That “What Am I Doing With My Life?” Feeling

Have you ever had that thought whilst watching some young child genius on the TV, who can recite Pi to a billion decimal places whilst playing Bach as a warm up before they cure cancer, that you’ve seriously been underachieving in your life? That your whole life up until this present point has somehow been wasted? Moreover, you feel like you were never likely to be that successful at such a young age and probably never will be; this kid is 5 and already has surpassed your life’s expectations. A depressing thought, I know, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been having this feeling recently myself. A friend of mine just went traveling around Europe for a month. Another has an amazing internship lined up. An old school friend is engaged and just bought a house. I’m not in the least bit jealous of the last friend – the thought of a mortgage and a marriage is enough to scare the pants off me. Nevertheless, what all three of my friends have in common is that they are pursuing their respective dreams. My dreams seem permanently on hold and stagnating right now; I feel like I’m constantly waiting for them to come into fruition, appearing before me in a puff of smoke. When the opportunities do come about I chicken out – the reality is almost too much to handle and I get scared!

What I really want to do is travel but the biggest barrier for me is money. Having not worked before this summer and not receiving any money from my parents, the balance in my savings account has been sitting at a big fat zero. The job should sort this problem out but there is a small voice in my head (probably my mother’s) telling me I should be saving it for a rainy day. What if something happens? What if my laptop breaks? What if I need a little extra rent money? These are all valid concerns but they are by no means reasons to stop me! My plan was to take a study abroad year in Germany – so committed was I that I’ve been on Duolingo (almost) every day to get my German up to scratch and I’m even taking modules in the language next year. This seems to be a more stable way to travel; movement is limited to one city but I’d have accommodation for the year and I’d get to study in my own language (thank goodness! I struggle enough arguing in English – I don’t know how I’d cope in German considering I can’t even order a cup of tea yet.) But, lo, I have almost chickened out again! “Don’t I want to graduate with all my friends?” I have asked myself, “What if I become isolated and depressed again?” Yes, ok, the possibility of my mood dropping is a huge potential threat for me. So, what am I to do if I want to achieve my dream?

The answer is hard to swallow; you just have to DO IT. My Nan is a huge inspiration of mine. She’s not perfect, by far, but you cannot say she hasn’t had an exciting life. Apparently, she was set up on a date by Harrold MacMillan! In a way, she is everything I aim to be: independent, free-spirited, and adventurous. She’s been all over the world and has amazing stories to tell because of it, and the reason she was able to go out and do all these things is because she took huge risks. She leapt head-first into every situation and because of this she is able to look back with a sense of pride. Stepping outside your front door every day is a huge risk, in a sense, so why should it stop me from going further away from home? So, long story short, ignore your inhibitions (I never paid much attention to my mum’s warnings when I was little anyway), take risks, and pursue dreams at all costs.

Why do all career paths feel like Cardiac Hill?

This summer is all about jobs for me. “Are you going on holiday?” my friends ask. *Chuckle* Not likely! First, I had to set myself up for the 3 months I am away from university. To be quite honest, I was in desperate need for the money – I cannot live off my ‘home-made’ chilli con carne every day for another year. But this wasn’t my true intention; what I really wanted a job for was to get out of the house. I catch cabin fever very quickly when I’m at home because, unfortunately, my home has never felt like ‘home’. I used to live in a beautiful town called Tunbridge Wells; my friends would remind me that while I lived there I couldn’t wait to get away from it but anything is better than the suburban, white picket fences that are closing in on me now. So, to Tunbridge Wells I had to go, to reclaim my new found adult-independence and freedom (but also to earn some money to buy a Nerf gun so I can shoot my new house mates in September.)

I was lucky to find a job quickly; last year I was still searching in August. My parents seemed to put a lots of pressure on me to get a job both this year and last; they don’t seem to understand that you can’t just walk into a place and get hired. The career climate is not beneficial for us students at the minute if you’re only looking for temporary work, moreover, the competition is fierce. I would tell you not to be disheartened if you are looking for work over the summer – right now is not our time. But, what I’ve found to be the most effective method is printing off copies of your CV (I handed out about 25 this year) and hand them to employers in person. This way you get to make an immediate good impression that can’t be received in the same way through paper or a computer screen. Also, try to make yourself as available and flexible as possible; employers are looking for employees to fit their needs, and they may be reluctant to fit to yours.

