INSPIRATION LIFE ADVICE WITH ERIN

Your Question: Is there time for everything?

Hi, Erin!

Do you think there is enough time for “it all”? By that I mean, personally, right now I’m 24 and I want to go back to school and finish my bachelors degree then get my PhD in either psych or history. I also want to be a full-time adventurer and environment advocate. At some point I want to hike the PCT from Oregon up to Canada. Want to join the Peace Corps too. Then there is the simple dream of working at a brewery and sleeping in an old Toyota Land Cruiser and reading the books and research studies I WANT to read and writing things I WANT to write. Is there time for all of this or do you think we have to narrow our dreams down to one or two manageable things? My mom tells me if I want something badly enough and I’m willing to work for it I’ll get it but I still feel this pressure that I should be settled down by a certain age and, even at 24, I feel like I’m running out of time. My priorities in life aren’t to get married or have kids, it’s myself but there’s still that voice in the back of my mind that says I shouldn’t hike the PCT after a certain age or backpack across Europe when I should be writing a thesis. I’m lost. I get chastised for feeling passionate about too many things then I feel ashamed for craving so much out of life that I don’t chase anything that my heart desires.

–M.


Dear M,

I totally get it. I’ve been there. There is so much out there. So many roads to explore. And it feels like they are one-way streets, but they aren’t. Let me explain.

At 22, I had the same question. There was a feeling of having to do it all right then and there. What was that urgency actually rooted in?

It can come from the fear of falling behind. The fear of never being “successful,” and an unfair definition of “success” in the first place. The fear of having to start over if you make a “wrong” choice. Why do these fears feel true when there are plenty of examples that show us otherwise?

You can always change your mind. Write that down and make it your mantra. We need to shift your thinking from a stressful space to a fun one–– your life is full of opportunity, how f*ing awesome is that?! It is important to recognize that this sense of overwhelm is coming from an immense place of privilege. You are blessed to have so many choices and resources. Don’t mistake this for a guilt-trip–– it’s not meant to be–– but it’s important to recognize the broad opportunities you possess.

“Which of these awesome things should I pursue?” is a fun question, so let’s take the pressure off. Let’s let it be fun. The fact that this is a worry for you tells me that you’re a passionate and dynamic person with a lot to offer, and that is something to celebrate.

First, look at your list of things. Your list of possibilities. What’s the Why behind them? Answer the following honestly.

  • Why do you want an advanced degree?
  • Why do you want to pursue full-time adventure?
  • Why you want to hike the PCT?
  • Why do you want to join the Peace Corps?
  • Why do you want to work at a brewery and live in a Land Rover?

When you answer these, identify which things you’re wanting for the right reasons. Not for prestige, for recognition, or to prove something to yourself about an insecurity. Get really stinkin’ honest with yourself here and see what comes up. Ditch the things you feel drawn to for the wrong reasons and keep the things that feel fulfilling to your soul.

What is the theme throughout the answers that remain? Is it creativity, adventure, giving back? Is it environmental? Does it involve you working behind the scenes, or standing on the stage? Connect the dots and identify the common themes, especially the Why. You can’t go wrong when you are connected to your Why. So can you soften? Can you stop being so hard on yourself?

I know that you want to get it right the first time. Listen: it’s OK if you don’t, and it’s a hell of a lot easier if you get used to the idea of failure right now–– because we rarely do things right on our first attempt. There aren’t right or wrong ways to do this whole Life thing anyway. You can change your mind anytime, remember? You can turn around whenever you want. Failure is only failure if you decide to purpose it that way. Repurpose your failure as a learning opportunity.

Is there time to do all the things? Yes, you’ll make it work! Why does it have to be so black-and-white? Could you work part-time at a brewery, read and write what you want, apply for PhD programs and take a semester off to hike the PCT?  Stop overthinking it, pick one thing to start with, and go for it. It will become clear if it’s the right path once you’re on your way.

Sitting and stressing about a lack of time is a gigantic waste of time. I know because I’m an expert at overthinking. In college, I had six months to write a thesis. I spent one week writing it (the week before it was due, obviously), and spent the other five months and three weeks worrying about not having enough time. The reality is that I always had enough time, I just convinced myself I didn’t.

So start doing. Start trying the things. Where do you feel the excitement? The real excitement–– not the stuff you feel you “should” do. I’m taking about the stuff that tugs on your heart, not your ego.

Your mom is right. If you put your mind to something, you’ll do it. Look at what your own history tells you–– if you always got shit done in the past, there’s no reason to doubt that you’ll get it done in the future. It’s time to put your energy somewhere it can be used. Choose one thing you are curious about, and the answers to your questions will reveal themselves over time.

