As we get older, the developmental milestones to which we look forward become more significant and less frequent. When transitioning into adulthood, you may notice that your life gradually becomes outlined by your accomplishments. You won’t remember each day of work, but you’ll recollect how you were overcome with elation when you were promoted. You may not recall every exam you took, or every score you earned, but you will recall receiving your diploma; a stupid little 100,000-dollar piece of paper, which claims you are qualified to enter the real world. It may be difficult to muster motivation to get through each grueling week, when it now takes much more than the sound of the Friday afternoon school bell to send you skipping home with a smile on your face.
The hardest part of adulthood is the recognition that reality isn’t remotely as glamorous as you once thought it would be. You never realized that each night after your parents tucked you into bed, they went back downstairs to discuss their budgets and how to scrimp and save the few months before Christmas so they could get everything on your list. You were blissfully unaware of most of the hardships of life. Transitioning into adulthood can be extremely alienating, as you are no longer experiencing the same milestones simultaneously as your friends. Once you graduate from college, it seems as though everyone you knew is heading towards a different path. Some are attending grad school, some have jobs, others left the country; and there you are, somewhere between a job you are settling for a pile of graduate school apps. The sense of community you once felt — in high school as everyone griped over the common app, or in college when your friends congregated to shotgun beer before a football game — has disintegrated. There is no more flock of freshman girls eager to exchange numbers and names that they will inevitably forget; there is just you and the world. And you feel lost.
I believe the key to maintaining control over your dreams once you graduate is to write them down. I apologize if you read thus far in the article, just for a silly little piece of advice, but for me, this has made all the difference. It is easy to forego your dream job in a new city because it’s halfway across the country and you don’t know anyone there. It’s okay to settle for a mediocre job because it is the only thing that will allow you to eat right now. The only problem with settling and being too scared to take chances, is if you never push past your comfort zone. Transitioning into adulthood is a process, not a blind jump, go at your own pace; wade the waters in the beginning to avoid drowning. There is no standardized trajectory for life, although it may seem as though there is and everyone is on pace except for you. It is okay that you are not elated with your current circumstances, it just gives you more of an opportunity to grow so you will a stronger person and a better candidate once your dream job finally does around…and I promise you, it will.
Learn to celebrate your growth, not just your achievements. Growth is an indication that an achievement is on its way. It may be more of a challenge to maintain motivation when you are no longer receiving a sticker for your hard work. And it may be even harder to maintain motivation when you are working a 9-5 job and your boss is an absolute tyrant who practices the ideals of those implemented in communist China. Maintain motivation for improvement, for leverage to your next job that you will love every minute of, maintain improvement so you may achieve the dreams that you have written down and read to yourself every morning. Maintain motivation so that you are one day ready to fly across the country and accept the job that will allow you to relish every single day of your life. Most importantly, maintain motivation for the sixth grade version of yourself, who wanted to change the world and did not want to go to sleep every night resenting themselves for failing to do so.