Thrisis' management: How to survive a thirtysomething crisis

She had the dream job and the perfect relationship but, at 33, Kasey Edwards felt 'over it'. And she's not alone.

A thrisis – isn't that just a common- or-garden midlife crisis rebranded for a younger generation? Apparently not, according to Edwards, who has written a book, 30 Something and Over It, about the aftermath of her age-specific revelation and how she got over being "over it".

"A midlife crisis," Edwards explains, "is about looking back at your life with a sense of regret; feeling that the best years are over, you've wasted them and it's too late. That's when you buy your sports car or have your boob job – because you want to feel young again." A thrisis, on the other hand, isn't about regret but about "looking forward and thinking, 'I don't want the next 30 years to look like this.'" The syndrome is also different from the "quarter-life crisis", the status-fuelled scourge apparently suffered by privileged twentysomethings expounded in a flurry of books a few years back.

So what was so awful about Edwards' thirtysomething life that she felt unable to tolerate another three decades of the same? Ironically, what was wrong was that her life was so right. As a senior management consultant for a prestigious multinational firm, Edwards was flying high professionally and doing the job she'd always dreamt of. She was earning a fat wage, living a luxury-filled life and in the "perfect" relationship to boot. As she puts it: "I had everything I'd always wanted – [but suddenly realised] I was over it – completely and utterly over it... my whole lifestyle had lost zing."

It was at this point that Edwards embarked on a journey to try to find her way. On it she sought out self-help gurus, encountered depressed millionaires, volunteered for a gruelling silent meditation retreat and, in the process, stumbled across a whole host of other thirtysomethings who'd either escaped or conquered their own thrises.

Closest to home was Edwards' best friend, Emma, another high-flyer with an equally bulging salary. While Edwards was spending evenings on the sofa feeling down about what suddenly felt like a meaningless job, Emma's thrisis took her off the rails. Out went her long-term, stable relationship, in came heavy drinking and a string of meaningless sexual encounters. "Everyone's symptoms are different," says Edwards, "but the core causes tend to be the same. I think, by definition, part of having a thrisis is feeling guilty about feeling bad because there are more important things going on in the world, which only compounds the problem."

Also significant is a feeling of having got "lost". Says Edwards: "In your twenties you're still ticking all the boxes that were predetermined for you as a child. I just followed the path; got the marks, which determined what I did at university, which then determined the jobs I'd apply for. Then I got the job and began climbing the corporate ladder." It wasn't until she hit her thirties – having attained her goals – that the path came to an end and she realised that she didn't know which way to turn. "Work was so much of my identity that when I realised I didn't like it any more I almost didn't like me any more. Part of my journey was to unstitch my identity from the title on my business card."

It's something that – in the current economic climate – is likely to be forced upon a great many more of us than might otherwise have reached a thrisis. When there is no work, what are we? How do we function? Feel valuable? Get through the day?

Meaning quickly becomes a recurring theme in Edwards' quest. She looked for it in a call centre – where the days were punctuated by timed loo breaks, dubious morals and a culture of enforced jollity – full of happy and fulfilled staff. "It knocks me off balance," writes Edwards in her book, "the place looks like something Aldous Huxley conjured into existence... [yet] these people were loving it." A line in the in-house publication Wellbeing News provided a clue: "Scientists have proved that smiling makes you feel happier even when you're feeling down," it read.

What of the other thirtysomethings who aren't experiencing thrises: what is their secret? Lowering expectations of what their jobs can give them, Edwards discovered. There was the colleague who deliberately put as much emphasis on his personal relationships, leisure activities and charity work as he did on his (equally high-flying) job; a friend who accepted that her brilliant career wasn't ever going to give her enough meaning, and so spent the weekends as a football coach for disaffected youths: "When I see the difference I make in their lives," the friend tells Edwards, "I feel like I'm really doing something worthwhile." Even Emma, her thrisis buddy, finds peace when she realises that setting up her own business is the way to give her life meaning. While she saves money, she's still doing the same job and superficially her life remains the same – but her mindset is different.

Edwards' biggest turning point, she says, was the 10-day meditation retreat she attended. "I was doing a lot of reading on happiness," she says, " and religion came up again and again as something that gave people's lives meaning." The only problem was that she wasn't religious – and didn't want to be. Spirituality, however, seemed worth a shot – and she found Vipassana, a Buddhist-inspired retreat that didn't require one to be a Buddhist. It turned out to be the most challenging thing she'd ever done – each day started at 5am and was spent sitting on a hard floor meditating for 16 hours; food was forbidden after midday. "The pain is excruciating," she says. "I nearly left after the first day but I'm glad I didn't: the idea is that you experience physical pain and learn to rise above it. It was emotional but liberating. You see things really clearly when you come out."

If extreme physical discomfort and 10 days of weeping sounds a little too much, you could take Edwards' ultimate thrisis-busting tip: have a baby. Not a real, live one, but "a metaphorical baby". A project is what Edwards' happily childless colleague Godfrey tells her is the secret of his contentment. "You need to find something to grow and invest in for the next 20 years – something to spend your money and time on, to give you meaning."

Finally Edwards had cracked it – which is how she wound up expecting less from her day job and negotiating a three-day week. The rest of the week, she spends writing. The first tangible product of her post- thrisis life is published this week, and she hopes that reading about her journey might inspire other thirtysomethings to see being "over it" not as the end, but as the beginning of an exciting new chapter.

'30 Something and Over It' by Kasey Edwards (Mainstream , £6.99) is out now

Thrisis-busters: Edwards' top five tips

1. Putting all of your happiness eggs into the career basket is asking for trouble. The people who are happiest with their jobs are either those who are not thinking about what they are doing and why, or have the lowest expectations about what work will bring to their lives.

2. It's not too late to change your path. The people who genuinely believe that life is full of opportunities are happier about their jobs than those who don't.

3. Make changes. Don't put off making tough decisions while you wait for the best option to come along. Sometimes any sort of action is better than nothing.

4. You'll know that you've found what you're looking for when you feel energised and optimistic. Don't expect to find it straight away and, once you find it, don't expect it to last forever. As I learnt from meditating, everything in life is impermanent, so enjoy things while they last and then move on.

5. While being thirtysomething and over it feels terrible, it can be a really positive milestone in your life. A thrisis forces us to pause, take a breath and ask what's really important to us. Think of your thirtysomething crisis as acting like a safety valve to stop you from getting to old age and wondering what the hell you did that for.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

    Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

    £35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

    Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

    £15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project