There's something about the season changing that reminds me that anything is possible. It doesn't matter if it's spring to summer or fall to winter, the change in temperature and the change in nature makes a smile creep up on my lips and I can't help grinning at the world around me.
I have a tendency to get stagnant. I abuse my go-to activities. I work, I read, I watch Youtube, and other than a few days out of the week that I spend with my boyfriend or family, there is little variation in my daily activities.
It's like my brain was made to dig ruts.
I have a difficult time refreshing my mind and truly relaxing, and I think a lot of it has to do with the environment I create for myself. I don't change things up often enough, but when I do (or when I'm forced to notice the changes around me due to the seasons shifting), I feel so incredibly light. The weighty feelings seem to wash away as the sunlight moves over them at a new angle.
Lately, I've found myself longing for this summer to end. Where I live, the cool air is just beginning to settle in. I feel as if it's drug on too long even though I'm used to drawn out summers and used to enjoy them quite a bit. At the beginning of May, I was so quick to say, "I have a whole summer in front of me. Look at the possibilities!" Even if I had to make the opportunities for myself, I was going to experience something new and experience it fully.
Somewhere between the unopened job applications and the rejection letters, though, I got bogged down. I've always hated the feeling of falling behind, of knowing that my peers were doing exactly what I wanted to do and that they may even be taking it for granted. It's been a frustrating summer, and although I know exactly why I made the decision to veer off the course I was on, I feel very, very lost at times. You can hold the map and know where the main road is, but still have no idea how to get out of the uncharted swamps.
If my life has been marked by anything, it has been the fact that I've had to do nearly everything on my own. For many of my expeditions, I have had no one to go before me and show me the way. Sometimes I consider it a blessing, sometimes a curse. I was a first generation college graduate. I learned about financial aid and navigated two different college campuses alone. I started grad school completely on my own in the midst of settling into my first apartment which I studied the lease for and signed for on my own. These aren't uncommon things to do, but I've often envied the support I see my peers receiving when I'm just trying to get my feet out of the mud and keep moving.
I am longing for the new sensations of fall. I'm ready to tread the sea of leaves and finally slip a jacket over my shoulders. I'm ready to appreciate the new. I'm ready to usher in the change. This is an entirely new feeling for me. I will be present for it. And this may be the autumn where everything changes in my life. You never know.
My Freshman Year of Life
As of the date of this post, I am 24. I've only been out of undergrad for a year and spent that year in a graduate program and living alone for the first time in my own apartment. That year out on my own, tackling graduate school for the first time was incredibly challenging and helped me grow. It gave me the kick in the pants that I needed to start being a successful writer and taught me how to get crap done. I've always liked a challenge and grad school gave me a nice mountain to climb.
I loved that first year for all that it gave me, but decided by May (for a host of reasons) to leave the program.
It was a frustrating decision. I knew it was the best choice for me, but it also made me feel as if the last year of my life didn't count. It felt like it didn't move me forward. It felt like I'd caused myself to fall even more behind than I'd felt when I graduated undergrad a year late after 5 years of trying to take full loads of coursework and never really getting the hang of it, inevitably dropping a class a month into each semester (that's a story of it's own). I was already behind, and now I was stagnant. Or at least, that's the way it felt.
What I learned recently is that my experience is fairly common. It's easy to forget that everyone struggles as they enter new phases of their life. Everyone struggles period, and change will amp up the struggle that much more.
A few weeks ago I read Freshman Year of Life - I collection of essays conceived by the Mindsumo community - and it gave me a whole new perspective on my life and my progress toward my goals. It was incredibly thought provoking and helpful to me over the last couple of weeks, and in this post, I want to share some of the lessons I walked away with after reading it. I am trying for the life of me to hold onto the new perspective I've gained (not that it's hard to forget because it really hit home).
That perspective is this: we are all on our own timeline. If you do things when you're ready, and slow down when you need to, you're still on your own timeline.
You are not falling behind.
What I learned from the Book
When I learned:
-Pretty much everyone feels like they fudged up their first couple years after college. We're all figuring it out. That's okay.
-Just do it. If you want something, it starts with one small action today.
-Don't dismiss the little things you should be doing - taking care of yourself and pursuing your passion - just because you have a day job or need to find a day job. Hold yourself accountable for your health and your dreams.
-Job listings that claim if you need to be this great "self-starter" are probably trying to hide something. You don't have to settle for something that seems shady, and you don't have to take the first offer just because. Or if you do take the first offer just because, you don't have to stay if something better comes along later on.
Some things I learned about writing:
-Ideas can get muddled and confused very quickly. Sometimes the first idea you get is just a lead in to your real idea. Write anyway. Run with it, and you can totally make it happen.
-You already have what it takes inside of you.
-You can always write a "beginning" later.
-Short pieces can feel under developed, but they can also pack a punch with just a snapshot. Shoot for a balance.
Freshman Year of Life is a book I truly needed at this point in my life. If you've read it, leave a comment telling me what you liked about it or learned from it!
Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.