20 Panic Attacks of Our 20s

There’s a lot happening in the time between your second and third decade on this earth. You’re expected to be a mature and autonomous human being during a time that the world says you’re not even responsible enough to rent a car until you’re halfway to 30. Not to mention everyone else seems to have magically figured it out. On any given day our anxiety amps itself up until we’re flung straight into Nietzsche’s existential nightmare. And it’s nerve wracking.

So welcome to your quarter life crisis. To celebrate, we’re sharing some highlights of our top panic attacks from our 20s.

Paying taxes.

After screwing up my tax forms by one extra checkbox I ended up owing a substantial amount of money, had no idea how to file them, how to get my tuition break, and was absolutely positive I was going to get audited. Cycle, rinse, and repeat for the next three years.

Being ‘let go’ from my job.

I came back from vacation to find that my boss had disappeared the week prior, murmurs of an acquisition were floating around, and HR shows up to take me in a room and lay me off right in the beginning of the double-dip recession. To this day coming back to work after vacation makes me sick inside.

Moving out of my college dorm and parents’ house to live on my own for the first time.

Wasn’t sure if it was possible to find an apartment in my price range that didn’t appear to be a former crime scene, inhabited by every animal imaginable, or have a hot tub smack-dab in the middle of one of the bedrooms (that’s a story for another time…)

Having to use a fake ID.

Six months after you graduated college.

Being told I can graduate early.

Do I do it and jump start my life? Or do I hide behind academia for a year longer and keep using “I’m a broke college student” as an excuse to squeeze money out of relatives?

Realizing I have no idea what I want to do with my life or what my marketable skills are.

 All my friends were now full blown consultants/doctors/lawyers and I was still doing administrative work making less than what my ex-boyfriend (who I thought I was smarter than) made directly out of college.

Dealing with medical insurance things.

 I was on my parents’ insurance until my first job, and didn’t realize there was a step AFTER the copay.  Bonus freakout – that this meant my parents were notified of and paid for any STD tests I took.

First breakup with someone I legitimately thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with.

 We were living together and I was no longer the age where we were too young to start thinking about that sort of thing.  Following 6 months of crying every night, I realized even if I couldn’t find someone better at the moment, I would have been miserable staying with him.

Familial responsibility.

Worrying that my parents will die before I produce grandchildren.  Sorry to be morbid!

Calculating the cost of graduate school.

A master’s degree costs how much? Seriously, I’m going to take on that much debt?

Contemplating marriage.

When your boyfriend starts saying “when we get married…” and you’re still using “if.”

Two words: Student Loans.

Calculating the amount of time it will take for me to pay back my student loans makes me want to cry…or find an under-the-table, black market gig to make it “go away.”

Someone telling me that Facebook notifies the person when you view their profile.

Fine, I may be a bit gullible, but my heart actually stopped. I genuinely considered deleting my profile. My stalking does not need to be made known to a certain few people. Caution: LinkedIn does tell the person if you go to their page (unless you modify settings). I learned that the hard way.

First time being lost living on my own.

A few weeks after I first moved to New York City, I was trying to get to the Port Authority and get to New Jersey. Not only did I get lost, I tried to hop on a subway, but my metrocard was expired. I tried to buy a new metrocard, and my card was declined and I had no cash. I walked up from the subway platform, it was storming.

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First business trip.

You think you have the hang of navigating a big girl job, you can handle the office politics, dress the part, and then you get sent on a business trip. How do you pack? What do you expense? I’m representing my boss and colleagues and if I screw this up I might not have a job to go back to, and oh dear God I think I need that airsickness bag…breathe in, breathe out…empty mini-bar in the hotel room…don’t expense it.

First friend who gets married. Extra panic if you’re in the wedding.

 How does anyone have their life together enough to tie it to someone else? We just graduated! I don’t know what I want to do with my life and can’t fathom what my future will look like in two months nonetheless two years. Not only does your finding happiness spawn an existential crisis in my life, but now I have to have money and clothes to go to an engagement party, bachelorette party/weekend, rehearsal dinner, and wedding? Not to mention presents and travel fare to attend these. FML.


My friend recently had a child and it was the first of my “I actually socialize with you and you’re not just a random FB name” friends and I more or less had a meltdown. You’re having kids? I’m still exhausted from nannying in college and you’re having one of your own? Should I be having kids? Wait, do I even still like kids? Should I be worried that my biological clock seems to have been on snooze since I was 18? Can the baby call me Aunt? Follow-up question, can I have free range to buy out CREW Cuts now?


Every day is a worry about debt. How much I owe, how I’m ever going to pay it back, and how long I have to stay in this profession that I went into debt to get a degree for and discovered that I hate.

The strict legalities of “pet fees” in a lease.

I broke my lease last year to move to Indianapolis for a job, but before doing so I went through the finer details of the agreement. When I came to the pet policy, it read that there was a $20 per pet, per day charge for pets not on the lease. I panicked when I realized that my additional kitty-friends led to over $19,000 in illegal pet fees that if they were pissed enough about my breaking the lease, they could make me pay. It took me until I was safely clear of the state of Ohio for my stress levels to resume normal.

High school reunions.

Yeah you hit that ten year reunion in your 20s and suddenly you realize that images in the 30 mirror may be closer than they appear. Not only do you suddenly have to remember who those people you forgot about 30 seconds after graduation are but you then have to look deep inside yourself decide if you’ve made it or need to fake it. No ring on your finger, baby on your hip, fast track to CEO, eco-friendly Audi, or cure for cancer? If you care or have been waiting for this to be your “Romy & Michelle” moment it’s a panic-inducing nightmare. Hopefully you’ll take the Daria route instead:


So what’s your best/worst panic attack of your 20s? Sick, sad, inquiring minds want to know. Tweet us @litdarling #20somethingTues

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