6:30 am. Monday. May 17, 2008. I turn the alarm off after hitting snooze for the past half-hour. I ritualistically turn on the TV, tune to channel twenty-three. Saved by the Bell. I’ve seen this episode a million times but I sit up and watch it anyway. It’s the one where Zack dates the girl he meets through the ‘Teen Line’ who ends up being in a wheel chair. Zack, of course is a jerk about the whole wheelchair thing, but in the end he’s his charming self, gets the girl, roll credits.
Life is good during this ‘morning-limbo’ – the period of time where I’m awake, but only in a physical sense. Mentally, I’m still dreaming, I’m still without responsibility. Then reality strikes. I climb out of bed and look around, I take a sip of water and look at my newly acquired college degree. I think back to my graduation on Saturday, reminiscing on how boring it was to sit through all those names being called. Then I think about the typical post-graduation family get-togethers – and being rewarded for finishing my college career with a nice little sum of money. I’d love to go buy a new XBOX game, but given my current financial situation, namely the debt I’ve incurred from my schooling, would prohibit that. In fact, I would likely never see a dime of those checks sitting on the dresser. I yawn and stretch, my mind shifts to today. I have to get up and go to my part-time job. Shit.
I’m standing in the shower, water raining down, and doubt consumes me. Up until now everything has been planned. I’ve followed the predetermined path that most of us do. We go to school with the intent of passing, moving onward through our academic career. We do good in high school (or at least try) so we can get into a good college. We do good in college so we can get a good job. And now, here I am, done with the prep-work, starting at the blank canvas that is my life.
What do I want to do with my life? What kind of job can I find? What do I even like doing? I’ve got a marketing degree – what will that get me? What did I even go to school for anyway? How am I going to survive on my own? Where will I be a year from now? Question after question goes flying through my head, and frustration is building because I can’t seem to come up with any answers.
We all go through this. These moments of doubt. Times in our lives when we lose track of who we are. We question our purpose and long to discover the meaning of (our) life. It’s the beautiful mess that is human existence. Maybe you recently graduated and are facing similar circumstances as I did only a year ago. Maybe you’re 40 years old, you’ve been in the workforce for years, established tenure with your company, but you find yourself just ‘going through the motions’ with no sense of purpose, wanting more for yourself but not knowing where to start. Maybe you have a family, kids, a mortgage, and you can’t afford to drop everything and say “To hell with it! I’m going to do what I want to do!”
Whatever your situation is. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK. Your role in life doesn’t have to be clearly defined. Not now. Not ever.
You might be thinking, how can I, a 23 year old guy, be in any position to talk to you about life, self-doubt, and conquering the unknown? All I can say is that I’ve been there, I’m there every day, wondering what’s next, wondering where I want to go in life and how I’m going to get there. But here’s the thing, we all are. We’re all there, fighting the same struggle down in life’s trenches, storming the beaches of Normandy every single day, telling ourselves CARPE DIEM! but not even knowing what’s out there to be seized. We might have a plan, but we never really know where that will get us. We don’t know what’s next – and it’s scary, hell, it’s downright terrifying.
But there is light at the end of the dark unknown – you’ll find that light again and again. You’ll figure out the answers to your questions. I didn’t know what I wanted to do a year ago, and I still don’t. But I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m figuring out what I’m good at, what I like and don’t like. Little by little, I’m coming into my own. I’m becoming a more complete version of myself through each failure and obstacle. When I’m knocked down I get back up.
Life’s a bitch. There are going to be those moments that downright suck. Something bad will happen, and when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. You are going to feel overwhelmed and vulnerable. Accept it. Understand that you’re not invincible. You’re not immune to hardships. They happen to the best of us, even when we don’t deserve it, life has a way of kicking us while we’re down. The response: get back up and kick life back even harder!
You don’t have to go at it alone. One of my most recent ‘revelations’ is in realizing that it is OK to reach out and lean on others from time to time. It’s not a sign of weakness to accept the graciousness of another. There are some amazing people in my life that are there for me, willing to be the hands that hold me up as I continue to ‘crowd-surf through life’.
So, you don’t know what you want to do? You’re unsure about your purpose? I’m here to tell you that it’s fine, you’ll get there, just keep moving. If we all knew the meaning of life, what would be the point in living it?
6:30 am. Monday. June 8, 2009. I turn the alarm off after hitting snooze for the past half-hour. I ritualistically turn on the TV, tune to channel twenty-three, Saved by the Bell – I’ve seen this episode a million times but I sit up and watch it anyway. It’s the one where Zack dates the girl he meets through the ‘Teen Line’ who ends up being in a wheel chair. Zack, of course is a jerk about the whole wheelchair thing, but in the end he’s his charming self, gets the girl, roll credits.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life…