My working hours currently are scattered all over the month and so I’m luckily left with a few days free here and there. During these times I’m trying to work on my future career path, looking up internships, trying to build a résumé, and catching odd opportunities where and when I see them. Deciding what you want to do with your life is hard. Full stop. Am I certain on what I want to do? Hell no! When I was in reception I wanted to be a witch, just like Hermione Granger, and everyone laughed at me. The memory still stings a little bit because I was always told I could be whatever I wanted to be and growing up you realise that, really, this isn’t true. The more decisions you make the more you narrow down your options without realising; I wanted to be a doctor in year seven but that’s no longer possible because I’ve been focused on humanity subjects since GCSE.

It’s scary and I’m currently on the brink of an existential crisis. But if there is one thing a philosopher is good at it is just accepting, even revelling, in the chaos. A friend of mine once repeated some advice her mother gave her: if you do something you love then you will never have to work a day in your life. This seems ideal! I don’t want to work at all really – in an ideal world I’d stay at university for the rest of my life, keep doing degrees, pile up a student loan I’ll never pay back, and die a poor but well-educated woman. Unfortunately, the system doesn’t work like that so I have to think about what else I’m passionate about. I love writing, reading, drawing, photography, and most other creative pursuits. So here was my answer: I have to work in a field where I’m constantly creating something.

Therefore, in my days off work, I am trying to constantly create things. Writing, drawing, reading and editing – as much as I can. The more ‘work’ I do the more experience I gain and the more I have to show off when someone decides they might want to employ me. This is my advice to those of you who don’t know what to do with your life: find what your love and keep doing it over and over, more and more. If you get sick of it, then you probably shouldn’t make a career of it, but if it just makes you thirsty to do more then you’re on to a winner.

Honesty is the Better Policy

Today I have been trawling through a paper for my philosophy of film class wittily titled, Is Realism Really Bad for You? A Realistic Response. The aim of the paper is to show that people who are honest with themselves and under no illusions about themselves are better off than those that are deluded and living in denial. I couldn’t help but think recently about how many lies I’d told to myself and to other people who are concerned about me. I was under the illusion that telling people “I’m fine” and “everything is ok” was somehow the right thing to do. It doesn’t feel like an outright lie, but what I have sneakily coined a ‘half-truth’, since nothing is wrong that warrants talking about. I have also developed a bad habit of hiding when I’m upset unless someone asks me specifically whether something hurt my feelings. So, despite all these habits, I am going to be somewhat hypocritical and defend why honesty is the better policy.

  1. When people find out that you lied or hid something they feel hurt

My best friend was crushed that I had kept something to myself for eleven months, more or less. I didn’t think it was a big deal but when people care for you greatly your pain can almost be adopted by another person – they feel it too which, of course, is what empathy is all about. I feel almost selfish now. Even trying to protect someone in this way ends up hurting them more. You tend to forget that people can look after themselves – it is not our job to shelter them all the time – and friends are there for the good times but especially the bad.

  1. Deceiving yourself stops you from getting help

This quite often leads to things getting worse, even out of hand. I tell myself, “I’m coping; I’m dealing with it” when the situation is out of control. Sometimes what I need is someone to step in, maybe give me a little shake by the shoulders and say “GET IT TOGETHER!” or something a little bit wiser. A problem shared is a problem halved after all but, understandably, we fear burdening others. Although, you might be surprised to find out:

  1. People actually enjoy hearing about your problems

I thought these people were nutcases at first. Who would want to take on the burden of other people’s issues? Well, actually, it is a therapy for other people in itself. When my friend came down to visit she unleashed a torrent of problems upon my already over-burdened conscience and I couldn’t help but smile as I listened (which, I realise, makes me sound like a somewhat unhelpful friend). It’s reassuring to know you are not the only one with issues! It also seems to give you strength to comfort someone else but also friends (good ones, at least) reciprocate that care, and comfort you too.

If you think about it in terms of probability, the more people you open up to the more likely you are to find a golden-nugget piece of advice which just sorts everything right out. Also, the more times you share your problem the smaller it becomes if we take the ‘a problem shared’ premise to be true. Having reached this small epiphany that lies are not the solution to my problems I am making it a late resolution to be honest about how I’m feeling. I get sick sometimes just talking about my problems – it’s tiring and dull – but being open about them will help me to overcome them and I can then move on to more exciting things, stories of which I will be bursting to tell my friends.