How did all the “greats” in the world decide what they wanted to do with their lives? Did they always know they would do, or was there a time in their lives when they simply laid down on the floor and stared into the great mental abyss and ponder what the fuck they were doing with their lives.
Now, I’m not expecting to be one of the greats in any field – I’ll be satisfied if I even arrive at being good or satisfactory at something – whatever gets me up off this floor first. Of course, I should give myself a little credit – I’m good at a lot of things. I’m good at studying and learning, especially new languages and memorizing information for tests. I’m good at crafting and organizing, cleaning and baking. Heck, I even give a good blowjob to boot. But none of these things that I’m ostensibly good at has led me to any great career opportunities or realizations about what my next step in life should be. Sure, they’ve led me towards certain choices I’ve made and experiences I’ve had, but I still can’t help but feel stuck at where I am in this point in time.
I’m 21 years old, in my senior year of college and I have absolutely no idea what the fuck I’m going to do next. I know I’m not the only one, but that’s not any more comforting than finding out you have some terrible disease, but you’re not the only one. This is my life so I have to be selfish here and say that I don’t care how many others are in my position – I need to figure this out or I will go crazy.
I read an amazing article in New York, the magazine, recently by Heather Havrilesky about how hard it is to be young in today’s world. Yes, Baby Boomers and Gen X folk, go ahead and roll your eyes, but it’s true that while technology has made so many aspects of our lives incomparably easier, it’s made growing up so much harder.
Every move we make or breath we take has to be broadcasted on every new and current social media outlet. And, as if telling the world every detail of our lives isn’t enough, we have to crop, edit, and revamp our photos and posts to make our lives seem more glamorous and desirable. But the lackluster reality behind all the edits leaves us feeling unsatisfied and vulnerable, in constant need of approval and reassurance or feedback. I mean, everything we post is essentially out there in search of a response from someone through a like or comment. It’s no wonder millennials have such a harder time being confident – in ourselves, our ideas, or our choices – when we’ve grown up in constant need of others’ opinions.
Maybe that’s the whole reason I’m writing this – so that someone will take pity on all my complaining and say, “Hey! I know what you should do next!” Maybe I’m just subconsciously hoping that by posting something online, someone will respond and figure the problem out for me. But that’s not it, and while I wouldn’t say no to a little advice or encouragement, there’s more to these words than that.
I read a book this summer about a female professor of English literature in Iran. Along with her teachings and opinions on certain novels, she describes the difficulties of daily life Iranian women must endure, both before and during the revolution. But despite the political unrest and the threat of imprisonment or worse if these women are caught, a small group defies the law to do what they love – read and discuss forbidden english literature. I know this might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m a book-lover and poli sci nerd with a special interest in Middle Eastern affairs, so I found the book inspiring.
While my decision to write came after reading a particularly poignant passage, I would sound pretentious if I claimed I was using my voice for those who couldn’t, and I promise that’s not what I’m trying to do here. How could I speak for anyone other than myself? It’s true that being born in America has given me privileges that women born elsewhere may not have. Add on that fact that I was born into a white, middle-class family and my privilege increases ten-fold. While I can kick and scream and cry that I didn’t ask for this, the truth is it doesn’t matter. No one asked for it. We can only cope with what we were given – in my case I won’t abuse the privilege I was given, but I refuse to take it for granted or pretend like it doesn’t exist.
But this really isn’t my point. I didn’t start writing so I could use my voice to save the world. The White Savior Complex has already created enough problems in the world. Truthfully, the idea came from (where else?) social media. I was robotically scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook the other day when a video about “being stuck in life” came into view. While I’m being honest, I have to admit that I didn’t watch the whole thing and I can’t even remember the name of it, but the first few seconds caught my attention and said something about making changes if you’re feeling stuck. And even though I am diametrically opposed to videos on Facebook and will shamelessly unfriend people if they share too many, the words from this particular clip resonated in my mind as I was, quite literally, staring at my ceiling and contemplating my future.
So I’m ready to make a change. I’ve already proved to myself once this past summer that I’m capable. I was stuck in the perpetual girlish cycle of being okay with how my body looked, feeling guilty after every extra cookie or helping of chips, and then completely hating what I saw in the mirror. But I mad a change and started running, slowly at first and building time and distance. Now I feel healthier than ever, with zero remorse for my little indulgences (okay, zero is being generous – but I’m working on it).
I’m changing. What exactly I’m going to change is a little harder to define, considering the whole reason I decided to change was because I had no idea what I’m doing in life, but I’m working on it. For starters, I’ve always said that I want to write, but never actually gave it a real try. Sure, I’ve always kept a journal and blogged some during my semesters abroad, but this is different. So I’m challenging myself to write for real. And in the process of liberating some of my ideas from my stubborn, captive mind, maybe I can discover something about myself that will guide me towards my next adventure. I know it’s a total cliché, but isn’t the whole point of clichés to give us something to believe in?
Like with all goal setting, I’m a little nervous. I don’t want to disappoint myself if I can’t follow through, but the whole point of making a goal is to push myself, so maybe with some practice the task won’t seem as daunting. I’ve been running now for 2 and a half months, so when I set my goal to run a half marathon (thanks to a little friendly family competition) I was excited by the possibility of accomplishing something I thought I could do – I felt empowered.
So I’m setting a goal yet again this week while I still have the confidence and adrenaline from my latest run – to write something, anything, everyday for the rest of 2016. Any topic, any length, just something. Whether this goal is realistic or over-ambitious, I guess we’ll find out. I’m nervous for the challenge, but excited for the journey- and I hope, with all the optimism I have left, that I figure me out along the way.