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.

Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

    Structured Finance

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

    SQL Server Developer

    £500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

    C#.NET Developer

    £600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
    Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

    What is the appeal of Twitch?

    Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
    Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

    How bosses are making us work harder

    As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff