It’s been almost three years since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree. Three years since wild party nights that I barely remember. Three years since writing 20 page papers on communication theory and prepping for 40-minute public speaking presentations.
I took the better part of these three years doing some pretty serious soul searching, i.e. trying to figure out who I am without the voice of my parents or my own inner-critic drowning out the version of me that I’ve always wanted to become.
Looking back now, I’m glad I took these three years for space and reflection. For the first time in my life, I allowed myself to really get to know my past and future selves, and what that means for present-day me. I had no plan, no formula for this time of rest and discovery. I promised myself I would allow as much time as it took. No more four-year-gotta-graduate-or-else bullshit time limit that would leave me feeling rushed, empty, or unfinished.
I read career books and self-help books. Books about entrepreneurship and freelance careers. I attended countless webinars on “finding your passion” and “pursuing your purpose.”
I played shows and went on tour with my band Litter Brain. I fell in love (better this time). I worked my ass off as a caterer and server in a restaurant. Shaved all my hair off! Got rid of most of my clothes and belongings that I don’t use. Landed a full-time, grown-up job with an organization that fits my values and beliefs.
I disappointed the people I love most and my worst nightmare happened in real life. I felt my heart break in a way that can only heal through a life-changing perspective on the meaning of unconditional love. I took more space and more time, wasted it, crying. And then healing and deciding to be brave.
I’m still trying to not feel guilty for who I am and the choices I’ve made, still trying not to worry about disappointing people I love. I had no idea loving myself would be this much of a struggle.
Last week I made some big decisions about my future—along the lines of deciding to go back to school, to move, to give myself the freedom to start over. I feel intrinsically energized for the first time in a long time.
I never could have made these (seemingly simple) decisions without allowing myself those three years to sink in to my own heart and really get clear on the work I want to pursue and the life I want. And at many points during the past three years, I felt lost. I felt like I was wasting time. I felt crazy for allowing a general sense of ambiguity to imbue my adult self.
If you’re going through something similar, please know you’re not crazy. Feeling lost and thinking you’re crazy is normal. Keep pushing yourself to look inward for your true, free self. She is in there—I promise.
When you make the decision to take a deep dive into your soul, with the goal of shedding yourself of all expectations from family and society that have been ingrained in you since birth, it is not going to be easy. It will be hard. It might take a long time. You might get stuck in some patterns that you are trying to change. It will be frustrating and uncomfortable and seemingly endless.
It’s okay. I promise, it’s going to be okay.
Give yourself the permission to mess up. Learn to forgive yourself. You are starting over, and starting over takes time.