Today I bring you a piece of advice I wish I’d had when I was nineteen. And twenty. And every age for about the next four years after that.
Here it is: find something to do, while you’re figuring stuff out.
And here’s what I mean by that: Experiment. Give things a go. Try. Fail. Try something else.
When you’re young, you feel so much pressure to have a plan. To know what to do with your life. But lives are a lot longer than they used to be. There are way more opportunities. You could get a job in a field that didn’t exist twenty, ten, or even five years ago.
The key to taking all that pressure off is knowing that you don’t need to figure everything out, right at the start. You don’t just have to pick one path. You can, and likely will, do many things.
But it’s not just your path and opportunities that will change, you will change too. Your interests will shift with time. Passions will wax and wane. So don’t hang around waiting for a lightbulb moment in which it becomes clear which one specific thing you must do, because it probably won’t happen. I know if I’d heard that last part ten years ago I’d get very stressed, but it’s actually a good thing.
I worry for people, particularly kids, who are single-minded in the vision they have for their future. Because if you base all of your hopes and dreams on one thing, and put all your energy into it, what happens if that thing doesn’t work out? Or what happens if you reach your dream and you look up for the first time in four years and realise you’re alone and unhappy? That you were so focused on what you were doing, you didn’t even notice that you’d fallen out of love with it in the meantime?
Don’t worry. It happens. More often than you might think, in fact.
Here’s what you don’t do: don’t feel embarrassed. Don’t dig your heels in and stick with it even now, because you’ve come all this way.
It’s not a weakness to quit. It’s not foolish to change your mind. To set new goals. To take a damn break and let yourself breathe.
When you’re ready––and you’ll likely be ready before you even realise it––dust yourself off and try something else.
I know it doesn’t feel like it, but when things don’t work out, it’s not the end of the world. Literally. The earth will still spin. The night will become day will become night will become day etc.
While waiting for inspiration to strike on what to do next, play. Explore. Do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for, or that you thought was too silly.
Let yourself be silly sometimes. Not everything is life and death.
I say again: experiment.