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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stone, MBA

Navigating the Twists and Turns of Life

Embracing the quarter-life crisis and finding your unique path

melissa standing in front of west virginia university holding a diploma, and melissa standing on the football field at WVU

In the age of social media, it is easy to believe that everyone has their dream career, dream car, dream apartment, and picture-perfect family by the age of 25. But the reality is often far from these unrealistic standards. As college graduates, we often feel the weight of these expectations, leading to moments of self-doubt and what is now commonly referred to as the “quarter-life crisis.”

As you approach or cross the threshold of 25, not having your life completely mapped out can make you feel like a failure. This quarter-life crisis is becoming increasingly common, fueled by a variety of stressors: job searching, living alone, navigating relationships and tons of other stressors that affect us during this time. 

At just 24, I have personally weathered my fair share of quarter-life crises since I graduated. Growing up as an only child, the spotlight was always on me. Expectations were set high, which added tremendous pressure. Although the pressure was sometimes overwhelming, I will always be grateful for the unwavering support of my parents and family, who spared nothing when it came to my education, to make sure that I was prepared for the future. 

In the seventh grade, my life took an unexpected turn as I transferred to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy. Surrounded by students who had known each other since elementary school, I felt like an outsider. During this time, I stumbled upon an organization at my school called Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA). What started as a casual social organization for me to make friends evolved into something more than my 7th grade brain could ever imagine. 

Throughout high school I continued my journey with FBLA. I had the opportunity to travel around the US attending national conferences and networking with students from across the world. I ended up becoming a state officer, for Ohio FBLA, and had my first leadership position where my voice was finally being heard. For the first time I didn’t feel like an outsider, and finally felt like I belonged. 

As senior year approached those feelings of being an outsider began to come up again. I was one of the few people in my class who had chosen to go out of state for school and ended up losing some of my best friends along the way. Looking back on it, choosing to go to West Virginia University was the best decision for me, but in the moment, it felt like I was losing everything that I had worked so hard to get over the last four years. 

Although I was hesitant, I ended up attending West Virginia University, majoring in journalism, which was a huge shock to everyone. I became deeply immersed in the program and had internships working for ESPN, news stations, and any other journalism-related outlet you could think of. Sounds great, right? Until I graduated from college and quickly decided I did not want to pursue a career in journalism.

The year after graduation was extremely hard for me, and I constantly felt like a failure; that I had wasted the last four years of my life. All my friends in my undergraduate program were moving across the country, working as reporters or producers, and having the time of their lives. While I had moved back home and was working a dead-end job. Eventually, I decided to continue my education and pursued an MBA. Upon graduation, I landed a wonderful job, and things were finally starting to look up for me!

What this journey has taught me is that it is okay to not have all the answers. The road to your dream career is rarely linear. 

melissa and a male colleague in construction attire discussing a job site

It is easy for us to get caught up in the lives of social media influencers and lose focus on our own lives. But as I have learned, every twist and turn serves a purpose in your personal and professional development.

I’m 24, and I still am not where my 15-year-old-self thought I would be in life, and I am okay with that! Every day I can see how God’s plan is working in my life and how I am at the exact place he wants me to be. The road to your dream career is challenging and will rarely go according to plan. But when you stay focused and block out all the noises around you, eventually you’ll return to the path you were meant to be on. 

Melissa Stone, MBA, is a proposal coordinator at an engineering firm in Cleveland, Ohio.


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