A Comedy in Five Acts
Much has been said about the pathos of the midlife crisis. But what of its lesser-known, yet no less confusing, counterpart — the Quarter-Life Crisis? Let us raise the curtains and lose ourselves in the uncertainty, doubts, and drama of this indecisive stage.
At 24, Nechama’s life is sunshine and roses. Then she turns 25…
ACT I: To Teach or Not to Teach
The day after Nechama’s 25th birthday, she realizes she’s made a terrible mistake.
She should’ve gone into chinuch! She could’ve been impacting people’s lives instead of clacking away at a keyboard!
“I’m becoming a teacher,” she announces.
It’s the middle of the school year; she’ll have to wait a while before she can apply for jobs. But no worries — there’s plenty to do in the meantime.
Nechama bids a fond farewell to her funky boots and artsy tops. She stocks up on cardigans and pleated skirts. She learns to flip the ends of her hair just so, and she buys six tubes of the perfect shade of lipstick — Muted Morah.
When she bumps into Chevy in the store, Chevy does a double take.
Nechama responds with her most demure smile. “Boker tov.”
Chevy opens and closes her mouth and backs away slowly. Nechama realizes that maybe her future doesn’t rest with teaching. She spends the next few hours arguing with store clerks about their crummy return policies.
ACT II: Much Ado About What to Do
Chinuch’s out. But is Nechama satisfied with her job? Absolutely not!
If she’s not shaping impressionable minds, she should be raking it in like her friend who hired her sixth employee, her seminary roommate who’s on sabbatical in Fiji, and her younger sister, who was recently promoted to Senior Associate Vice President of Corporate Promotions and Titles. (You don’t have to understand the position to see the dollar signs tagging along with it.)
A doctor! That’s what she’ll become. Nechama’s not 100 percent sure what the training or job will entail, but she’s certain her penchant for Popsicle sticks and stickers will take her far.
The next few weeks find our hero researching colleges and shopping for crafts supplies and books on anything ending in “ology.” When Nechama actually opens the books, though, she’s in for a shock. Gruesome photos, gory descriptions… a nightmare in print!
This is not the field for a young lady with a sensitive stomach.
Nechama gifts her nieces with stickers and her nephews with books (they’re boys; they love anything gross), and returns with relief to the gore-free comfort of her nine-to-five.
ACT III: Get Thee to the Chuppah
Career-mania is over, and Nechama kicks herself. How did she forget? Everyone knows money can’t buy happiness! No; what she needs is a husband who can buy her jewelry — lots and lots of happiness-inducing jewelry.
Her daily shidduch forecast has been Cloudy With No Chance of Dates, though, and Nechama starts to doubt herself. Maybe she’s been too quick to nix ideas.
So what if the guy from Florida wrestles alligators for a living? Or that other one decorated his résumé with ducky stickers? Maybe one of them is her bashert!
From now on, she declares, no more “no”s! She buys a vort dress and celebrates her decision.
But then the alligator wrangler shows up at her door with a live specimen. Nechama decides she’d rather limit her options than be eaten alive.
She sends out a mass email notifying her acquaintances that her “No ‘No’s” policy has been rescinded and lists her new requirements: Must be the most typical boy in the most typical yeshivah who will eventually join the most typical real estate course. Must hate reptiles.
Her newest vort dress joins the ranks of vort dresses one, two, and three in the recesses of her closet. Nechama sighs. At least she tried….
ACT IV: A Midwinter Desert Dream
After all the excitement, Nechama needs a change of scenery.
She digs up some relatives in Scottsdale and parks herself there for three weeks — just long enough to fall in love with the place.
Her social life is so much more pleasant without the cleaning lady demanding to know why she turned down Zuckerman when things were going so well. Her job is so much more pleasant when done remotely, far from the stuffy office and its ridiculous dress code (what’s wrong with pajamas?). Her evenings are so much more pleasant when filled with thoughtful strolls through quiet streets and long, meaningful conversations with the only ones who really get her — the desert cacti. (They’re not prickly, they just want to be left alone.)
If only she could stay…
And then she realizes: she can! She’s 25 — why not rent a studio and call it home?
Nechama flies back to Passaic and starts packing.
Tear-stained diaries that could pass as soap operas, memorabilia from that all-women’s play in which she stole the show as Nondescript Bystander #16, and extra tweezers, because even cacti need hugs sometimes, all make their way into the suitcases now clogging up her parents’ foyer.
Nechama can barely contain her excitement as she boards the plane to Phoenix.
“Independence, here I come!”
Then, minutes before takeoff, Nechama panics. What is she doing?! She loves living with her family!
She notifies the flight personnel that she’s on the wrong flight and beats a hasty retreat home, where she finds her parents and the cleaning lady waiting expectantly for her.
For now, she’s happy to be home. Tomorrow, she’ll focus on finding her suitcases.
Act V: All’s Well That Ends Well
The rest of the year is a blur of chaos and, surprisingly, dates.
It’s now the eve of Nechama’s 26th birthday — and she is content, happy, serene.
What brought about this sudden change?
Is it the great wisdom and maturity that comes with turning 26?
Or is it the knowledge that a special someone is waiting outside for her — eager to present her with a gigantic bouquet of roses and a reason to wear her newest favorite lipstick — Klassy Kallah?
We may never know…
So ends the epic drama of the Quarter-Life Crisis.
On to the next stage!
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 818)
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