chandler collins: Living a fifth-life crisis

Everyone is familiar with the mid-life crisis. Depending on who you ask, its either a transition into old age or a short term depression that occurs around the middle of someone’s life.

You may also be familiar with the quarter-life crisis. The quarter life crisis is similar but it takes place typically in someone’s mid 20s after college when they feel thrust into the “real world” and are unsure where to begin.

I’m not sure if much is ever talked about the fifth-life crisis. The fifth-life crisis, although rarer than the other criseses, is just as serious. The fifth-life crisis takes place near the end of high school when a teen is unsure where to go next. Symptoms of the fifth-life crisis include but are not limited to the following: an overwhelming sense of anxiety about life after high school, a need to have your life plans figured out by graduation, and a hunger for meaning in life.

To be perfectly truthful, I’m not entirely sure that the fifth life crisis exists, but I feel that if it did I’d be in the midst of it right now. I realize that around a fifth of my life is already up and it almost feels that I’ve wasted up. Most of my life so far has been spent building a foundation so that I can eventually build the rest of my life on top of it. I see know that there are cracks in that foundation and I want to repair those before the structure comes tumbling down.

I feel that much of this feeling of mediocrity stems from modern media. Glorification of the outliers is the norm. I’m sure we’ve all seen videos of parkour or bmx or extreme sports online or on television. The truth is that the people we see have dedicated years of their life to achieving that goal and we only get to see the finished product. No one loves to look at the scaffolding of a building as it is being assembled. No one cares to see the results of someone that isn’t quite there yet.

An excellent article that discusses this topic in further depth is Mark Manson’s “In Defense of Being Average”. I highly recommend taking a look if you what I’m describing applies to you.

I heard a quote once in a similar vein. “Don’t compare your behind the scenes with someone else’s highlight reel.” I often forget that I only see the best of other’s because that is what they choose to present. Many of us have this grand idea of who we want to become. Most of us want money, power, fame, happiness, or some combination of those four. Even if we achieve this how do we know that we’ve reached our goals? Am I happy when someone comments how often I seem to be cheerful? Or am I happy when I feel deep down that I’m truly content with my existence.

These goals become more vague when it comes to goals of perception. How does one truly know if they’ve become famous or if they’re perceived as powerful?

Perhaps my obsession with greatness comes from seeing a world around me that appears to be overflowing with talent and feeling that I don’t quite measure up. Perhaps my obsession with the idea of greatness is preventing me from ever attaining my goal. In the Japanese art of kyudo (also known as the way of the bow), there is a simple tenet that you must accept. If you’d like your arrow to hit your target, do not focus on hitting the target. Simply focus on aligning your body in a way that allows the arrow to fly where it wants to go. This is a small but important distinction.

Do not focus solely on what you want to become, focus on what it takes to get there and the rest will fall in place.

I’m still struggling with finding an area into which I should spend my time. From a young age, I’ve pursued the quality of “well-rounded.” I like to think I’ve finally achieved that. I can write decently, I’m not terrible with a few instruments, and my photography has finally surpassed mediocrity. Yet I realize that good all over =/= great.

Perhaps I’m losing the forest for the trees here and going hunting for an idea and not something tangible. Perhaps the type of greatness and satisfaction I’m hunting for isn’t out there just yet. Perhaps I should stop using so many rhetorical questions? Who knows!? I’ve got 4/5ths of a mediocre life left to discover these answers.