Hi, guys, remember me?
Not so long ago, I was just like you: nervous about the future, terrified of what was coming, paralyzed with fear that I might do the wrong thing and never find the right thing.
Frozen and unknowing, I was you. Hell, I know the mud you’re standing in better than anyone. I’ve been there – in the thick of it. The only difference is that you’re still stuck.
The future is horrifying. It’s scary. It’s gigantic and so very, very vast. It’s a black hole that’s built to fit anything and everything, but the problem is, what do you put in it – and how do you make it stick?
When I was 21 and graduating, timidly placing one foot in front of the other as I made my way across the stage, I felt the black hole descend upon me, engulfing me and swallowing me whole.
I felt it hug tightly and comfortably to my curves as it lay across my lungs, making it harder and harder to find fresh air. “What now?” reverberated off the dome of my head, sending vibrations down through my toes and pinching me at the tips of my fingers.
It hurt then and sometimes it hurts now, both the knowing and the not-knowing of what you want to do, who you want to be.
For so many years, we’re ushered through schooling, the path lies before us so plainly.Graduate from kindergarden, make a papier-mâché animal in second grade, learn about puberty in sixth grade, learn how to use a locker in seventh grade, play sports in high school, apply to three “safety” schools and four “reach schools,” take the SATs, wear white on your high school graduation day. Spend a semester abroad, graduate with honors. We’re coached through everything, and when it’s time, just looking at the deep end is enough to send us into hysterics, let alone actually wading into it.
We call it “Failure to Launch,” as if tacking a phrase to the end of our inabilities is enough to make them mainstream and trendy.
Oh, we’re not afraid to fail, we’re just Failing to Launch; my doctor told me that my ‘Failure to Launch’ is totally normal and nothing to worry about.
So instead of attacking it, we sensationalize it. We make movies about it. We dress it up in pretty bows and we give it a soft name, not too shy, not too aggressive. We’re inundated with media condoning and glorifying our inability to grow up, to leave mom and dad’s, to want a life for ourselves that is entirely our own.
And suddenly we’re 25 and still Failing to Launch, 36 and still swimming, 54 and still living off waiting tables with dreams of something bigger. At what point are we no longer failing and just failures?
I know that the “big” picture is just too big to fill sometimes. I know that knowing what’s next is next to impossible. I know that your only plan was not to have one – and now you need one. I know that all the “what ifs” and “what nows” just feel like trudging murky water.
I know that you really, honestly don’t know. I know that you’ve Failed to Launch then and you’re still Failing to Launch now. I know that you’re terrified of getting it wrong. I know that there are just too many pieces to fit the puzzle. I know, I know, I know.
But you need to start somewhere. You don’t need to take a leap, just a little shuffle step. You don’t need to run wild, just maybe jog.
You need to know there are possibilities – that there are answers out there waiting for you to come and find them, that there are empty desks and incomplete teams and people waiting for a coworker like you. You need to know that yes, you will fail and you will hiccup and you will make mistakes and you will be late when you should have been on time.
You need to know that saying the wrong thing and doing the wrong thing, and saying “yes” when you should have said “no,” and going right when you should have gone left – it’s all okay.
We’re not hardwired to know or to make sense of it all. We don’t have the ability to look at the here and now and predict the future. We have to do it blindly, to make it up as we go, to make a little sense out of a big thing. We’re programmed just to try.
If I could tell you anything – impart any knowledge – it would be to give yourself the chance. Maybe it means moving to a new city, maybe it means breaking your lease, maybe it means trying something you were always a little too scared to go after. Just give yourself the chance.
You can’t lose at something that you haven’t even started yet, you can’t gamble all your money away if you haven’t even laid your cards on the table yet.
Try. Take chances. Get confused. Make mistakes. Screw up. Swerve left. Arrive late. Leave early. Blubber through. Forget your notes. Whether you’re 18 or 40, I know there is a part, somewhere deep down, buried by fear and frustration, that wants more.
The so-so life isn’t always going to cut it and just skating through won’t always be satisfying. At some point, whether you let yourself believe it or not, you’re going to needmore.
There’ll be a grumble, deep inside you, a low rhythmic moan that slowly, but steadily rises, searching for something to feed it, to dull the ache, to quiet the whispers.
Do yourself a favor and start feeding it now. Take little steps. Start small, but have faith that you’ll grow.
I know that it’s scary. I still think back on that time, when the hole was so big and I tried everything to fill it, and I shudder. Knowing what you want is the hardest question you’ll ever ask yourself – and the hardest question you’ll ever have to answer.
But here’s the thing: You can never get it completely wrong.
So, I don’t hope you find what you’re looking for – I know you will.
I remember when I was in college, I failed so many subject. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to graduate alongside my friends — now that would be embarrassing. Not to mention my parents who would go ballistic over more expensive subjects they have to pay. I remember the time when I just want the ground to swallow me whole and alive to forget that I am indeed in so much pressure of living a 4 year life in college. I had a boyfriend back then. I didn’t tell him either how much I was worried about school since he was also busy doing the same.
I was one of those who graduated early, 20. When I graduated I didn’t worry much about the future. I had mine pre-planned. School ended a month the actual graduation and I remember I started working early right after it. Or at least I remember, I wasn’t that worried because I got employed right away and that I was starting with my first job, 3 days right after graduation. Unlike the other batchmates I have who opted to rest first after, I immediately joined the workforce and I was so proud I didn’t have to go through all the hassle and worry of unemployment since I had one myself.
7 years after graduating, I even finished a few courses from my Master’s degree, I still do not know what I really want to do in life. I just know I am good at auditing and doing QA. But I never really asked myself what I really want to do. I was too lazy figuring out which dream I want to chase, which career I want to pursue.
Until now, I kept thinking and asking myself: Do I even have one?