At first, I didn’t understand Zayn wanting to leave One Direction. He has such a great thing going for him! He’s living the dream! Why wouldn’t he want to leave! Until I graduated from theatre school with a sudden lack of desire to do theatre at all. So, Zayn, I apologize for judging you because I totally get it.
As my undergrad came to a close, I found myself incredibly stressed out and panicky about what I was going to do post-graduation, and I made a very last minute decision to ditch the plan to move to Toronto and instead come home to give myself a chance to clear my head and not spend a stupid amount of money on living expenses. And my main motivation behind doing this was I realized I was basing my actions and choices on what I felt everyone was expecting me to do, and not what I actually wanted to do. You go to school for a thing, you study that thing, and then you graduate and should only want to do that thing, right? Wrong.
I still don’t know what I want to do, and honestly that’s scary as hell. This post had a lot of alternative titles, such as, “I have no idea what I’m doing,” “Why graduating sucks and you should never do it,” and, “Can someone tell me how to not want to cry literally all the time.” That last one was a frontrunner, but I decided to go with a much more uplifting option. I still feel scared every day because I honestly have zero clue what I want to do with the rest of my life, but I take comfort in the fact that plenty of other people are in this boat with me, so I’ve decided to be an optimist today. I am so far from an expert in this field, but here are some tips I’ve learned about how to not succumb to the crushing weight of feeling so lost in life.
1. Remind yourself of all the things you love that you may have forgotten about
If you asked me what I love to do, my instinctual response will be art. I have never wanted to make a career out of drawing and painting because I don’t want to feel obligated to do it and grow to resent it. But it will always be my first love. My undergrad was so hectic that I hardly ever got time to draw or paint, which was heartbreaking, so since moving home I’ve rediscovered my passion and my talent for fine arts, and I feel so good about myself for it. I feel so much joy when I am creating these pieces, which lets me take a break from the real world and forget about all the fear that comes with it. The flaw with post-secondary education is it is often too narrow, and our capacity to learn and to love as humans is so broad. So if you’re feeling lost, just remind yourself of the the things you uninhibitedly love, and do them.
2. Find new things to love
Two weeks ago I decided I wanted succulents, so I dragged my mom out to the nursery to help me pick out three new friends, and then I bought tiny pots for them, painted them, transplanted the plants, and now they’re living happily in a cute little row on the vanity table in my bedroom. This was such a small thing for me to do, but they give me a sense of joy and accomplishment. Plus they just so gosh darn adorable. If you feel stagnant, make tiny impulse decisions like buying plants or redecorating your room or volunteering somewhere. Realize the power you have in making simple choices like these and thrive in that power.
3. Find something you can have complete control over
One of the greatest struggles with being a recent grad, especially in the arts, is you feel like being successful involves so many factors that you can’t control. The job market isn’t there or you feel overqualified for part-time jobs or you have so many dreams that feel unachievable because of money or opportunity. Which is why I am so happy that I have recently fallen in love with running.
Wow, that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type.
A couple weeks ago I decided I wanted to start running, which is something I have literally never been able to do, and what do you know, I’ve run nearly every day. I even ran on my birthday. Because I wanted to. How weird is that. And yesterday, I accidentally ran 7.5k. I say accidentally because I planned for 5k but was feeling so great that I just kept going. I love running because I feel like I have so much control over it, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment that I am so grateful for. When you graduate and don’t have this spectacular career waiting at your doorstep, you need to find things that keep you motivated and remind you how much potential you have. I’m probably going to sign up for a 10k later in June, which is wild because I have never run a 10k, but I am so excited for how accomplished I’ll feel when I finish. And if the idea of running makes you want to hit something, that’s cool, it doesn’t have to be running, but I promise you if you find something that let’s you set goals and push yourself and feel empowered, you’ll feel so much better about yourself.
4. Shamelessly remind yourself of all the things you have achieved
I have an honours Bachelor’s degree. How freakin’ cool is that. And from the University of Toronto, no less. AND a diploma from Sheridan College. I survived 40 hours of class per week, while holding a part-time job, performed in four main-stage plays, and came out of it all with a rockin’ CGPA. Wow. Look at me go. I should be the subject of the next Marvel movie.
All my bragging aside, you really have to step back and look at everything you’ve accomplished. Whether you’re done school, in school, didn’t do school at all, or you have a super cool job, or you volunteer, or maybe you just got out of bed today. Trust me, you have SO much to be proud of, so please take the time to recognize that and don’t let all the things you haven’t done yet overshadow all the things you have. Then go buy yourself a doughnut or twelve to celebrate because you deserve it.
5. Know that it’s perfectly okay to do nothing
I had a hell of an undergrad. I mean it when I say I had, like, zero free time. And even when I said had free time, I was lying to myself because there were a million things I should have been doing. So I have been doing a whole lot of nothing since I moved home, and you know what? That’s okay!! Honestly, you’re probably hella busy and more stressed out than you should be, so do NOT feel guilty for taking time to sit outside and read a book for a day, or binge an entire tv series, or flip between instagram, snapchat, and twitter for hours on end. During school, all I ever wanted was to just do nothing, and now that I have that opportunity, I’m having a hard time dealing with it because I feel lazy. But the thing is, I’m not. I’m using all this time to relax and breathe and rediscover myself and, honestly, that’s the healthiest thing I can do right now. So follow in my footsteps; they’ll probably lead you to the spot on the couch from which I’ve watched the entire Raptor’s playoff series.
Graduating is hard. It really is. I have absolutely no idea what I want to spend the rest of my life doing. None at all. And that’s such a terrifying and suffocating feeling. I’ve had a really tough three weeks since I moved home filled with a lot of self-doubt, fear, and helplessness. But you know what? I’m sure Zayn felt that way when he first left 1D but look at him now: I actually can’t get Pillow Talk out of my head.
My point is, whether you’ve just graduated, you’re still in school, or wherever you are in life: no one knows you better than you. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. Take the time to understand what you love and what you want to do, and make sure you are self-motivated, and not motivated by what others expect of you. The only expectations you have to meet are your own, so push yourself, but also recognize your limits. You are so much more than you think you are, so let yourself realize this and be proud of yourself. Because I sure am proud of you. Plus, if you’re like me, you’re so young and have infinite time to figure it all out.
The world is our paradise, and it’s our war zone.
(See what I did there.)