Stop. Look At Yourself.

You’re going to get to a moment in life when you realize things have changed, things are changing and things need to change.

Just stare at yourself in the mirror, really, stare into your own eyes. Do it for as long as possible Think and ask yourself is this where you really want to be in life? Are you, in fact, really you? The answers will scare you. But that’s okay; you’re just starting an incredible voyage of self-discovery.

I’m 23-years-old, and last March I would have never thought I’d be beginning what would be the most challenging year of my life. It’s shocking how at some instantaneous point in your early twenties, you reconsider everything. It’ll come to you when you least expect it and this realization will stop you dead in your tracks. To bluntly tell you the truth, it scares the shit out of me.

Hobbies you once obsessed over and blew unfathomable amounts of money on, fail to keep you engaged and you seek replacements. This is totally fine. Maybe it’s learning how to play an instrument, weightlifting, reading more books, rock climbing, writing, joining a club sports team or just spending as much time as possible in the great outdoors. Soak in the wanderlust and go explore this incredible planet we live on. Don’t be ashamed of traveling to new places and trying out unfamiliar activities that may intimidate you. You’re growing and starting a new chapter in life.

That major you spent four years working towards, that college degree you were so convinced would keep you satisfied for the rest of our life seems meaningless now. Questions like “Should I have studied that instead? Should I go back to school and graduate with an expertise on a subject I’m actually interested in now?” flood your cranium as your anxiety level rises. Jealously builds too as friends share monetary success stories as a result of getting their masters or MBA. Don’t be jealous though; be happy for their achievements and hard work. It’s a pointless and dumb thing to compare. Never feel like you have to compete with anyone, that’s an unrealistic goal to strive for. While it may be financially draining and a lot of work, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go back to school. Even if you want to just learn how to pick up a new trade skill like auto mechanics, welding or basic paramedic classes, go for it. If you want to learn, don’t close the door. You’re growing and your brain is too.

That full-time job you once boasted to fellow companions about, grows dry, bleak and fears of not advancing and walking down the right future career path start to tremble you. Maybe it’s a horrendous commute, a manager who would rather focus on his growth rather than yours, an unsuccessful project or maybe you’re just straight up bored. Don’t stay at a job that doesn’t teach you anything or challenge you. Maybe you really aren’t fit for sitting behind an Excel sheet all day and stressing yourself out over work an underpaid intern can do. Make sure to look for jobs while you at least still have a job. Bank that money. Scan job postings, take advantage of your LinkedIn contacts, print networking cards and keep dreaming of the day you get up out of that crappy, fluorescent-lit dungeon for the last time. You don’t owe your current employer anything. Do what’s best for you and be free. Forget any worries about not doing something that’s approved by others and don’t take a job just to prove something or create a faux status symbol for yourself. All jobs, including jobs that may not be in a stereotypical corporate setting, are, “real” jobs. Never commute four hours to a job that you sit at for eight. It will ruin your life. Each day shouldn’t be forcibly capped by time limits, where’s the freedom in that? I saw an anonymous quote floating around on Tumblr that read “Don’t make your lifestyle revolve around your career, make your career revolve around your lifestyle.” I can’t press how critical that is. You have to do something that makes you happy. Don’t work in a job that kills your enthusiasm and passion towards a certain hobby or field. It is possible to make a living doing something you love. You may just have to take chances and sacrifice a few things. Get yourself into a daily routine you can wake up and smile to everyday. We live in an age where we don’t have to stay at our first job for the rest of our lives. Stop creating excuses, draft up a plan and execute it. You’re growing.

Welcome new thoughts, ideas and concepts with inviting arms and ears. Your mind isn’t as open as you think. Maybe you once had a foolish, close-minded opinion on not believing in religion, abiding to certain political side or immaturely limiting yourself to “only saying this” or “only agreeing with that” or “rejecting those people.” Clear your mind, throw out all those negative preconceptions and move on. You’ll be glad you did. You’re growing.

What might scare you the most, are those closest to you. Just like you, your friends will also at some point come to this realization. They’ll meet new people, move to different cities, become more acquainted with the companions they went to college with, or rekindle with familiar faces from back home. Jobs will relocate them, engagements will refocus them and undesirable traits will distance them. Make a strong effort to keep in contact and see those most treasured people in your life as often as you can. Girlfriends, best friends you grew up with, brothers, a select few coworkers and most importantly: your parents. The latter should trump all in terms of priority and importance. All these relationships have to, have to, have reciprocal effort. It takes two to tango. Loyalty is king. However, if you find yourself putting in all sorts of communication effort and time to keep a relationship alive and that individual isn’t doing the same or engaged on a far less level; don’t get mad. Either keep trying or gradually accept that people just may not be the same as they used to be. Don’t always put your wellbeing and character on the line for others, it can hurt you and hinder any chance of self-development. If there’s any gut feeling of betrayal, backstabbing or just lying and distrust- leave immediately. It’s absolutely mind-blowing how even some of the most loyal people in your life you love, can in a flash, burn you so bad, shake you to the very core and leave you out in the cold. Unfortunately this is just part of this growing process. We learn and carry on.

There’s nothing wrong with finding out “the real you.” Your 20s are probably the most important ten years of your life. You’ll meet new people and try new things. You’ll start fresh and do things that you never thought you were capable of. But you can’t go at this solo. People care about and love you. They want to be there for you. They want to understand you and help you. They want to listen and be that support figure you can always go to no matter what. They want you to lean on them when you’re struggling. If you’re overwhelmed with this growing process, don’t just give up on them, stubbornly erase them out of your life and not look back. You’re going to regret it and only immensely hurt both that person and later on, yourself. Don’t be afraid to open up to those who put themselves out there for you. Be honest with yourself, swallow that pride and talk. There’s clear boundary between someone giving you advice and telling you what to do. Know that boundary and don’t blame others because you yourself don’t. It’s at this stage in life that you’ll find out who the truest people are in your life and your appreciation towards them will skyrocket. We need these people.

Keep on staring at yourself in the mirror, but don’t sweat it – everything will be okay and play out. You’re just growing. You can’t be afraid and you can’t do it alone. Be patient, follow your plan and make sure to do it right. TC mark

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