As I come across the final curve of my sprint to graduation, I’ve been left wondering what my future holds for me. I’m plagued by question after question as I lay in my bed late at night, considering the person I’ve become. Have I made the right academic decisions? Do I have enough work experience for the real world? Did I wash my lucky underwear for my upcoming interview?
I, like so many of my graduating peers, feel an obligation to have achieved a lifetime’s worth of accomplishments in just four short years. As members of the millennial generation, we succumb to the belief that, unless we’re fighting world hunger while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, there’s no way we’ll find a job in this difficult market. Many of us, myself included, are guilty of comparing ourselves to others, stalking LinkedIn profiles and scoping out our friends’ resumes — hoping that we will stack up when push comes to shove.
While it’s natural to worry about the future, the stress that millennials place on themselves has gone too far. Instead of feeling satisfied with our accomplishments, we bury them in a sea of self-doubt, waiting for the next opportunity to succeed. We allow our happiness to be dictated not by our own self-assurance but by the opinions of employers. The infamous post-college job search becomes so overwhelming that we forget why people work in the first place: to make ourselves happy.
As autonomous people entering “the real world,” we have a responsibility to make decisions that provide us pleasure. We have our whole lives to climb the career ladder, so we need to focus on making ourselves feel good today. There are few things as important as your health and mental stability, yet so many of us let them take the back seat as we allow our stress about tomorrow to affect the people we are today.
Don’t get me wrong, I realize that success only comes from hard and consistent work. However, failure is an inevitability. You will fail tests; you will be turned down by your dream employer; you will be told that your work just doesn’t make the cut — and that’s completely OK. Failure is a basic human quality. In fact, some of the most important figures in American history failed at every step until they finally found a successful strategy.
We’re taught from a young age about American icon Thomas Edison, who failed many times to produce the light bulb, but as we get older, we can only cling to the idea of his success. We revere his innovation and intelligence but forget that he is one of the most famous failures of all time. In dismissing his failures, we forget one of the most important messages from his life’s story: you will face many obstacles and embarrassing defeats, but they are all preparing you to finally succeed one day.
Unless you waste your days away binge-watching Netflix — the world is full of opportunities. Regardless of your past decisions, you can wake up each day and work to redefine the future. Stop letting stress destroy you because, truly, you can choose to make things better.
In particular, seniors need to acknowledge that, even if they don’t land their dream job right of out school, they will have 1 million more opportunities to actualize their dreams.
A professional role model of mine recently told me, “Not every decision you make will be your last.” She spoke about her experiences traveling with a circus for 10 years before landing on public relations as a career choice. Today, she is wildly successful and is able to contribute to causes that mean something to her. She chose to live in the moment and enjoy her youth performing around the country, and after those 10 years, she found something else that she loved.
I cling to stories like my role model’s because it reminds me that I am not bound to any one place, job or lifestyle. If I wake up one day and suddenly realize that I want to sell knitted socks in Norway, there is nothing stopping me from doing that (except, of course, the language barrier and my inability to knit). The point is, I should focus on fulfilling my needs today. If I find myself going down the wrong path, then I change direction at the next fork in the road.
I am excited by the prospect of moving to a large city, so I am choosing to work as hard as possible to get there. Yes, I do get stressed and snap from time to time when I fail, but I simply remind myself that there are other ways of living out my dreams.
At the end of the day, you can perceive the world in two ways. You can see the world as a scary place that is ready to beat you down, or you can choose to acknowledge it as a platform of infinite opportunities. For the sake of my own sanity, I choose to see the latter.
Daniel Coffey studies journalism. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.