actually, I prefer coming of age stories

This one might start off a bit weird. Last week, I got the chance to talk about quarter life crisis in a webinar. It was the first time I got to speak to a large audience after I graduated, and (not so) surprisingly I felt like it was harder to bear. I mean… the title behind your name holds another responsibility. It’s like… you’re somehow considered an “expert” in a way once you got your degree. You sound better than an undergraduate student, and you need to take responsibilities of whatever you speak out in public (until this moment, I still can’t fathom how people are able to easily speak about anything even when they’re not knowledgeable enough about it. I mean, I’ve studied for 4 years and I just feel dumber every waking hour… and I always feel like I need to watch out more of what I say and make sure I say the legit stuffs). So, in order to tackle these feelings, I dig more about quarter life crisis. I browsed and read some journal articles–I haven’t done that voluntarily in a while and honestly it felt great??? (no judgement here… just the love of learning kicking in HAHAHA)

Honestly, this quarter life crisis topic hits real close to home. And that fact surprisingly doesn’t make things easier for me. I thought, since it’s relatable for me, I’d be able to emphatize better with the participants, thus I’d be able to convey the message better. But really… it didn’t happen that way. It felt hard, maybe because it’s happening to me, and it’s not a nice feeling. Recalling all that stuffs makes me want to run away from them. But it needed to get done. And I got it done!

It took me a while, after reminiscing about the series of events that happened to realize that quarter life crisis itself kind of reminds me of another similar topic: coming of age. This thought came after I watched My Girl (1991) just recently this week. It’s been on my watch list for a while and I’m glad I made myself watch it (I’m not a big fan of movies. Weird, I know). I love it. I don’t know exactly why. I think it’s partly from the 70s setting. Or maybe from the wholesome friendship between Vada and Thomas J., since I’ve always found the concept of different sex friendship interesting (and perhaps, the possibilities around it as well). Or maybe… just largely the idea of coming of age which is the main theme of the movie. These kinds of movie don’t necessarily need a “main goal” to propel the story, they just go with the flow. We’re basically just brought to witness how the main character’s life unfolds, with several important moments highlighted, some character development, and that’s that. And I was highly entertained by it.

Now that I think of it, I’ve watched quite many coming of age themed movies. I greatly enjoyed The Baby-Sitters Club (2020) and I think it’s cool that I managed to finish watching an entire series. I enjoyed Umi ga Kikoeru (1993) too. And I’ve also told the world several times that I loved Little Women. It’s funny when I realized I actually enjoy watching the conflicts and whatnots of being a teenager, since being a teenager means dealing with some seemingly very childish issues. And I don’t like facing childish issues. Of course they’re considered as childish once you’re an adult; when you were a teenager, those were a big deal. Don’t forget about the angsty stuffs you used to get yourself in too, the whole nobody-understands-me drama.

I think, coming of age stories are also seen differently across cultures. When you take a look at Western movies, coming of age is mostly described as a phase when one transitions from a child to a teenager (or maybe this is just my references). The first of many things–menstruation, childhood sweetheart, loss, etc. While Japanese movies (and manga) usually center around the dynamic of high school life. You’re a teenager already, and you’re faced with many things as you walk into adulthood. Another distinct feature is that, the Japanese media usually portray teenagers learning about life by themselves–taking notes from their friends, mostly. Whereas the Western usually involve adult figures (or familial figures) who will “guide” the character throughout their journey. Maybe the difference is due to the different age range as well, but I think each of them is an interesting take on coming of age.

The real question now; how does quarter life crisis remind me of coming of age? They’re two totally different situations. They obviously happen at different times in your life. But I think, both of them are comparable in a way. Both of them involve a certain degree of crisis. It’s just… the way things rolling out that are different. Coming of age is more about exploring more possibilities in your life. It’s about learning to deal with something that’s once strange to you. You’re confused, but you’re excited. But quarter life crisis is… pure crisis… it’s more about feeling trapped and scared of what’s yet to come. You’re somehow less excited about growing up. You’re being hit by the bitter truth of reality. And often times, you don’t want to take that dose of bitterness in life.

Another difference… just like what I’ve mentioned before, coming of age stories usually have these “adult figures”. I like to refer to them as “cool” adult characters who seemed like they never forget how it’s like to be a teenager so they can gently knock the window through the main character’s heart. This could be anyone–their parents (if they’re lucky enough), weird neighbor, teacher, trustee librarian, some random person they meet during the weirdest time in life, or in some cases, their soon-to-be stepparents. This “mentor” figure would usually help the main character to deal with life. While during quarter life crisis… you’ll usually struggle alone. Or with your friends (so it’s troubled people helping out other troubled people HAHAH). Well, you might learn something from… the Internet. Or somewhere else. But you have to get it by yourself, you can’t really have someone to be there and teach you about life and boom, suddenly all the problems seem so far away. That’s one very realistic way to see adulting, I think.

I know many quarter life crisis themed movies and series have started to emerge. I’ve almost never watched them, actually. And to be frank, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed watching something about quarter life crisis. I thought I would enjoy it, though… or at least, I would benefit from watching it since most of the time, coping with this so-called early adulthood crisis is really hard and I feel like I need a hand. But instead of doing that, I find comfort in coming of age stories. I wonder if I’m actually regressing to a previous stage in my life to cope with this crisis…

I honestly still think it’s weird for me to choose to run away from something that’s relatable. Maybe, I learn that relatable things don’t always comfort you, sometimes they attack you (since they’re too close to you). Even when it’s uncomfortable, it’s not that it’s unmanageable, though. One of the major takes in my previous webinar is that quarter life crisis can be seen differently. Crisis can actually play the role as a trigger to make you reconsider things in your life, thus motivating you to rethink your decisions, as well as getting you to learn about yourself more. Crisis can be a waking call. Quite the same thing happened too during your coming of age, but perhaps, quarter life crisis is just less exciting. It’s okay to lose excitement (it sucks anyway!). But it’s manageable. And the choice is all yours.

(I’d still choose coming of age stories, though. I’m not still really sure why, but at least I know they’re more fun.)

P.S. I haven’t written anything in a while, so it’s hard to get these out of my mind. But this actually feels good.