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
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Travel
travel
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
health
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
News
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
news
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
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

    BI Developer - £35,000 -£40,000 - Sheffield

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

    Geography Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusias...

    Maths Teacher

    £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an enthusiastic Maths Tea...

    English Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a dynamic En...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform