Oh, to be 18-ish again…yeah right! In other, more mature words, you couldn’t pay me to be anywhere near the age of 18 again. Don’t get me wrong. I do have some fond memories within the blur of peer pressure, wacked-out hormones and endless acts of asserting my independence that is called “youth”. But, as you undoubtedly are aware, being a neophyte  adult is no picnic. In fact, it is one of the most overwhelmingly challenging of life stages.
Marked by celebrations, well wishes and monetary gifts (cash hopefully), the gap between 18-ish into adulthood is vast. After the confetti settles, and you’ve wasted (I mean spent) all your cash gifts, you realize that well wishes aren’t configured to “auto-play”. Apparently, the responsibility to make something of your self is all yours. Talk about pressure.
The manifestation of this pressure is typically within the form of stress and anxiety associated with the quarter-life crisis . For your entire life as it may seem, decisions were made for you, on your behalf, or by proxy if you will…what classes you will take, who will be your friends, what you will believe, what you will do with future, what your interests should be, etc… You function as simply “another brick in the wall”. Then, one day everyone gives you money and the rug is completely pulled out from under your feet (AKA: graduation).
The next several years post graduation are transitory in nature and unsettling to to say the least. This can be a time of confusion and great unrest. According to Wilber & Robbins, specific characteristics of the quarter-life crisis typically include:
· confronting one's own life purpose, or searching for a reason for living · a sense that others are doing better than oneself · insecurity regarding present accomplishments · disappointment with one's job, or lack thereof · tendency to hold stronger opinions · loss of closeness to high school and/or college friends · nostalgia for university, college, high school, middle school or elementary school life · re-evaluation of close interpersonal relationships · desire to marry, have children and live the “American Dream” · insecurity concerning ability to love oneself, let alone another person · lack of friendships and romantic relationships · boredom with social interactions · frustration with social skills · financially-rooted stress (overwhelming college loans, unexpectedly high cost of living) · loneliness & depression
If you can at all relate to any or perhaps all of the above mentioned characteristics, rest assured that your feelings are absolutely normal given your stage in life. The purpose of these pages is to create awareness (since you can’t change what you don’t acknowledge), and to impart advice on how to survive what might very well be the most difficult time in your life that you have experienced thus far.
So, you might be thinking to yourself, “who is this Paige Davis and why should I listen to anything she has to say?” Fair enough. As a college professor, I am always in favor of authenticating sources of information. After all, “any Joe Schmo from Idaho” can whip up a seemingly credible tidbit…if it’s in print, it must be factual, right (insert sarcasm here)? Well, of course not.
So, let me start by imparting a bit of schema  for you. In other words, let me share a bit about who I am and the inspiration for these words. The following pages have been a work in progress for my entire life, though I only realized this a few short months prior to the writing of these words. One day, the inspiration just hit me like a freight train (leaving a very large carbon footprint, no doubt) and I haven’t been able to stop writing since. Fortunately, I’ve been espousing these tenets to my students whether they wanted to hear it or not for years now. So, the words flow freely.
You see, I’ve been a teacher in some form or fashion for my entire professional career. I’ve taught early childhood, college students, and just about every other age group in between. My first “real” or legitimate teaching position (you know, one with a paycheck) was teaching third graders at Texas Christian School in Houston, Texas. I was fresh out of college and teeming with enthusiasm and energy…and completely unaware of what I was getting myself into.
Imagine me, so innocent, idealistic and utterly thrilled about my 12K a year paycheck…completely inexperienced and totally devastated after the very first day of school with my new third grade class. I can remember equating my students to a “tribe of wild Indians” (PC disclaimer for the sensitive: no disrespect to Native Americans, here…just being honest about the picture in my head at the time. I am in no way suggesting the generalization that all Indians are “wild”).
This was an incredible year for me. It was one of self-discovery, trial & error (admittedly, a lot of error). Through the laughter and the tears (both happy and sad tears), I absolutely fell in love with those third grade "Indians". They even sang a song at my wedding! Although I did not love my job, I learned that I could love my students for all that they were and for all that they would become. I know now that they played an integral part in helping me through my own quarter life crisis. I originally wrote the suggestions within as a letter and “gift” to these very 3rd graders the year that they graduated from high school. And, so it seems as though everything has come full circle.
