If 22 was miserable and magical, then 23 can sometimes feel a little less exciting and a little more realistic.
It seems to be the year of uncertain decisions, unpredictable seasons, and unexpected outcomes. It’s the year many of us think we’re finally free of all the things holding us back, and suddenly we’re thrust in a chapter that can be summed up as “figuring it all out.”
Maybe it’s not 23. Maybe it’s the year you graduated college or grad school. Maybe it’s the year you moved away from home to sit at a job you thought would be more appealing. Maybe you moved to a new town, only to find that the vision of an exciting adventure was overshadowed by the struggle of change or complacency. Maybe your dream job didn’t work out and you’re living with the heartbreak and indecision of what’s next. Or maybe you’re still at home, and that’s the confusing part. You should be graduated and free, but now you’re feeling lost and confined to the same four walls you never thought you’d live in again.
Or maybe you switched your major, graduated a year after everyone else, spent a summer alone in your friend-deserted college town, and started a 40-hour-a-week unpaid internship. OKAY, FINE—that last one was me.
Whatever the age, there’s a certain season after college that doesn’t always go according to plan. I’ve listened and seen many of you walk through this phase of life and are just getting tired. I’ve watched you start to burn out because you thought life would look different. This part wasn’t supposed to be so complicated and confusing. I feel like I hear story after story of how the year after college is just hard, lonely, and altogether not what they told you it would be.
College taught you how to manage the classroom, but they failed to mention how that applied when you ended up in a job where you sat at a desk all day. Professors gave you good grades on papers about theories and statistics, but they didn’t tell you how to build a community in a city three times larger than the one you grew up in. Your parents taught you how to budget and save, but it doesn’t seem very applicable when you’re barely making enough to pay rent.
I think somewhere along the way, we all believe the lies that tell us we should be better off and further along. That after all the schooling, we should feel and be more accomplished than we actually are. When we don’t get the dream job/car/life after college, then somehow we’ve failed.
But I hope in the midst of this season, you recognize that you’re not alone. And you’re not here by accident. This time is short, and it won’t last forever. There’s a lot to gain in the backseat of the unknown. I hope you take time to smile through the misfortune. To laugh at the hiccups and the moments you didn’t see coming, because it’s where the best stories come from. I hope you see this time as an adventure, even if it’s not the kind you planned for yourself.
You’re not missing out, but you will if you spend the whole time wishing it away.
This is my plea to you: Don’t give up. Don’t stop feeling, don’t stop dreaming, and don’t stop believing the best in yourself. Don’t stop, because we need you.
We need your failures and flaws, because that’s when you really learn about yourself.
We need your heartbreaks and fears, because that’s when you really learn how strong you are and how much you can take.
We need your mistakes, because without some of them, you’d never know what it was like to be humble.
We need the tears, the brokenness, the need for others, because you learn what it’s like to be open, to be vulnerable, and to let others help carry the load.
And one day, on the other side, you’ll get to tell someone else the stories of the struggle, and they’ll feel a little less alone too.
You’re just beginning. You’re just learning the ins and outs of this adulting thing. Keep going, because each step gets a little easier. Each breath becomes a little lighter. Don’t stop slipping and anchoring and falling and rising. You’ll make it out, I promise. And you’ll be wiser for it.
If you don’t hit all your goals right after graduation, it’s okay. You’re growing. Give yourself grace for that. It’s how you learn.
Heed the lessons, soak up the experience, and rest assured you’re right where you need to be.