After graduating college, I got a fun summer job, fell in love with a guy and moved with him to Australia. As fun and carefree as that sounds, it was actually one of the most stressful, unsure times in my life.
The summer was fun. I was leading adventure trips, something I was comfortable doing. When the summer was over, I had no plans, so I took a job with my new boyfriend in China. His plan after China was to move to Australia for a year– the exchange rate was great and he saw it as a good opportunity to save money.
He was right. We saved a ton of money. But for a lot of my time in Australia, I felt totally lost.
I had a full-time job in a camping supply store, complete with petty co-worker gossip and work stress. Meanwhile, all the friends I graduated with in New York were getting their first jobs at creative agencies, magazines and trendy startups. I questioned constantly if I was doing the “right” thing for myself. What career was I building? Was I being true to myself? What did I really want to do with my life? I didn’t have answers to any of those questions.
When I look back on that time now, I see something truly formative. I asked myself those questions at age 23, and I only have the answers three years later because I pushed myself through all the times when I didn’t know and had to tell myself it was okay. There were a lot of those times.
If you feel like I did, here is my advice for you.
Stop overthinking everything. Stop thinking that the next decision you make is going to determine the rest of your life– it’s not. The decisions you make in your lifetime are building blocks, small steps that help you turn pages in a book. You don’t know how long the book is going to be.
So do something. Do anything. And keep going, because you will find the answers you are looking for eventually– probably in a place you never, ever thought to look.
Work in a restaurant at least once. You will meet people who surprise you. You will learn skills that you’ll carry with you everywhere. It will surprise you.
Volunteer your time and your heart. To someone who can use it. Someone who needs it. Work in a soup kitchen. Work in an animal shelter. Don’t do it because it feels good or because you can say you did, but because it’s necessary.
Work on a farm. Learn to get your hands dirty. Learn and appreciate where your food comes from. Get sunburned. Get full on food you grew yourself. Learn how to slaughter a chicken and how to plant strawberries.
Do yoga. Go hiking. Go to a part of town you haven’t been to before.
Talk to people who are much older than you. Learn their stories. Talk to children. Learn their stories, too.
Buy a plane ticket with no return plans. If you are limited by money, learn about money. Sell the stuff you aren’t using and the clothes you no longer wear. Work hard.
Seek out people you want to be like. Take them out for coffee. Ask them meaningful questions. Never stop asking.
Read. If you don’t like to read, download audiobooks and listen.
Stop acting like you live twice. You get one life to live one time. It’s not worth it to think about the times you fucked up. We all fuck up and we will all make mistakes every single day. You will figure it out.
Go live. Go live now. Even if you don’t know where to start, just start. The starting, the doing, the living– that’s the important part.