Staring Into The Big Grey Abyss
No, you don’t have to have everything figured out.
It was April of 2013. I was weeks shy of walking across that big stage to accept a diploma and celebrate the completion of my undergraduate journey. Graduate school was definitely not part of my plan come fall. All I wanted was to read a book for my own pleasure, hang out with my friends on a beach, go to some new bars, and chill for the summer. I was a college graduate. My plan up to that point was complete and the big grey abyss would cause significant anxiety if I thought about it too much. I was terrified and excited and so very ready to be DONE.
Your early twenties are a strange and beautiful time. You’re kind of an adult but still kind of a kid, mostly trying to figure out who you want to be. You’ll watch your friends begin their first “grown-up” jobs and get married. You’ll use words like adulting to describe the steps you’re taking to full independence and think about things like a 401K and benefits packages. You’ll be making plans to travel the world and get a few more years out of the car that’s already on it’s decline. You might continue questioning some of the ideas you were raised to believe and talk about how you’ll raise your kids differently. You may come to see you don’t actually want kids. You might move back in with your parents and notice how quickly old patterns pick right back up. You might be forced to live with your parents longer than ever anticipated while the world experiences a global pandemic and the internships, jobs, and “best summer ever” plans are quickly cancelled or furloughed. Or maybe that’s just 2020….
Amidst all the changes you’re experiencing and plans you’re making, I hope you know that you don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t have to have a nice little elevator speech prepared for anyone who’s about to ask that dumb question “so what are you doing now?” You don’t have to know all the answers. You simply do not have to. I’ll let you in on another adult secret: no one actually knows all the answers. Nobody has it all figured out. We’re all just doing our best to make it day-to-day.
While you’re going through some really hard years, I hope you’ll remember that your identity never has to be wrapped up in the job you have or the salary you agree to take. It’s going to take some time to find a position you’ll actually enjoy, so don’t expect your first job to be the perfect job. You might discover that the job you always imagined yourself doing is actually something you don’t enjoy in the least. That’s okay. Change it. Get a new one. We’re not always going to be in the midst of a pandemic and the job opportunities will come. You may have received a degree in elementary education, but that does not mean you always have to be a teacher. Your straight A’s in your marketing classes do not mean you’ll give the job itself an A. There’s also the chance that you’ll get into something that has nothing at all to do with your degree and find that you love it. It’s all okay! Give yourself the freedom to continue learning, growing, changing your beliefs, setting new goals, trying new things, and giving yourself the space to change your mind. You do not have to have it all figured out.
It doesn’t matter if you’re 18, 21, 30, 45, or 60…. You do not have to have it all figured out. You can relax. Time will answer some questions for you and you’ll learn to make better decisions which are more aligned with who you are. Friendships will fade and relationships will change. You’ll fall in love, fall out, and back in. The plans you laid out for yourself at 18 do not need to be the steps you take at 21. The lifestyle you choose at 25 does not need to be the same at 30. You are not forced to be the same version of yourself for your entire life. And what a beautiful gift that is.
Breathe. Release the pressure to be perfect or to know all the answers. Please, do everything in your power to distance yourself from the idea that your identity and value is wrapped up in achievement or income. You’re so much more than that. You do not need to have all the answers. You do not need to have a ten year plan. If you have one, awesome. I hope you’ll also be okay with the idea that it might change. Relax a little bit and enjoy the day you’re in. You’ll get there in time. Right now, allow yourself to be a recent college grad stepping into a new and exciting stage of life. Congratulations! You did it! Now allow yourself to breathe.