Graduate Series: It’s okay not to know what you want to do in life
The adventures of a graduate.
In July of 2017, I embarked on the biggest adventure of my life. I left my family in Dublin airport, heavy-hearted but excited to enter into post-graduate life in the United States. I had no idea what it was going to be like or that living and working in San Francisco over the next 12 months would change my perspective on life entirely. I was moving halfway across the world on my own. It was make or break.
Backtrack one month earlier, I was sitting on the bottom floor of the DCU library. I had never been more dazed and confused. I was experiencing what looking back felt like a mental breakdown of sorts with the stress of my final year of university. The pressure of deadlines and some things happening in my life made me feel this stress more than ever. It felt like everyone around me had secured their future and that I was going to be left behind. As it turns out, there is no Google Maps for this craic.
Many of my classmates had signed contracts and their 5-year plan seemed to be locked in. Although I was stressed, I didn’t want to jump at an opportunity just to look like I had it all figured out. The reason I studied was that I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. That co-mingled with a little help from my two best friends from primary school. Them giving me maths grinds and proofreading essays was the only thing that got me over the line. For some stupid reason, I wanted to prove that I could go to all the events, run the societies, have a social life and earn the grades. I put a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself in order to tick all the boxes. What was it even for? Why do we put this pressure on ourselves and how can we learn to be more forgiving when things go wrong? Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so hard on myself.
Society and Instagram tell us we need to get the dream job and in order to live our best life. It’s drilled into us that you need a 1:1 or a 2:1 and if you don’t get it, you will be a failure. You convince yourself nobody will ever hire you and you’ll end up with no prospects. I think this is complete and utter BS! You and only you have the power to educate and upskill yourself about life outside the classroom. It is your responsibility to do something with your life. It is yours, not your parents, not your siblings, only you. It is your responsibility to gain experience and to push yourself out of your comfort zone. You are the only person you have to blame, regardless of your circumstances, if you don’t end up getting what you want or becoming your best self in life. Let me tell you now, you are not in a binding contract with your original blueprint and you have the power to change it to be whatever you want.
Thinking about it now, I have no regrets. I believed myself that it would work out. I am so glad I didn’t panic or settle to be a part of the status quo simply because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. This irrelevant pressure made up by us, our peers, parents and principles that there is only one path to go down. Ask yourself, what would you do if money were no object? How would you enjoy spending your life? If you know what that is, to quote Alan Watts;
You do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid. Better to have a short life that is full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually turn it — you could eventually become a master of it.
It is perfectly okay not to know what you want to do in life. However, it is up to you to make it your mission to do everything in your power to find that one thing that is your absolute jam and make the most of it.