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.
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.
Have a question you’d like me to address on this blog for everyone’s benefit? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “Advice”.