Quarter-Life Advice

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It was my brother’s birthday yesterday, and in lieu of actually being in Toronto to celebrate with him, I wrote him a blog post instead. I also realize that as he hits 25, he might be hitting a quarter-life crisis — although let’s be realistic, with Eric’s track record of doing stupid things in the name of science or entertainment, there’s no way he’s making it to 100. (Actually, on one of Eric’s birthdays a couple years ago, my dad remarked, “I have no idea how you’ve made it this far, Eric. Really, I have no idea how I’ve made it this far.” Which sums up the Moller boys nicely.)

So I’ve decided to use Eric’s birthday as an opportunity to parrot back the most valuable wisdom he ever shared with me, for anyone who might be facing one of those quarter-life crisis moments.

During my first (freezing) week in New York, I was in the middle of getting ready for an interview with a literary agency that I really admired. Those who know me well know that moments that involve any kind of pressure on me equal racing words, bad jokes, and an earth-shattering amount of self-doubt. I attacked Eric with different approaches to ways I might answer this question or that; I held up shirts and asked which looked more professional; I drank too much coffee; I spilled coffee on the more professional shirt.

“You know,” Eric said eventually, as I upturned my suitcase. “You’re going about this wrong.”

“Oh, thanks, that’s a good way to start a pep talk.”

It wasn’t, admittedly, but he carried on. “Instead of wondering if you’re a good fit for them, go in there, ask questions, check things out, and find out if they are a good fit for you.”

Maybe this is all elementary to you (my dear Watson). But for me, it was just the shift in perspective that I needed at that point. In our twenties, even if we’re good at something – we’ve prepared, we’ve practiced, we know what we’re doing – a lot of it is new to us, which leaves some cracks for self-doubt to come trickling in.

In an effort to impress or show up, it’s easy to forget if we’re doing something we actually even want to be doing. Which is how we end up caught in high-pressure jobs we hate, hook-up games we don’t want to play, and lifestyles fueled by fear of missing out.

I’ve passed Eric’s line on to a lot of friends since then – those looking for jobs, those struggling in relationships, those trying to keep up with lifestyles they don’t actually enjoy. It’s nothing earth-shatteringly new, and it’s something we should all know – but it’s a good reminder now and again. A small switch in perspective.

Outside of that one bit of advice, however, don’t put too much faith in Eric’s wisdom. That day he also advised, “Don’t wear red to a job interview” – which I have steadfastly ignored because my interviews have been with humans, not bulls, and it’s never hurt me. He’s also come close to death several times by building flame throwers into his costumes, trying out scuba buckets, and waking me up too early in the morning, so take what you will from that.

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