Two Years in the Wilderness: Embracing Uncertainty in Post-college Life|
I’ve talked to teachers, investment bankers, law school students, and consultants, and they all tell me the same thing after graduation: “I feel completely lost.”
In the post-college years, this nagging feeling has become a common thread in every conversation with my friends.
In the wilderness that is the past two years since I graduated, I’ve moved twice (alternating my time between New York and DC), moved into a new office, worked from home, and now I’m on the brink of moving back home with my parents. My state of limbo is hardly unusual when I look around me. Even my friends with steady jobs wonder, what’s next? What should I be doing?
This confusion shouldn’t be all that unexpected when you think about how structured our lives have been until this point: Elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and all the way up to our first job. Rules have governed our lives throughout these steps, and we expected post-college life to be no different. If we played by the rules, we’d be fine.
Except it wasn’t fine. Doing all those internships in college didn’t necessarily guarantee a job. The people who do have steady jobs are realizing it’s not as cracked up as they thought it would be, and they’re not sure they want to be doing this for the next five, 10, or 20 years of their lives.
The confusion around what we want to do with our lives is a reflection of the confusion we have about who we want to be. Without the comfort of the identities of being a high school or college student, we simply don’t know who we are.
These pains are growing pains that indicate the slow and steady work we need to do within ourselves and with others to understand what we truly want and who we are. And part of that work will be to accept that there are things we can’t control—health, work, relationship issues—and that we just can’t change or fix.
So how do we wade out of this confusion and embrace uncertainty? To be perfectly honest with you, I’m still struggling with this, so I don’t have all the answers. But one thing that has made me feel better is to talk to my friends about this state of uncertainty I’ve been in, and be honest about how lost I feel in my life right now. Once I was brutally honest about how I felt, my friends reassured me that they felt the same way too.
Here are a few things I’ve been working on that might work for you too:
Focusing on the present as much as possible.
Looking too far ahead to a future unknown just creates more anxiety. Be excited about the weekend you have planned with your friends, or the coffee date you have tomorrow.
I know this sounds cheesy, but it is so tempting to wallow in a pit of self-pity when you are stuck in a bad situation. Try to be grateful for the little things: for your patient sister who always calls in to check on you, and for your poor friends who have to listen to you whine on a daily basis.
Getting out of my head.
As Jessa says in a recent episode of Girls, “You tend to overthink things, and that’s an issue for you.” Stop thinking and start doing.
How have you coped with periods of uncertainly in your life? How did you learn to let go?