Quarter Lifers having serious doubts about their dreams and grieving their youth en mass sounds like a whole generation gone mad. To many quarter lifers themselves, having this sort of similar to midlife crisis experience in itself is very unreal for them. It's just not supposed to happen.
Yet I believe it is happening, because the of the messages the outside world is sending them. These messages often come unintentionally, but they have powerful effects all the same. These messages include:
1) The media is telling them that they are old
The media is effectively telling them that they are old, in perhaps unintentional but very powerful and omnipresent ways. More will be explored about this twisted phenomenon in Chapter III.
2) Society, via parents, mentors and friends, is telling them to settle down and quit their youth, when they are not ready to
Traditionally, one is expected to have settled down by age 30. Yet, for many reasons, today's quarter life generation is not yet ready to do so (these reasons are justified, and will be explored in later sections). Yet it doesn't change the fact that society is telling them that it's time to settle down, and traditionally with settling down you quit your youth with all the wild dreams that come with it.
Today's late 20-somethings and 30-somethings are NOT ready to quit their youth, period. This message is a major part of what is causing their grief, I believe. I will explain why almost nobody is ready to be 'old' before 45 nowadays in Chapter III, Section 3.4.
3) Society is telling them that you haven't made it in the stakes of life, even though it's really too early to tell
Combined with the two messages above, the rise of extreme youth achievement in the form of under-30 CEOs and mega rich celebrities with an average age of 21 further reinforces the notion that it's time to give up your 'unrealistic' dreams for many quarter lifers. After all, those who were going to make it have made it already, and whilst you also had your fair share of dreaming, you clearly haven't made it like them. What's the point of continuing to dream big?
The combined effect of these messages and other like them is essentially that you are too old to be young and have 'unrealistic' dreams now, let's talk about settling down and accepting your life as a regular, boring adult from now on. For a generation that was raised telling them that they are special, telling them that they can dream to be whatever they want to be and that they can make that dream come true if they work hard, this is truly a bitter pill to swallow. But gradually, the message is internalised, and that's when there is a quarter life crisis - when they 'realise' they have to accept this bitter reality, and grieve the stolen spirit of youth.
But let's look at the problem from a rational point of view. Should 20-somethings and 30-somethings really give up on their dreams and aim to be a regular average adult instead? Is there still any reason to maintain their dreams at this age?