So, here I am. A freshly-graduated 22-year-old woman with wonderful friends, loving family, and her whole life ahead of her, fulfilling her destiny of settling down to a life of teaching in Italy surrounded by pizza and Aperol spritz. Sounds like the dream, right?
But what happens, then, when it all suddenly just seems too much to handle?
These past few weeks have been some of the most stressful of my life. I haven’t slept, I’m not eating right and I just can’t seem to find what it is that motivates me. The cause of this? I’ve reached an epiphany in that what I always thought I wanted to do isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be, and, being the organised, slight control-freak that I am, this has sent me into absolute mega-meltdown mode. The classic twenty-something-year-old questions of “what the hell do I do with my life?!” and “where on earth do I even want to be?!” have been the soundtrack to my existential crisis, in which I envision myself 5 years down the line as an unemployed bird lady, living in the drizzly forests of Hertfordshire, occasionally returning to my family home for a roast dinner or cup of tea.
But after weeks of thinking it through, not only with myself but with the people I am lucky enough to have supporting me, I have reached one very important conclusion:
LIFE NEVER GOES TO PLAN. And this is more than okay.
As much as this is hard to digest for me, a.k.a. Mrs Control Freak, it’s true. And it’s also true that I am absolutely not alone in feeling this way. So, in the hope that my musings could help somebody else going through the same crisis, I’ve compiled a handy list of rules – from advice given to me by friends and family – mainly to remind myself to BREATHE and CALM DOWN. Because life does have a funny way of working itself out in the end. Here goes.
LISTEN TO YOUR GUT
One of the things that has plagued me most about this whole situation is the idea that I am ‘giving up’. I say things to my friends like “I’ve never been a quitter” and “I don’t want to regret not giving this a proper chance”. Both of which are true – to a certain extent. A mantra that my dad taught me as a kid has followed me around these past few weeks, and seems completely applicable here also. He always told us growing up that:
“If you can’t change it, don’t worry about it. If you can change it, then do something about it”.
It seems so simple, but he’s right. If you have the gut feeling that something in your life isn’t right, or isn’t making you happy, you are under no obligation to follow it through just to prove a point to yourself. Change it. Whilst you might think it’s cowardly, or that you’re ‘giving up’, there is also bravery in admitting that you were wrong, and making a decision to improve your happiness. There’s a reason that you feel this way, and sometimes you just have to listen to your heart (cheesy but true).
As Wes from Love Island says (sorry, not sorry): “Yes, I’m happy. But could I be happier?”. Words to live by, if you ask me.
LET YOUR FRIENDS HELP YOU
Sometimes, I am so afraid of not having it all together that I find it extremely difficult to open up about the things that are upsetting me – even to the people closest to me. One thing in my life that I have always been lucky to count on is the support of all my friends, from all parts of my life. It’s so easy sometimes to convince yourself that you’re being a burden, or that they would get fed up of your ‘moaning’, and just keep everything bottled inside until it comes to a head. Remember that, to your true friends, you could never be a burden. Your true friends will support you in every decision you make, and for that I could never thank them enough – but they will also tell you if they think you’re being stupid. Which is necessary, but sometimes hard to hear. The more you talk to the people you love, the more you realise that you’re not alone in your feelings, and that, honestly, most people have absolutely no idea what they’re doing either.
As Dionne Warwick once sung, that’s what friends are for.
BE A BIT SELFISH
This is one that I struggle with massively. I am often kept awake at night by the irrational thought of all the people that I am ‘letting down’ or ‘disappointing’, ranging from my parents to my friends to people who I might meet in the future to their children and pets (told you it was irrational). The simple answer is, sometimes you just have to do you. Ultimately, your life is yours and no one else’s, and the people who love you will understand this. As long as no one gets hurt in the process, you really do sometimes just have to put yourself and your happiness first.
IT’S OK TO ADMIT THAT YOU HAVE NO CLUE
Because no one really has a clue. Life will always throw things at you that you never expected – some good and some bad – and there really is no way to foresee what could happen in the future. It sometimes seems that everyone else has it all worked out, and makes you feel even further away from knowing what you want to achieve, but everyone works things through at their own pace. Which leads me nicely onto reminder number 5…
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO EVERYONE ELSE
Everyone’s life progresses in different ways, and at different speeds. Some people are born knowing what they want to do. Some people stumble across it by accident. Some people (as I’m discovering with myself) need to just take some time to sit back and think it all through. Some people take a huge U-turn in their ambitions. Some people get married at 21. Some people get married at 35. Some people are quite content in a one-bedroom apartment with 50 cats (likely to be me). But what matters is that it doesn’t matter. Never measure your own life against that of others.
SOMETIMES YOU DO JUST NEED YOUR MUMMY
There is absolutely zero shame at any age in admitting that you just want a cup of tea, your dressing gown and a chat with your parents. Going back home isn’t a sign of weakness – sometimes, it’s even a place to stay rent-free while you get your head together. We live in an age where everyone is so keen to be independent that we forget how much our family can actually help us. Use them.
EVERYTHING WILL WORK ITSELF OUT
To quote one of my all-time favourite films,
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it is not okay, it is not yet the end”.
And, to be honest, I think that speaks for itself.