YOU), to make things better?

    • Haha, that is perfect! ^^^ Sounds to me like the writer of this was still confused about the situation and wasn’t happy and willing to change even as her husband was making every attempt. Still a cop-out IMO. Typically, when a man (who cares deeply) actually realizes his wife in distress to this extent he will make sure to change and attempt to help/fix any situation laid in front of him. Many may disagree, and that is fine, but I say the outcome of this is wrong.

  2. I read this in an anxious state a couple of months ago and I have learned a lot about love since then. I don’t believe in soulmates but if you do, that’s great.

    I just want to inform other anxious people that you don’t have to break up with a person you love to be satisfied with life. The grass is not always greener, you just have to find a way to take care of your grass.

    It’s amazing what you can do if you work on yourself, AMAZING. Try finding out your needs and ask for what you need.

    I thought that it was something wrong with my sexdrive too, It turned out that my bf wanted sex for release and I want it because I love him. I told him what I needed, eye contact, I need him to be more in charge, I want him to touch me like he loves me.. etc. I’ve never had better sex than I have with him now, my sexdrive is back!

  3. Are you still with your new husband?

  4. this was terrible.
    you left someone who loved you & who you had a child with for an idea.
    that man tried to work it out with you and by your own words, love you for who you were.
    he tried to change his life to improve yours, you should be ashamed.


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