Here’s the thing… I’m not very old. I’m 22, I’m educated, I have a job, friends, hobbies, and ambition. I’m in the prime of my life. Or at least, I should be. And maybe I am, but let me tell you one thing: it sure doesn’t feel like it. It shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve read so many blog posts and articles, encouraging the struggling and slightly-bankrupted young adults of to stop worrying. Why would those articles exist if it wasn’t normal for 20-year olds to have so much anxiety about the rest of their lives?
Everybody’s been there. Do the grind and make that money. Everyone is just as lost as you are. Love will come. You’ll figure out who you are soon enough. Etc. That’s pretty much the general message I’m getting. And yes, a lot of that is true (or at least I would like to believe so). You can say I buy into the whole “work hard and be patient” propaganda our society feeds us.
Have you ever heard the saying: “Money doesn’t buy you happiness, but it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it” ?
Well, isn’t that true? I always thought so. I slave away planning, thinking, preparing. All the while, hoping to procure enough experience, education, skills, and what-not to have some security in my future success. And at 22 (and maybe that’s too young to make this sort of judgement) I’ve started to feel like it might never be enough. I’ve made plans that some have said is a good idea but made others question “why?” I thought about grad-school, which my mother responded with “Why not just come out to work?” Most parents would be proud, but my mother makes decent middle-class wage without ever going to college, so she sees extra-college as somewhat wasteful (it was a different time back then I guess). And maybe she has a point. Do I really want to give up another couple of years stuck in school before getting a real career? I decided I didn’t.
My next option, which I jumped right into, was to sign up for an HR certificate program. I threw myself into that one while still getting my Bachelors. It was exciting at first and the material seemed interesting and useful. “I want to do HR,” I said whenever someone asked me what my future plans were. And I HATED that question (I’m sure everyone agrees with on this). What do I plan to do for the rest of my life? Kind of a loaded question. Everybody wants to feel like they have it figured out (at least somewhat) whether you’re age 18 or age 30, especially in the face of other people who look like they’ve made it or are making it. So I liked having an answer to give them. I liked feeling like I had a plan and I was seeing it through. Kelley, future recruiter and HR personnel of some big company. I liked having a plan. Because having a plan meant I have direction. And having direction meant I was going somewhere.
And yet, here I am, in my last quarter of college about to receive my bachelors degree and three classes finished in my HR program, and the only thing going through my head is: this isn’t who I want to be. I mean, it kind of is. I’ve always been told I have the personality for business. And I do find HR intriguing. And I enjoy working in an office and so on. That corporate-career girl; independent, self-sufficient, doing the grind, making that paycheck, and still have the time/energy to travel, own a home, and have a family. That girl sounded amazing. And I thought, THAT’S IT! That’s exactly who I want to be. But if this was really really true, then why does all my work and progress feel so utterly meaningless?
For so long, I’ve been frustrated. I’d be okay and happy and confident one moment, and in the next, I’m depressed and mopey and totally unmotivated to do anything. I just get into this state of self-wallowing, where anything can set me off the rails and I just want to curl up and be alone with my thoughts (which is really the most unhealthy thing because I just end up more upset than I was already). And the thing is… I would have no idea what I’m upset about. I’d think a little and make what seemed like logical conclusions to why I feel angry or upset. But those things seemed so trivial when I really thought about it that I’d start to think maybe it’s something else. Maybe, it’s not other people annoying me or this/that bad thing that happened. Maybe, it’s really just me. I’m just an angry person with no reason to be angry. Maybe I get a kick out of feeling like crap. I started to think I was crazy, that maybe not all my marbles were there, if you know what I mean. And it wasn’t until a conversation I had not too long ago with… let’s call him Mario Nose (because using real names is weird, and who doesn’t like reading about someone with a funny nickname, which isn’t his real nickname btw)…. that made me come to a realization.
Mario Nose said something to me that nobody has ever said to me before. And honestly, I don’t think anybody else would ever, so blatantly call me out. Our conversation always starts the same:
What’s wrong? – I don’t know what’s wrong…-Well something happened right? – No, nothing happened. – Then why do you look upset. -Because I just am, okay?! – Kel, what’s wrong?…
It’s a never ending cycle of the same questions and answers. Just the lack of progression in the conversation can make you go crazy. But this time, he said something different.
You’re frustrated because you’re scared, he concluded. And I hate it when he concludes things about me. I like to think I’m a more complex individual than your typical emotionally inept girl.
And my smart-alecky self replied, Well DUH I’m scared. Who isn’t worried that they might not make enough money?
That’s not what I mean, he replied. You’re too scared to chase after what you really want. And you’re frustrated because you know that there’s nothing stopping you except yourself.
He went on. If there’s one thing I’ve noticed about you, it’s that you LOVE being the best. And you hate it when you find out you’re not good at something.
Well, who likes failing? I said.
He smirked. You’re just like me. You want confirmation. You don’t want to go in blindly and not have someone screaming in your ear that you’re exceptional. And you don’t just want to hear that you’re great, you want them to make you BELIEVE IT.
I really did.
Some dreams are crazy and dumb. Like wanting to make a trillion dollars or being a pro-NBA player when you’re only 5 ft tall, he said. I nodded absentmindedly. And some people don’t have dreams. They just want to live and have a bunch of stuff and free time. But let’s face it, that’s not what you really want. Sure, you would like those things. But its not enough is it?
Maybe it’s not, I thought. Then Mario Nose asked me this:
What sounds better to you? Kelley, the author? or Kelley, the banking career girl who travels the world during her time off? Which life would you chose?
With his questions, my usually answer would always be: I don’t know (because I really didn’t). But it didn’t take me even a second to figure this one out.
I’d choose Kelley, the author. Every time.