I don’t think there is a single phrase I have ever written more for my job than “Live is not a race. There is no rush.” We don’t need to rush into relationships and settle down as fast as possible. Likewise, we shouldn’t rush to get through school so we can grind toward our careers and eventual success. I’m not saying you shouldn’t work hard and try your best at what you do, but you have time to figure sh*t out.
At 18, I thought I wanted to be married and own a house by 25. Well, now I’m 25 and have no desire to be married anytime soon, and the idea of owning a house gives me hives. You think you know what you want after graduating high school but have barely lived life. Go out and live outside the bubble you grew up in and experience new things. And if you already know what you sure want to do, then you are very lucky. Some people know they want to be a doctor or nurses and go to school immediately. Some aren’t sure what they want to do, and that’s perfectly fine. You shouldn’t feel bad if you don’t know what you want to do, so here are a few tips to help you out.
Take Gap Year
If you can afford to take a year off and travel, then, by all means, do it because there is no better time than when you’re young and full of energy; however, that is not realistic for most of us. By “take a gap year,” I don’t mean you should go out and travel the world. I do mean that you might need to take a year off from school. Does this mean you graduate a year later than everyone else? Yes, but who cares? Take a year off from school, the only thing you’ve ever really known, and learn what it means to be a functioning adult. Find a job, pay some rent and bills, take the time to explore the world around you, and take the time to figure out who you are and what you want to do with your life. Nothing in school prepares you for finding long-term happiness and fulfillment, so you need to figure that stuff out before you go into debt. Working during your gap year doesn’t sound like the height of luxury, I know, but it may give you perspective or insights into what you want to do with your life. You get what you put into your gap year, so don’t wait for things to fall in your lap. Be proactive and find cool opportunities.
Take Basic Classes
Maybe you don’t want to take a gap year, but you aren’t sure what you want to study. That’s fine. You can go to college as an undeclared, meaning that you don’t know what you want to study yet, but you can get some of the boring writing comp and math classes out of the way that everyone has to take as freshmen. Colleges are filled with amazing resources that can help you learn more about what you want to study and what fulfills you. You should take full advantage of it, even if it sometimes seems cheesy. Try joining clubs, getting connected to cool programs, and visiting guest speakers from various topics. I promise there is so much more to do in college than have a mental breakdown in the library.
Figure Out What Makes You Happy
Maybe you already have an idea about what makes you happy in life, and you know how to get what you want. Great! Maybe you hated every second of school and would rather endure torture than ever sit in a classroom again. Whatever the case, finding happiness in life is important. Such an obvious thing to say, I know, but it’s true. There can be so many external pressures that persuade you to chase a dream that isn’t yours. Maybe you don’t want to inherit the family business or go to law school and would rather work in a kitchen or be a teacher. I can’t tell you what will bring you happiness. Only experiencing life outside of school and growing to understand yourself outside of an academic setting will get you there. It’s hard to imagine a life outside of school when it’s all you’ve ever known. That’s why some (me included) want to be perpetual students, so we don’t have to go out into the world and be real adults. (Nothing wrong with being a perpetual student, either. Having more degrees never, besides breaking the bank.)
Figure Out What Gives You Purpose
Some people search their whole lives looking for their purpose. One of the most human questions you can ask yourself is, why am I put on this earth? (Insert some Rick and Morty “your purpose is to pass butter” joke here.) Purpose is what you make of it. What makes you feel fulfilled at the end of the day? What makes you feel like you didn’t waste the last 24 hours? Some people search for fulfillment in their jobs since they spend so much time doing it. Others couldn’t care less about what they do for work as long as it gives them the freedom to go hiking in the mountains and get lost. Finding fulfillment takes some self-reflection and critical thinking, but putting the time in is well worth the effort. I won’t say that if you find fulfillment, you won’t work a day because that is utter BS. Work will still feel like work most days. You just won’t feel like you are wasting your life sitting in a cubicle, making some rich person richer. (My best friend, who works in finance, goes through this existential crisis every three months. He swears he will sell everything and open up an Alpaca farm.)