Because our 20s are such a time of transition, it is incredibly common to feel stuck. Throughout our lives, we are constantly on specific roads. They might be different roads, different schools and different paths, but they are relatively laid out, with specific goals in mind.
Upon graduating from college, we meet the beginning of infinite exciting, daunting and overwhelming roads outstretched before us. It is one of the first feelings of true freedom many of us will experience and one the first opportunities to create, or work to create, any lifestyle we choose.
Along with this excitement also comes a bit of pressured panic. The weight of the importance of our next decisions becomes something of which we are very conscious.
How will getting my master’s affect my progress of getting my dream job? How will it affect me financially? How will this job make my life look 10 years down the road compared to another?
These major decisions can feel so immensely life-changing that many of us go into fight or flight mode — and flight starts to look good. The first question to ask when feeling stuck is, "Am I feeling anxious about the past, present or future?"
For me, graduation sparked nearly all the anxiety I felt after completing my college years and, then, the sudden immense pressure I felt for my future. A common panic that sets in with every move and decision you make will directly impact where you will be in five, 10 and 25 years.
San Francisco or New York? Chicago or Europe? Or, is now your last and only chance to drop everything, move to LA and become a star?
Even a year or two after graduation, these fears won’t dissipate. Do I like this department in my industry or do I want to switch before climbing up the ladder? Do I even want to stay in this industry or should I leave it for something else?
These ifs and questions can cause such a panic that instinct will set in and we will start reacting with fight or flight responses. Because there are no real answers to all of our questions, there are no directions to fight, and the flight wins out.
The I-don’t-know-if-this-is-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life freak out often feels suddenly resolved by the idea of jumping ship and moving to [insert city of Saving Grace here].
Upon graduating, I moved back home, and for the first year of being home, I never fully settled and was completely set on leaving as soon as possible. An instant ticking clock set in, reminding me that this might be the only time in my life when nothing would hold me anywhere. The world was my playground.
I could literally go anywhere and be anything. No way was home an option — how boring and easy. It wasn’t until I started an amazing job in San Francisco that I started to even see what the city was and had to offer.
This doesn’t mean I'll never move to New York, LA or Europe, but I finally realized that I was too busy looking down to notice how truly amazing the city is. Even while in the amazing job, though, the “where am I going?” fears kept creeping back.
It was through the help of one of my incredibly wise and compassionate coworkers that I was able to learn the question of past, present and future: “Are you happy with the present?” she asked me. And I was. I loved and felt confident in what I was doing, and I felt like a sponge for learning.
That’s the point: If your anxieties are in the past or future, but you’re happy in the present, ride it out. See where your happiness takes you because you might never know where it will go if you let uncontrollable anxieties get in the way.
If you are unhappy with the present, though, ask yourself another question: Why do you feel stuck?
I was (selfishly) relieved when a friend told me she was also feeling stuck and wanted to move across the country. She felt so unhappy with her present circumstances that she felt there was nowhere to go but 3,000 miles away.
I felt better about not being the only one who thought moving was the only antidote for feeling stuck. But, when I asked more about what made her unhappy, it turned out that the eye of the storm she was feeling was centered in her workplace, not her city of residence.
If you hate your job, focus your energy on finding one that makes your happier. If you are unhappy with the city in which you live, focus on finding a city that offers what you think you need. The problem is that when you feel so overwhelmed and stuck, you risk giving in to your flight responses without thinking.
If the source of your problem is your work environment and you move 3,000 miles away to a different random company, there’s no telling if you'll be happier.
All we can do is seek out present happiness and ride the wave wherever it takes us. If you are learning and growing from your job, and seeing and doing new things in your city, don’t let the future haunt you before it even arrives.
If you’ve completely sucked your current state dry, look at what you need now and where the best place is to get it.
Photo Courtesy: Tumblr