Pretty nerve racking isn’t it?
Peering over the edge of the cliff before you jump into the ocean. It’s fine once you land, and you always will, the water isn’t going anywhere. The worst thing that’s going to happen, is you lose your cozzie on the way down. It’s just that moment before you jump, peering into the unknown.
The looming end of University is starting to feel a little like this. It’s creeping up on me slowly, and although I love to give off the impression that ‘I’m totally chill, and just living in the moment and what will be will be‘, I’m starting to panic.
I’m afraid of my own expectations for myself. Expectations that I have manifested through dreams and the refusal to believe that what my parents taught me isn’t always true: ‘you can do anything you set your mind to.’ This underlying pressure rears its head in many different ways. Sometimes its in the success of others or in the eyes of my parents, quite often its in the guilt that comes at the end of a day doing nothing but lying in the sun and reading about how Michelle met Barack.
(Which I actually think is an extremely good use of my time, for research purposes, on how to find the love of my life that may one day, quite literally, rule the world. Apparently the key is not to be attracted to them at first, go figure.)
I am completely aware that my expectations for what I will achieve in this lifetime are often my driving force. They get me out of bed in the morning, force me to apply for jobs that don’t pay anything because I know they’ll help me ‘climb the ladder.’ When I’m achieving these things I feel fulfilled and as though I have a purpose. Occasionally however, it covers me in false pretences that suggests my sole purpose and validation will be consequence of my career or achievements.
There’s an underlying pressure hovering beneath every 20-something I know. A pressure to thrive, to be ‘successful’. A success which is often defined by University grades, salary, or ‘progression’. For fuck sake, what does progression even mean. The word itself has such a negative demeanour, ‘I can see some progression with your sales this year Susan’. It suggests such a slow and steady trajectory, one which you don’t want associated with your life. I don’t think I want to progress, granted I don’t want to stay still either. But if progression means ticking boxes and moving steadily through the ‘stages of life’ then quite frankly, fuck that.
In focusing solely on an end goal, or my progression, I’m debilitating my ability to be present in the moment, I’m missing my final year of Uni because I’m focusing and worrying about what job I may or may not start once I’ve finished. I’m failing to enjoy ‘funemployment’ because I’m panicking about what I’ll have to say to Jenna ‘call me Jen’, at our mutual friends birthday party when she declares: ‘Gosh, it’s been ages, how are you? I’ve been so busy, what with the promotion to senior editor, moving in with Michael and would you believe it the Audi got a flat tyre! Anyway, How the hell are you?!’
‘Yes great, actually, Jenna, sorry Jen, if you’ll excuse me I just need to go and choke on five vodka shots and 10 of those cocktail sausages and YES I AM A FUCKING VEGAN.’
In reality, I know that I don’t envy Jenna. I love my ability to recognise the importance of revelling in each stage of my life, enjoying this period not for what it looks like to others, but what it feels like to me. But these feelings, of content and serenity and to be honest total and utter not giving a shit about what anyone thinks, are hard to maintain when the society around you deems it as a lack of progression or worse; failure.
My friend Lu has taught me a lot in this department. She recently quit her job, her very successful job in which she was ‘progressing’, so that she could move to India and train as a yoga teacher. She wanted to work for herself, doing something she loves, so she just took the risk. Although it wasn’t really a risk. Why should following your dreams, ambitions or impulses be deemed as a risk? Because you leave a job with a salary, a ladder to climb and a trump card over Jenna. All of that isn’t necessarily happiness. At the end of the day you have to look in the mirror and be proud of what you’ve done, pleased that you maintained your virtue and excited for tomorrow. Without that, what’s the point? It’s also a very good lesson in comparison. Deep down, you don’t care what Jenna thinks, you don’t know Jenna and from what you do know you don’t even really like! So who cares if you turn around and say ‘I’ve been reading ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, great read perfect for when you’re waiting for the AA mechanic to change that tyre!’
You are on your own trajectory. There is no right way to succeed or ‘progress’. You’re not progressing but evolving. Learning with every choice, every break in employment, every horrible job, every amazing job, every time you step outside or change your mind. You’re simply evolving. Don’t be ashamed of your evolution and don’t feel the need to forecast. Why do we do that? Well, I’m doing this at the moment but only until I can do that! Who cares?! Do what you’re doing now, if you give that as much attention as you give the next step, you may learn more than you ever thought you could. Accept and own your narrative, whether you like it or not this is a page in your story, you may as well enjoy reading it aloud at birthday parties, even when other people’s stories seem far more interesting. Perhaps your story is yet to climax.
So go on, jump into the unknown, if all that catches you is ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, there are worse places to fall.
Note to self: Take own advice.