At 22

learning to be free

I know I’m not supposed to have it all figured out at 22, but sometimes I think it sure would be nice to know something, anything about what I’m doing with my life. Or what I want to do with my life. I’d even settle for knowing what I want to do tomorrow. It feels like my head is filled with an ever-growing list of worries, anxieties, goals, fears, excitement, anticipation, dreams, but none of them concrete. And it is so much harder to deal with a list of issues you can’t name.

Although I’m not seethingly envious that all of my friends are off with goals and making plans and all knowing-what-they-want-to-do-with-their-lives (I’ll admit that wasn’t the most easygoing-sounding sentiment), it doesn’t make it any easier feeling like I’m stuck in one place without even a hypothetical ideal of what I want to do. Not that I can speak for any of them; I know we’re all trying to get our shit together in our own way.

In grade school, I went through the same career phase as every other child: I wanted to be a doctor (read: neurosurgeon), lawyer, ballerina, rockstar, and every other profession before I knew what they were. But I knew that when I grew up, with experience and research and probably a little luck I would figure out what I wanted to be, where I wanted to go. Well, I feel a little more grown up than I did when I was seven, and no more inclined toward one path. In high school, teachers told us college is where we would find our niche, and that it would help us succeed in the real world without writing our futures in stone. In college, professors and advisors told us not to rush to declare a major, we had time, everything would fall into place. Since I’ve graduated, all I’ve heard is, “Oh, it’s so nice not to have any plans. Take advantage of this freedom.” Except, at the same time I was also hearing, “Don’t waste time declaring a major, you want to get a good job.” and “Rhetoric and Communication Studies? What do you want to do with that major?” and “The market’s not great right now, you should grab any job you can.” Thanks a lot, everyone, really, I feel so much better and not confused at all.

I read a good number of blogs and news sites and articles every day, and the insightful, reminiscent-of-my-20s, wish-I-had-known-then-what-I-know-now crap that comes across my screen is very in right now. All full of good advice, good intention, but most of all, clarity for one person: the author. The moments I spend reading those articles are hopeful – like when I come across a job I can actually imagine myself enjoying, or a possible new direction that makes the future as exciting as ever – but when I step away from the hopeful, I’m left perpetually sorting through the tangles and the web of what is and what will be and what I want.

I guess all I can do right now is count on my future self’s ability to write her own wistful, nostalgic, it-all-works-out-in-the-end piece 10 years from now. And if by then I still can’t say I’ve figured it out (taking bets on the odds of this), I at least want to know that the not figuring it out part was worth it.

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4 thoughts on “At 22

  1. While you may not think you know what you want to do with your life you do have passions. I think that’s incredibly important. Knowing that there is something in this world that you’re motivated by and for is more of a guiding point for happiness in a career than a major or any random job that someone might have just for the sake of having a job. You’re smart and skilled enough to get a great job in something that doesn’t necessarily interest you but you’re not selling out and instead are fighting to ensure that where you end up is a building block for the future you want. To me, refusing to settle for something that isn’t you is just as much progress in figuring out what you want as saying yes to something.

    I think having a job straight out of college is the result of a variety of combinations of luck, skill, whether your interests are valued in society, and sometimes just desperation. I remind myself that just because someone has a job doesn’t mean that they have anymore of an idea of what they want to do than someone who doesn’t.

    And all those people that think they know what you should do – well they don’t. They don’t know you better than you do, they don’t have the same experience of looking for what you’re looking for in this time. And everyone just needs to stop talking about what “you’re supposed to do”.

    Honestly when I think about you, I think of someone who won’t settle for unhappiness. Of all people, I see you as someone willing to take risks and take an unusual path to ensure your success and joy. And I think that’s amazing.

  2. By no means do you need to have things figured our at the age of 22. The only thing you need to define is what your goals are and what your dreams are. Honestly, you can have a list of 500 or even 5000 goals. This is your life is it not?
    Once you list your goals and your dreams, then figure out what you want to do. This is your life and you should live it the way you dream of living it.
    Don’t let so called societal norms dictate your future. Your life is up for you to decide.

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