After much journaling, self-care and just a boatload of reflection, I have slowly come to understand why I am so terrified of what’s to come. Not only what’s to come in 2021, but just for the rest of my life. As I have probably mentioned before, I am nearing the end of my bachelor’s degree and it is not sitting well with me.
It’s not just that I am finishing my education, it feels as though I am finishing a much bigger chapter of my life. My young adulthood is wrapping up, my childhood is officially ending and what is to come feels like a dark empty hole.
But over the past few months, I have been wondering why I am feeling this way. Why was I so scared of the unknown? Why was I freaking out about having a plan? What was I going to do after this? I have always told myself that at the end of the day I could rely on myself – that I would always be there, and I would always get through the ups and downs of life. But for some reason, that thought has not been comforting enough these past few months. After a lot of reflection, I came to understand why I was so scared of moving on, into the next chapter of my life and I would like to share it with you all.
I was and still am the type of person who has made academics an integral part of their life. When people are asked to describe me, one of the first things that come up is how studious I am. Since high school, I have prioritized and applied myself academically. Mostly because I did love learning, and by extension of that I loved school. But seeing as how I am coming to the end of that path, it scared me to think that I wouldn’t be in that environment anymore. I am very much someone who grows through learning, and it feels like if I take away to school then I am not going to learn, and then I am never going to grow and then someone that will equate to me being stuck in the same spot forever. Now a part of me knows this is not how life works, but the irrational part of my brain has been repeating this over and over in my head. I also became scared that once I was out of school, I would somehow lose an integral part of my personality. As if the only thing that makes me who I am is school – which could not be further from the truth.
With the help of journaling, talking with my friends and honestly reflecting late at night I came to realize a few things I think people need to remember more often.
One, you are not the work you do, the job you have or the career you have found yourself in. Let me explain. Those things are a part of you, they are a small building block of who you are and perhaps they take over a good chunk of your life, but they are not the end-all-be-all of who you are. You are so much more than the titles assigned by society; your personality is not your job or what you produce. For a long time, I believed that once you took away school, you took away who I was because I loved some of the things I was learning in school. I felt that by taking away school, you were taking away my passion for politics, history and helping others. But those aspects, or passions of mine are not linked to school. Did I discover them through school? Yes, but that in no way means once I leave school those parts of my personality leave with it. They are a fundamental part of who I am, and for that, they will always be a part of me. All this to say that the work you do, the function you have is not an accurate portrayal of who you truly are. You are so much more than what you do.
The second thing I came to realize was that a job or career cannot be the only source of joy I have in life. I have always been the type of person who wanted a big career, and I was prepared to put all my eggs into that basket for the sake of what exactly? I have no idea — I was just told that in life I need to get a good job. You do not need to have the perfect career to have a happy life. But it is worth mentioning that a job you do not like, will certainly not make your life better. I was caught between these two ideas and I feared either one of them. So, I decided on a happy compromise, which is forewarned has never been tested outside my brain so might not pan out (will keep you updated on that). But one thing I came to realize about myself was that I did not care so much about the actual job title that I held, but what I did care about was two things. I want my job to help people in some way, really it could in a lot of ways but at the core, I want to help people in any way I can. And second, I need to learn in my job. I cannot have a job with no learning or a small learning curve. I thrive in new experiences that require me to learn new things, but once the learning ends, I start hating the work I am doing. I don’t even care if my job is not related to the field I studied in – but to be happy in a job, I know from past experiences, that I need to be helping people and continuously learning throughout the job.
Understanding how I felt about the next chapter of my life was not easy. It took months for me to realize that I thought school was who I was, but that could not be further from the truth. It also took months for me to realize that the uncertainty I was feeling about the next chapter of my life, and getting a job, stemmed from the fact that I did not know what I wanted. And truth be told, I still have no idea what I want to do. But I know that when I am evaluating job posting or going to interviews, I will think to myself, will I be able to help someone with this job? Is there room to learn and grow? And just having that foundation calms me down a bit.
What I hope you take away from this, is that you are not the work you do nor are you the career you choose. You are so much more than that. It took me a long time to come to these realizations of what I potentially could want from life and what I was scared of leaving behind, I encourage you to take a few moments to reflect on where you’re at. Always remember that you can start over, and that a new chapter of your life can begin today if you need it to. New chapters don’t only start when we end a big moment, they start every single day.