I can’t tell you how many times I have found myself racing through life, concerned about how busy I was and what the next goal was that I had to accomplish. I felt as if I didn’t check things off a list or look extremely busy to the point of burnout, then I would be seen as lazy and a failure. In hindsight, the negative self-talk and pressure I used to put on myself to perform were harsh and unnecessary. But it was all I knew, and the thought of taking a step back and trying to grasp what I was doing just seemed like another way I could procrastinate.
Only now, after slowing down my life because of the pandemic have I come to understand and appreciate the simple concept of taking a step back. Yes, the world will go on, but that doesn’t mean you will fall off the bandwagon for taking a few moments to step back and see your life from a different perspective.
It has been beyond a rough year for me, and a lot of it was due to me clinging on to these ideas that no longer aligned with who I was or what I wanted from my life. I had convinced myself that following one specific path was the solution to all my problems, how I would become successful and make money. The truth is that the path had ended, and I didn’t even know. Around the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, as I was getting ready to finish my university degree, I started on the classic post-grad job hunt. I had it stuck in my head that I needed to work a specific job in order to be happy.
That specific job wasn’t a bad one – it could have been a great job if it had made me happy and was what I wanted. But I had lost my way and was forgetting the previous experience I had had in a role similar to that job. I fully forgot about the many experiences in that job that made me so unhappy. I had trained myself to forget about those experiences to keep pushing forward and make it seem like I had a plan. It felt good to tell people exactly what I wanted to do after I graduated. Except for the fact that it wasn’t what I wanted to do at all.
Giving myself the time and patience to take a step back and re-evaluate my life was one of the best decisions I ever made. Here are a few things I did that you could do whenever you want:
1) Stop doom scrolling through job sites or the internet in general
I was constantly checking any job site you can think of. I was doing everything “right”, but I wasn’t doing what was right for me. Because no matter how many job postings I searched or replied to, absolutely none seemed even remotely interesting. At the end of January, I decided to clear my search history on these job sites and overall, not look at them for a few weeks. From January to early March, I very rarely looked at a job posting.
2) Evaluate how you feel right now
I was feeling unmotivated, disappointed, fatigued and exhausted from trying to carry on in this life as if everything was sunshine and rainbows. After a family thing happened, I felt nothing but numb and I finally gave in to all that I had been feeling for months at this point. I was so unhappy with my life, anxious about what would come and confused about which direction to go.
One night, I was reflecting on the past two years of my life when suddenly it was like I had unlocked memories that I had kept hidden. It dawned on me that I already experienced the life I thought I wanted – and quite frankly I hated it. That time in my life was filled with depressive episodes, an abnormal amount of crying and a constant state of sadness. Why was running back to that?
3) Accepting that you don’t know what you want
After realizing that the path I was working towards had ended and taking that very necessary step back I was essentially starting back at square one. In a way, I felt hopeless and like a failure, but I just gave myself time. I let myself sit in this period of not knowing, and I stopped forcing myself to create a life that I didn’t want.
4) Opening yourself up to new opportunities
At the beginning of March, I sent an email to someone and a few weeks later I would end up doing something with my life that made me happy.
Now I don’t think you should take a step back and never go back into the arena. Breaks and pauses are meant to be temporary, but eventually, you will start to feel a lot better, and you will know when it’s time to get back at it. But when you do, you will have a much clearer vision or at least a semblance of an idea of the kind of life you want to live.
Allow yourself to pause, take a step back, re-evaluate and sit in the unknown for a bit. It’s essentially allowing yourself to recharge and reset – something we should all be doing a bit more often.