I started writing this letter to impart some wisdom to all the college graduates out there entering the vast unknown. But as much as I wanted to write a letter to them, I really wanted to write a letter to you.
And while you have graduated recently, you also have had enough time in the “real world” to notice a difference. I’ve noticed that something in you is starting to doubt the very core of who you are. And while I am no sage, I have been in your shoes, and I know how you feel.
You’re in the process of discovering who you are.
Most people would say that the discovery process starts while you’re in college because you’re learning to cook, clean, fend for yourself, and be the boss of your own life — possibly for the first time. But this is limited to the world of college. Chances are, outside of college, late nights, partying, video bingeing, eat-whatever-I-want-whenever-I-want habits don’t work so well for you anymore (the last one being a disappointing lesson for me!). This is your quarter-life crisis.
And it’s normal! Oh, how I want to emphasize how normal it is! It’s a time when a lot of your expectations of growing up and “having it all figured out” are met with the reality that you really don’t have much of anything figured out. It’s diving into the unknown again and again, often feeling overwhelmed and underprepared. It’s often about just getting by and not really having an inkling of whether what you’re doing is what you should be doing.
Do you remember being a child and thinking I want to be ______ when I grow up! All I have to do is get good grades, go to college, get some experience, and my course is set! And now, you’ve come to that first big finish line in life thinking this is it! and realized you haven’t achieved what you had positioned your whole life around. Herein lies the question of Now what? You thought you discovered who you were in college, but that college version of “you” doesn’t work in the real world, does it? You’re back to discovering who you are in this new context, and, brace yourself, it happens at every life stage.
At each stage you’ll be tempted into thoughts of:
I’ll have it together when I find my soulmate.
Kids will make me wiser and more patient.
I just need the right job to get me on track.
These thoughts push you into living out your life for the future, aiming for an unattainable goal. Instead of waiting for that future life stage, be comfortable in the stage you’re in right now. Carpe Diem! After all, the present is what you can directly affect, aiming towards the future, with the past in mind.
When you’ve come to the realization that you’re always you but the circumstances and environment around you change, that’s when you truly start to understand adulthood. You might gain wisdom, understanding, or maturity based on life experiences, but you never cease being you. The fact is, the idea of “being an adult” doesn’t actually exist. At least, not in relation to “having it all figured out.”
But how can you be you without knowing yourself?
Take the time to be present, to love yourself where you’re at, but not be afraid to test the foundation you were brought up on. Knowing what your faith lies in is an important aspect of that.
Just know that no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears you may put into something, it will never truly love you back. It’s tempting to put your faith in your own talents, but know that football does not love the football player, academia does not love the scholar, business does not love the businessman, and art does not love the artist. Do and explore the things you love, but don’t expect them to fulfill you.
Instead, ask yourself who gave you these talents? What purpose do they hold, not just for you, but possibly other people? Seeing what effect you have on others will help you discover you. As you discover you, you may discover something greater than you.
I wouldn’t attempt to tell you what the outcome of this journey of self-discovery should be because what an important journey it is — one that takes a lifetime to achieve. No one can discover you for you. It may be hard, it may be scary, but you will come out of this process so much more fulfilled than if you never dared to try.
Wishing you all the best,
Life is not just about work, but work should be about life
In this monthly series, we’ll be exploring work/life balance and some hands-on ways to tackle it. Because let’s face it, life is always busy.
I’d Like to Hear from You
What’s your #1 takeaway from today’s article? I’d love to hear what you have to share so leave me a comment below and let’s chat.