This morning, I woke up, hopped in the shower, made a cup of coffee, and headed to work. It’s the same routine I’ve done, 5 days a week, for the past 3 1/2 years.
I’ve been living in a metaphorical fog for the past few months – or really, years – battling pain, extreme stress, depression, and a persistent feeling of inadequacy. I mean, I’m 24. Sure, I have a steady job, and I am able to excel at it because it plays to my strengths. I have a car I can drive to work in, but really, all I work for is to pay for gas to and from, food on the table, and a few imbibements throughout the week (a gravy train that pulls out of station all too soon when the money is gone and there’s another week until payday).
Every day I stand at this age and look around, and wonder what on earth I’m doing and how I got here. When I was in high school, I was involved in everything. Business camps, the anatomy club, a job, and school. Having a job gave me freedom to explore, and I did. I went to another city by myself for the first time. I chose a college out in the cornfields, away from anyone I knew, because at that age I was unafraid to leap. For so long, I survived every jump I made. Everything I put my mind to, I could do. I even excelled at the things others wanted me to do. I had no reason to believe things could be any different.
And then, I experienced for the first time what it felt like to leap and fall. I got to that school in the cornfields and failed. Hard. I had to come home after one year. And I spent every day, for months afterward, crying. Every time I saw a friend post about school it ripped me to shreds. I hated education and everything about it. (I’d be lying if I said I’ve completely recovered – I still hate the system, but education is important, and there are other options now.)
Ever since then I lost my flair for the unexpected, for the surprise, for the adventure in life. I’m completely settled down, in a regular 9 to 5 job, with a man and two cats at home. And after 3 years I realize that I haven’t changed a thing about myself, and that I’m no further ahead now than I was when I first took this job (my responsibilities within the firm have changed dramatically – but I’m still doing essentially the same thing). And you know what, I KNOW I can do better. I know I’m capable of so much more. And I know that I can still be as successful as I used to be, despite the setbacks.
(photo credit to Abigail Mohon)
And so I’ve been spending the last few weeks, though still in a fog, reconnecting to those things that I loved and that moved me. I stopped ducking the “what do you want to do question” after a lunch with an old friend who, although we lost contact for 10 years, had many of the same experiences and exasperations that I do, and is going through a similar situation of wanting more. I used to hate answering that question, even though the answer remains as natural to me now as it was 15 years ago when the idea first took root.
And finally, after days of feeling worse than I’ve felt in a long time, after feeling doomed, after coming close to breakdown more times this week than I care to count, I woke up today feeling just a bit different, and really, I don’t know why. I looked at my bank account, almost empty, as usual. Normally I’d be angry, but not this time. This morning I drove a little faster. Played my music a little louder. Drummed on the steering wheel and shredded my air guitar with a little more abandon than normal – I wanted the other drivers to see my fun. Why not? What was someone going to do, look at me funny? Honestly, when you know you’re flat broke with another week of gas to buy so you can continue making gas money, the least of your worries is a funny look.
And then, I listened to the following Ted Talk by Meg Jay, a talk that brought me to tears:
What she said made so much damn sense. About how in our age group, we’re both rushed into endeavors such as childbearing and marriage, while simultaneously being told we have “plenty of time”. And we don’t.
We’re told that we can pursue our dreams and be anything we want to be, with blind disregard to the current state of affairs in the world, affairs we’re responsible for handling with absolutely no idea of how to even begin.
We’re capable of doing so much with the technology available yet are chastised for doing so. (So often I get berated for spending time on Facebook, without realizing that I use it to have regular conversations and share ideas with people all over the world – an amazing feat when you think about it)
These are general ideas, but really, the talk is incredibly uplifting, and worth a few minutes to watch.
So what’s someone our age to do? Do we live a sheltered life of pre-cut occupations and decisions, just because we’re told to? Do we aimlessly fling ourselves into the world and hope to find some spark that will light the way? Do we halfheartedly explore various experiences, in hopes that by the time we’re 30 we can finally get it right, as we’re told to?
Ms. Tola has some inspiring thoughts on the subject: http://thoughtchannel.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/quarter-life-crisis/#comment-36
As for me? Well, I have no clue (sorry!). I’ve lived my life following the advice of others, often to my detriment, and I have no real idea of what path I’m supposed to take. Honestly, I don’t think any of us do, no matter how many well-meaning epiphanies we reach.
But I am trying to look out at the rest of my 20s optimistically, and without the same fear that has kept me static for so long. I have seen enough to know that life doesn’t work the way you think it will growing up, and that’s okay. You’re going to struggle, and that’s okay. You will be surrounded by people who appear to have it all figured out – they don’t. And they can’t tell you how to live your life.
I think it’s normal to feel afraid. To not want to get hurt again. To just survive, to just do enough to get by. But I know you also feel that burn in your chest. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life doing unfulfilling work just because someone has told you it’s the way to go. And you don’t want to open your eyes years from now, like so many people do, and regret not taking the risks you deserve to take now, and not chasing your desires when there are so many opportunities to do so ahead of you.
You get to write your own story. Let’s all put our pens to paper and make the magic we’re capable of happen – whatever that magic may be. 🙂