Having my quarter-life crisis with Taylor Tomlinson, during quarantine

Taylor Tomlinson
(Allyson Riggs/Netflix)

Re-watching comedian Taylor Tomlinson’s Netflix special ‘Quarter-Life Crisis’ during the coronavirus pandemic is making me re-think turning 26


Today is my 26th birthday. Instead of celebrating out with friends at my favorite coffee shop or brewery, I am on my couch with Taylor Tomlinson. Again.

More specifically, I am re-watching (OK, re-re-watching) Taylor’s one-hour stand-up special Quarter-Life Crisis, in which the comedian candidly reflects on her early 20s as she hits the halfway point.

It’s a great stand-up set, and I recommend watching the special — once. Like I did three weeks ago, as I listened to her well-timed jokes through my AirPods while scrolling through Instagram. During the show, I nodded, I smiled, I chuckled — and I chocked up the hour as an entertaining, lighthearted experience. In April, Taylor was headed to the Comedy Palace in Kearny Mesa, and I planned on buying tickets to see more feel-good comedy.

The first time I watched Taylor talk about her 20s, I (delusionally) assumed I had escaped my own quarter-life crisis. During my 25th year, I landed an amazing job and co-workers (oh hey there, PACIFIC team), followed by signing a lease on a lovely downtown apartment with my partner (brick walls and all) and adding a new family member (an English bulldog puppy). Sure, life wasn’t perfect, but it seemed to be going according to a plan from some vision board I (never) made in the 7th grade.

So I determined that I could watch this comedy special as a 25-year-old without the fear of an impending quarter-life crisis. I was safe! Secure! In the clear and ready to consume!

But that was three weeks ago. AKA, before coronavirus. Before events like her comedy show in San Diego were postponed, before Netflix stock was booming (more than usual) in a flailing stock market. Before we took the words like “entertaining” and “lighthearted” and “feel-good” for granted, replaced by phrases like “self-quarantine” and “social distancing” and “global pandemic.” Basically, before it all went to shit.

As “shelter-in-place” began, I settled back into my couch and browsed through Netflix. When I stumbled across Taylor’s stand-up special again, I decided to watch it a second time. And then a third.

To give you a taste of the special, Taylor starts out Quarter-Life Crisis with this joke...

“I’m halfway through my twenties and I am done with this shit ... I’m sick of my 20s. I’m so sick of people telling me to enjoy then — they’re not fun. They’re 10 years of asking yourself: will I outgrow this, or is it a problem? Is this a phase, or a demon? Am I fun, or should I go to a meeting?”

The first time I watched, that opening quote made me laugh. The second time, I was alarmed. The third time, I was in full-on panic mode. Turns out, a quarter-life crisis can definitely come a year late, especially during quarantine.

While I could write a novel about why this stand-up special has now haunted my 26th birthday, these four quotes from Taylor really took the cake. (Sad birthday pun intended.)

1. “Wow, I hope my ex sees this thank you!”

Taylor shouts this perfectly delivered joke as she walks on stage to a welcoming, roaring applause. As a writer, I’m not planning on being on a stage in front of an audience anytime soon. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, no matter our profession or personality, we are all performance artists these days in the age of social media.

And it got me wondering... how often do I post on social media, secretly hoping an ex-boyfriend (or ex-best friend) sees the post?? What are my motivations for posting in the first place?? All of the people that actually need to know my (usually mundane) daily happenings get iMessages and DMs and FaceTimes from me, so who is my Instagram story even meant for??

I don’t have an answer, but I have decided to resist the urge to start an indulgent IGTV about my life, which seems to be trending in this self-quarantine madness.

2. “I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself. You have to do a lot of work on yourself in your twenties, because if you don’t, then you’ll turn 30, and then all the shitty parts of your personality will solidify and that will just be who you are now.”

Crap, I shouldn’t have canceled my therapy appointment last month. And the month before. And now all the doctor offices are closed for sessions because, you know, coronavirus concerns > my privileged problems.

Now that I’m 26, I only have four more years before the big three-oh to work on myself ... and who knows how many months (or years!!) of that time will be in quarantine? OK, so I need to find creative ways to work on myself while I’m stuck in my apartment indefinitely. Do I start an elaborate to-do list in one of those aesthetic, complicated bullet journals? Order a corny self-help book from Amazon or watch one of those awful self-improvement videos on YouTube?

All I know if that I will not get chakras and crystals involved.

3. “I had a woman yell at me from one of my shows and say ‘You should really wait until you’re 27 to get married!’ I said ‘Why 27?’ and she goes ‘Because that’s when your frontal lobe is finished developing in your brain. That’s when your brain’s done, 27.’ What a mean fact to yell at someone!”

Hold up, what?? You’re telling me I am 26, but that MY BRAIN IS NOT DONE YET?? While I do not want to get married anytime soon, this terrible truth applies to any decision I made before 27. This means every decision I have ever made. Ever!

I spent this past year ho-humming about, convinced that I avoided my quarter-life crisis and making all these life decisions with confidence. Decisions I made WITHOUT MY FULL BRAIN. Was it too soon to have committed to a puppy? Did my boyfriend and I sign the lease on this apartment too fast? And am I really mentally capable to decide to date — or live with! — anyone, even my partner of four years, until I’m 27? Especially in the confines of quarantine?

I should note that have not yet found the proper evidence to prove this scary fact. (Resisting the urge to FaceTime my smart, scientific, soon-to-be-PhD friends at Wisconsin-Madison to see if they know the answer.) But the idea that it could be true is now lodged into my not-fully-developed brain, and will likely stay there forever, making me second-guess every decision I make this year.

4. “I was having nightmares as an adult, which is like when you get braces when you’re 40. People are like ‘You’re still doing that?!’ It’s embarrassing! Nightmares as an adult are so much worse than nightmares as a kid ... as an adult, you wake up from nightmares, like ‘I had a dream that there was an earthquake, and I got cancer, and you cheated on me,’ and everybody’s (laughing) like ‘Oh yeah, that’ll probably happen.’”

I’m a highly anxious, lifelong insomniac who has recurring, realistic nightmares like this constantly. Nightmares that will probably happen. Nightmares that are now currently happening.

It’s not just me experiencing this hell anymore. Folks, welcome to our collective, waking nightmare. We are now living in a global pandemic, afraid to go outside, hoarding toilet paper, and repeatedly singing so many 20-second songs that my (not-fully-developed) brain hurts. We can hide under the covers and cover our eyes with sleeping masks, but nothing will make this horrific reality disappear.

Dramatics aside, I believe we will get through COVID-19. I know we will. We have to. I’m not just saying that to keep this piece “entertaining” and “lighthearted” and “feel-good”... I legitimately need us to get through this, in order to survive the second half of my 20s. Starting with today: age 26, day 1 into my quarter-life crisis during quarantine. Happy birthday to me!

Oh, and FYI, Taylor’s show at Comedy Palace got rescheduled to July. But honestly, who knows if we’ll be out of the weeds by then. So I’m just going to keep re-re-re-watching Taylor’s Netflix special from my couch until I, and the world, figure things out. If you want a quarantine-induced, quarter-life crisis of your own, I invite you to join me.