One of the biggest challenges post-graduation was figuring out what to do with excess free time. Over the past few years I had settled into the habit of being awake 17 - 20 hours a day. After graduation that wasn’t necessary. However, I was so accustomed to being a student, I forgot how to be a civilian.
“What am I doing to secure my future?”
“Am I being productive?”
My sense of urgency was at an all-time high. I was constantly being asked “What’s next?”
I figured I wouldn’t have too much more time to live off potential alone.
As a kid adults asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
As an adult, I noticed other adults ask “What do you do?”
I feared being perceived as a failure more than I feared going bald prematurely.
Normally I would have valued having a break, but since I had no job prospects on the horizon, or no clear objective in sight every day seemed daunting. It was like standing on the shore of a beach, looking out at a body of water, and not being able to spot a crumb of land on the other side.
Can I make this swim?
I felt like Andre 3000 on “Aquemini” when he said “It’s lookin bad, need some hope, like the words ‘maybe,’ ‘if,’ or ‘probably.’”
Lacking a keen sense of direction, seeing my peers grieving, and parting ways with close friends had a cumulative effect on me.
I expect there will be ongoing challenges during my gap year, but I’ve gained enough stability to reflect again. Things are coming together. Everyone’s situation is different, but I wanted to pass on some realizations. I don’t have any remedies, but here are 8 things to consider:
1) Be Honest About Your Feelings
The evolution of trust begins with mutual vulnerability. Find someone you trust enough to open up to. If people are aware of how you’re feeling they’ll know to check-in more frequently. If it’s too troublesome for you to open up DO NOT rule out seeking help from a trained counselor.
2) Build Your Day Around Something
I recommend choosing something and not someone. It has to be flake proof. I observed Ramadan for the first time this year. In hindsight, it helped me reestablish a sense of direction. It was difficult fasting for a month, but the Suhoor, and Iftar gatherings were consistent. I was able to anchor my day around them. This kept me from feeling like I was floating aimlessly. The communal observance of Ramadan kept me from isolating myself. Find something and commit to doing it at the same time every day. This gives you structure.
3) Social Media Is Reality TV
Keep in mind that you’re seeing exactly what people allow you to see on Facebook or any other social media platforms. Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s highlight reel. Your time will come.
4) Someone Admires You
As much as you don’t think you have it together, there’s someone on the outside looking in who thinks you do. There’s probably a cousin, sibling, or even a friend of an acquaintance that thinks the world of you from afar. Your floor might be someone else’s ceiling.
5) Timelines Are Overrated
Don’t take timelines literally, you might reach some goals sooner than you expect. Life is a series of renegotiations. There are people a lot older than you still figuring out what they want to be when they grow up.
6) Practice Saying “I Don’t Know”
You don’t owe an answer to everyone and it’s okay not to have one. It will come to you in due time.
And when I say cry, I mean get ugly with it. Cry in the rain if you’re uncomfortable displaying vulnerability. Do you. Find a way to rinse your soul.
8) Make A Playlist Of Motivation Music
Daydream about your goals, and where you want to be in life while listening to the lyrics. Solange’s “A Seat at the Table” album helped lift me.
I wish you well. Keep on!