If you only take one thing from this, here’s what I want you to hear: Stop overthinking and start doing. Don’t let indecision stop you.

If and when you do fail along this journey, take it as a blessing, learn what you can, and get back up. You got this.

-Erin


Have a question you’d like me to address on this blog for everyone’s benefit? Email info@erinoutdoors.com with the subject “Advice”.

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Amanda | Sunshine Chasers
    September 17, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Erin, I ADORE this post. I have lots of conversations with my therapist about this, and I love your added mantra. And the reminder that it’s supposed to be fun. I’ve recently realized that these ticking boxes, stress and worry about succeeding, etc is going to suck all of the fun out of life. And the fun of living life is ultimately a HUGE part of actually living your life. So I was cheering all through this response.

    And M – I have some very similar questions and feelings re: adventuring vs PhD vs holyshiti’mrunningoutoftime and I feel like we could definitely be friends. Ha!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 29, 2017 at 2:12 am

      Thanks Amanda! All of these things are totally fun-sucking! We have to actively remind ourselves that good things take time, and to actually enjoy the process. Harder than it sounds! PS – See you in Greece in 2018 or what?!

  • Reply
    Julia Sheed
    September 21, 2017 at 11:50 am

    I think all of us more adventurous souls can relate to this. At the end of the day a life lived as fully as possible will never feel like regret. But letting indecision stop you, like you mention, will. Great post :)

  • Reply
    Michael
    September 21, 2017 at 8:34 pm

    I like this format and I like your response. Why, great answer to a tough question. If you can’t answer why, push pause. Understand what you want your life to be, not emulating another’s. If it helps, know that your life plan will change. If you expect and understand this it will help you when it happens. I think life is better lived when it isn’t regimented. Let life happen, guide but don’t try to control. The best things in my life happened as I traveled my path.

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 29, 2017 at 2:14 am

      Thank you Michael! Wonderful reflection and yes, the best things are often found along the way.

  • Reply
    Ioanna
    September 24, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Great way to respond to this issue. It is possible to do things in succession and who said what is “too old”? I’m 40 and I love hiking and am considering thru-hiking… there are much older women than me who kick it out there. There are things that simply make more sense to do before others. Health is one thing, but the passion for studying is another. I know it’s not the same with everyone, but getting into rigorous academic studies after a long break is hard. That’s why it’s better to do the studies when you are on a roll. Answering all the “why” questions is crucial to figure out priorities… but don’t stress out too much – you really do have time!
    Happy travels,
    Ioanna
    A Woman Afoot

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      September 29, 2017 at 2:14 am

      Love your feedback here, Ioanna! Great advice. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Bri
    September 30, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Man…it doesn’t matter what you write Erin, it always digs deep into where I need clarity or what I need to hear or when I need direction. This is so on-point and you’re an amazingly valuable contribution to people like us. Thank you for all your thoughts and more importantly, your authenticity. I have a list equally as diverse and complicated at a different stage of my life and I feel like I’m just running circles in my brain about what to go after and every day, its a new mood that drives a different direction and that circle is relentless. I’ll be making my “why” list over a hydroflask of aeropress while my toddler naps and cross my fingers for some clarity and when I find it, expect a high-five coming your way. I already know I’m going to owe you for this one. ;P

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      October 6, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Thank you Bri! I think we all go through these phases where we feel like we’re just running in circles–– not just once but in different stages. Glad the post spoke to you!

  • Reply
    sam driscoll
    November 28, 2017 at 10:38 am

    This part really struck a chord with me:
    “I get chastised for feeling passionate about too many things then I feel ashamed for craving so much out of life that I don’t chase anything that my heart desires.”

    My mind is often in one million places at once and I find it hard to just dive in and do something. I find it hard to balance my financial responsibilities (mortgage, student loans) and my wanderlust. For now, I am diving in and starting a blog and doing what I can. Over time hopefully I will have more time and resources to dedicate to trips near and far. You gave great advice!

    • Erin Sullivan
      Reply
      Erin Sullivan
      November 29, 2017 at 4:05 pm

      Sam, thank you for sharing! Sometimes things can be so overwhelming that it becomes hard to put one foot in front of the other, but that is EXACTLY what we have to do. Focus on one thing we can do in the moment… and let that thing lead us to another thing. Momentum is a wonderful thing, but it’s always our job to start. Be gentle with yourself in the process–– it is significant! xo

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