 Term applied to the period of life immediately following the major changes of adolescence, usually ranging from the late teens to the early thirties. The term is named by analogy with mid-life crisis. (Wilner & Robbins)
Your first year of marriage is quite an experience to say the least. Of course, you share many wonderful moments together as a newly wed couple…the honeymoon, sharing a home, merging your lives together in so many ways. The holiday season is fast approaching, and you will most certainly be creating many new memories together. As the classic melody declares, it really is “the most wonderful time of the year!” Even with all of the holiday cheer approaching, you may find that you and your new mate are experiencing challenges in the area of distributing your time with family and friends. Eventually, the issue of “his family of hers?” will make headlines in your relationship and hard feelings are sure to follow. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
I know from experience how difficult the “his family or hers?” issue can be early on in your marriage. After sharing, planning for and perhaps financing your recent nuptials, it’s easy to feel obligated to spend the holiday season with your side of the family. Your family members may also have a way of subtly (or overtly) pressuring you into sharing the season with them. After all, they love you so very much and did so much for you for your wedding day, right? Wrong. Sure, they love you and all that bit. But, the sooner you come to terms with the fact that you will not be able to please everyone all the time, the better.
I used to run around like the proverbial “chicken with its head cut off” from this house to the next to be sure I satisfied everyone and their desire to share some holiday joy with me and my new husband. News Flash: It didn’t work. My time was spread much too thinly and frankly, I was totally stressed out by the pressure I had placed upon myself to make everyone happy. After several years of this madness, my husband and I finally came to our senses after making a few logical realizations.
Realization 1: You can't win them all. As mentioned above, there will never be a time that you will have the ability to satisfy everyone on both sides of your family at the same time. So, this is where compromise comes in. The ultimate goal of compromise is to create a “win-win” situation. It’s better to divide your time by individual holidays, rather than try to see everyone for each holiday. You might visit with your family for Thanksgiving and then travel to your spouse’s hometown for Christmas (or Festivus). Then, you might reverse them the next year to keep everyone happy. This becomes a little more complicated if you have had a divorce in the family (thus creating more families to visit). But, you get the gist…it’s all about the compromise.
Realization 2: You are your own family now. You don’t have to go anywhere for the holidays if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with spending some time creating new holiday traditions with your sweetie. If you’re lucky enough (or not so lucky) to live in the same town as both sides of the family, you might consider having each side over for individual holidays. If you’re like me and you’re not so handy in the kitchen, you could do a potluck style dinner and have each person bring a dish. Or, you could meet up at Bennigan’s, IHOP or Denny's…I know for a fact they’re open on Christmas day. Lastly, if you are very brave, have both families over at the same time to celebrate said holiday. You don’t have to do anything extravagant. Have them over for coffee and dessert, or a delicious hot toddy.
Realization 3: Save your vacation time and use it for a holiday getaway (without family). That’s right, get out of town. My husband and I went on a Christmas cruise to the Mexican Riviera one year and it was fabulous. The ship was richly decorated and holiday cheer was abundant. It was a perfect opportunity to have some much needed time away and the chance to reconnect with eachother without the added pressure of pleasing a network of family members.
Realization 4: This too shall pass. What I mean by that is that everything will eventually fall into place and you will establish a holiday rhythm that is comfortable over time. Each family is different and what works well for one may not be the best idea for another. Only you can decide what works best for you and your family. The holidays are meant to be times of joy and happiness. If you are stressed out and find yourself dreading the holidays, you are definitely doing something wrong and should take some time to reevaluate the situation.
Over the span of 12 blissful years, my husband and I finally found our holiday rhythm with a combination of the points mentioned above. Thankfully, we have come to love and appreciate the holiday season after many years of stress and self-imposed pressure. We also realized there are many ways to express love to our families without physically being together. A handwritten holiday card, a thoughtful gift (nothing says "I love you" like a Honey Baked Ham), a super long Skype session…these are all things that connect you with family during the holiday’s. Isn’t that what the season is really all about? It should be if you value your sanity.