I don’t know about you, but in undergrad and grad school, I constantly had a full course load, clubs, and at least 2 jobs. Some days I felt I had no time to sit down and breathe. Other days I had enough free time to take a nap during the day or have a meal and chat with friends in the middle of the day. After a while, I think I became addicted to being busy. I thrived on having a full day and feeling like I needed to schedule events at least two weeks in advance. Making the transition from full-time student to full-time employee was an experience.
You would think that transitioning to doing one thing every day, working, would be simple. However, I think it’s harder than it seems. Going to the same place, seeing the same people, and doing the same thing(s) more or less can quickly become mundane even in a mentally stimulating career. What is it that makes this lifestyle so boring? Maybe it’s the fact that you now have true obligations on which your livelihood depends (assuming you were able to rely on your parents for certain things during the college years). Or is it that those friends you used to see on a daily and weekly basis have now moved to a monthly or yearly basis. Could it also be you’re coming to grips with the fact that you’re getting older and feel that you should have it all together, but are still struggling to figure out who you are and what you plan to do for the rest of your life?
Whatever the reason is, the transition to professional life is scary. You start hearing these terms such as work-life balance and employee benefits when just a few weeks ago you were trying to figure out the benefit of going to the lame university center event (which was probably free food). Each day I get a little more confused and frustrated because I don’t know where I’m supposed to be in life at this stage. Am I doing alright? Am I successful? Am I failing at everything? It’s difficult not to play the comparison game and consider what other people your age are doing. Life gets even more complicated when you’re not sure what success even looks like for you. We all have this idea for our lives and how we want them to be upon leaving high school or college or different milestones we see ourselves hitting at certain ages. There’s no room for change or a contingency plan for when things get off track especially when you have certification exams hanging over your head. The transition is hard because there’s so much pressure to feel like you have to have it all figured out. Whether this pressure is self-imposed or societal is another story, but when you speak to people in their 30s you hear that it’s okay not to have it all figured out in your 20s and that you probably shouldn’t. That doesn’t make it any less terrifying.
Sometimes I feel like my life is me flailing around in a vacuum, lost and alone because I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. After working full-time for about a year now and talking to other people in my age group, I think this transition period is meant to be a time to reflect, regroup, and consider pursuing interests as opposed to stability and what looks good on paper. (Don’t abandon your resume and start going buckwild, though.) Although “it is never too late to be what you might have been,” George Eliot, why not start thinking about it now. What did you love to do when you were younger? What was your first dream job that you thought was unrealistic so you changed paths? Did you take the safe route or follow the map that your family, friends, or community put out in front of you and maybe regret it now? Let’s challenge each other to start thinking outside of the box and reconsider our passions and how we can grow them into careers in which we take pride.