Sometimes life just isn’t what we think it will be. The trouble with life is that it throws us these huge twists and turns that we just never saw coming. A quote I saw yesterday that, admittedly, made me laugh way harder than I should have, read “Adulthood is like looking both ways before you cross the street and then getting hit by an airplane.” Honestly, since I graduated from college a year ago, it really does feel like I’ve been hit by an airplane or two.
Here I am a year later in a completely different relationship, completely different short-term goals for myself, a new plan for where I’ll be moving to in six months, and a job that I never thought I would ever find myself in. Yet somehow through it all I’ve managed to retain some shred of self-identity and a focus on who and what I want to become. I’m moving towards that goal every day, sometimes running at that goal full speed and sometimes crawling at a snail’s pace.
In this day and age where everything moves so quickly, how do you retain your self-identity and the ability to stay focused on who you want to become? In this ever-changing world of transitioning jobs, applications to schools, and a rotating retinue of new friends and acquaintances, there are a few key bits of advice for staying true to yourself and aligning your inner identity with the outward person you are and will become in the future.
1. Stay true to your values.
Everyone has their own inner values. Whether your values are moral, political, religious, or otherwise, figure out what your personal values are. For me, I know some of my biggest inner values include a strong belief in hard work and a love of beauty. No matter what anyone says, hold onto your personal values. They are the foundations for who you are.
If you build up your relationships based upon these values, those relationships also have a greater chance of success. Whether these relationships are romantic, friendly, or work-related in intent, building relationships with people who share the same or similar values with you will help build up a great support group that will help you realize your full potential.
2. Take risks, make decisions, and don’t hold back.
Honestly my life is nothing like what I thought it would be like this year, but that all started with a single risky decision that ended up changing my life for the better. From that single decision, things started toppling into place, and suddenly I find myself at the brink of moving across the country to attend an Ivy League law school whereas previously I had been resigned to attending the local law school. Going along with taking risks also comes making decisions. You’ve got to make decisions to move forward in life. There’s no way around it. But if you’re making your decisions in an informed and decided manner, then nothing can stop you. The best way to get going with your life is to be proactive, and that requires making decisions at the next junction instead of at the end of the road.
3. Surround yourself with interesting and inspiring people.
This may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but I’m always surprised by the amount of people I know who don’t surround themselves with the right kinds of people. Now the right kind of person for you is most likely different from the right kind of person for me is most likely different from the right kinds of people for your best friend or neighbor across the street. Nevertheless, it’s important to identify what kinds of people are best for your own self growth. Personally, I like surrounding myself with people who work hard and find their own versions of beauty in life; those are just the people that I feel like I am my best self around. Who wouldn’t want to feel their best all the time? And if certain kinds of people help you feel and do your best, then nurture those relationships and let them bloom.
4. Take advice, but not all of it.
Probably all of you have heard advice from numerous sources: parents, friends, aunts and uncles, grandparents, old teachers and professors, and random acquaintances. (Not to mention this article.) The thing about advice is that it’s generally presented as if there is only a black and a white to every decision or situation in life. But life happens to be very grey, with few or no answers that are actually black and white. The important thing to remember is that your grey is very different from someone else’s grey. So while it is important to listen to advice, you also have to put that advice into your own situation and into your own shoes.
It’s practically impossible for anyone else to know what your life is like. This makes every bit of advice exactly what it is supposed to be: advice. Apply it to your own situation however you feel is best. Just because your mom or dad or aunt or uncle or best friend is telling you that you should do this thing or make that decision for these reasons doesn’t mean you should make that decision or follow through with this action because they said so. Take their advice into consideration but in the end, don’t make a decision that’s right for anyone else. Make the decision that’s right for you.
Life is difficult. It’s an undeniable fact, especially for those of us just beginning to wade into the ocean of adulthood. Nevertheless, there are ways that you can keep on your feet and follow your dreams. Stay true to who you are and don’t let anyone change that. Everything is circumstantial and so you are not anyone else regardless of how similar situations are. You will make it through, and you will be amazing. Just keep going and who knows what life will show you next?