This is an incredibly stressful time. We’re applying to jobs, we’re applying to grad school, we’re planning out the next chapter of our lives. Suddenly we’re confronted with the fact that a few months from now we will no longer be students of this institution and will no longer have a tailored answer for relatives and friends that ask what we are doing with our lives. For many of us, this is an incredibly uncertain time. For the first time in my life, I have no idea where I’ll be 6 months from now.
One thought that keeps running around my head is something that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. “Have faith.” Have faith that you’ll get your dream job, have faith that a xenophobe won’t win the election, have faith you won’t die alone. Have faith.
To have faith is to admit that the extent of my control only goes so far. To have faith is to admit that the outcome isn’t guaranteed. To have faith is to believe that some how and in some way things will work out. But can I have faith? What am I supposed to have faith in? The world isn’t fair. Fuck having faith. I’m scared. I’m nervous. I’m trying hard to be optimistic and believe in the best possible outcome but I don’t know if it’ll happen – and that honestly makes me want to run and run far away.
But being one step away from a mental breakdown isn’t going to help either. I think we all need to take a collective breath and step back a bit. Many of us have been conditioned for many years to believe that if we don’t excel at each and every step of our lives, there is something wrong with us. At this point we’ve made it pretty far in what I call the chain of achievement: you do well in school → you go to a good college → you do well there academically, socially, extra-circular-ly so that you can land a good internship → you do well in that internship so that you can get a good job → you get a good job/go to grad school → you’re happy (?)
Notice I put the question mark at the end because supposedly this chain of events is finally supposed to lead me to some place where I’m content and happy with my life. But the thing is I already am. Then what is the end result for? Money? Self-fulfillment?
Sure I have goals, but this insane way of thinking that if I don’t do “what I’m supposed to” I won’t progress to the next stage of my life is complete and utter bullshit. What I’ve realized is that this particular chain of achievement is what puts so much pressure on us that we all seem to collectively be one step away from a major breakdown. There is no right way to some supposedly happily ever after. It’s ok that our lives will be messy. Some of us will hate our first jobs, and I guarantee a lot of us won’t know what we’re doing. But that’s ok. It’s absurd to know what you want to major in at 17 and it’s absurd to know what career you want at 21. It is ok not to know. And its ok to know but not know the exact path to get there.
All I ask, is that when you’re in the weeds with applications or school to just take a step back and not be too hard on yourself. I’ve noticed that we all hold ourselves up to insanely high standards and then berate ourselves when we fall short sometimes. Cut yourself some slack. Take a mental health holiday. We’re far too young to be crushed under the boulder of our own expectations. Look out – and you’ll see that there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic and hopeful and one of them is the fact is we have the power to shape our own futures and build our own journeys.
We should admit and accept the fact that we don’t have to follow some predetermined path. These next few months will be tough. But let’s promise to laugh and smile more as we go through them.
It’s sappy but it’s important.
Remember to always take care of yourself.