When your path – career, academic, or otherwise – no longer serves you well, don’t be afraid to take a different one.
When you realize that you chose rashly, or overreached for the sake of more money or status, listen to what your gut is telling you. Own up to your “mistake” (and it wasn’t really a mistake) and quit. Clear space in your life for what you truly want to be doing. For me, it’s a job that better suits my needs for where I am in my life.
I recently put in my two-weeks notice for a job I haven’t had for very long. The job itself was ideal – they accommodated my schedule as a full-time student, the environment was pleasant, and I enjoyed interacting with the people I worked with. However, I realized soon after I started that the job wasn’t working for me. I truly mean that in the least self-serving way possible. It wasn’t going to help me in my future career path or teach me what I need to learn at this stage in life.
In short, it did not serve my needs at this time.
I briefly agonized over the right thing to do – the hours were fairly reasonable for the position, and the management was exceptionally kind and helpful.
I wrote a letter of resignation, mentally debating whether I was being hasty or jumping ship too quickly. But my gut told me that my time would be better served elsewhere, at a job that will help propel me closer to where I want to be.
There is no reason good enough to delay the inevitable when you know something isn’t right. It’s important to remember that while others’ time is valuable, and should not be used carelessly – your time is valuable too. You are the only one who can live your life, and if that means trading in the good for something else you find worth your while, so be it. Naturally, burning bridges and leaving a messy trail behind you is not ideal – gently extricate yourself from a situation with dignity and politeness, and always be thankful to the person(s) who afforded you the opportunity.
If you’re a student, it’s especially important to utilize your waking hours. Maintain your current balance with classes and work, but keep one eye on the horizon. Remember what you want to do and where you want to be. While I’m toiling away studying French grammar and analyzing literature for my finals next week, I’ll keep my upcoming trip to London (and a side foray into France) in the back of my mind. Seeing Othello in the National Theatre, visiting beautiful historic castles, oohing and ahhing over the pastel-colored flats in quaint Notting Hill, whisking away to le Paris, brutalizing the French language…It’s all terribly exciting!
The idea of quitting is unpopular, I know. Other people sometimes will shame you needlessly, callously label you a “quitter” – let them. In the course of your life, you will remember the greater good that came with making the right decision for you. The noise of other people’s opinions will fade quickly if you remain confident in what you decide. And never forget when a person is secure in who they are, in their life choices – they will never even think to judge yours.
Three things I like to keep in mind when grappling with a decision:
1. Never be afraid to leave what does not help you grow as an individual.
2. Mistakes are not as bad as they initially seem; they always, always teach you something.
3. Nothing you choose to do is ever a waste of time. Everything is a learning experience.
I think the hardest thing to do in life is to learn how to accept people for who they are.
We all have these expectations in our heads about what our parents, friends, lovers, etc. are supposed to be like. We demand a certain kind of performance from them, and it must correlate with the picture in our minds or else it falls short. We expect, without question, for them to follow our unwritten rules and play by the book of our beliefs.
When someone doesn’t behave the way you want them to, it’s not because of you. It’s because their beliefs don’t line up with your expectations.
People’s beliefs and standards make up who they are. Everything they do stems from those two elements of their being. They are always operating from their own subconscious agenda, whether or not it’s bad or good.
It never works out the way you think it will. Because people are human. They don’t have to live according to my expectations, or live by your beliefs. They have their own set of rules. And none of them are any of your business. They don’t need to justify their standards of living to you, as long as they aren’t hurting other people.
But what if they are hurting other people?
It’s your prerogative to decide whether or not you can live with that. It’s your entitlement in life to figure out for yourself whether or not you can stand by their choices that may or may not directly affect you. It’s your due to realize if the gap between your beliefs and the other person’s beliefs is too wide to bridge.
You have to innately know whether to build or burn that bridge. Nobody else can decide for you.
Time will help you come to a conclusion as long as you keep living. As long as you keep breathing in and out, as long as your feet are moving, as long as you find a reason to laugh every day. As long as you build and maintain your core, the foundation that is made up of your beliefs and standards. Because as long as that foundation is strong, the actions of another person can’t shake you.
You will be unshakeable.
I think there are so many misconceptions out there.
There’s this idea that life is supposed to be hard for all the wrong reasons. Everyone tells you that you have to have that degree, because you will never get a “real” job without it. You are supposed to know so much about yourself at 18 years young. And I don’t think anyone does.
I felt so pressured by my high school teachers, college advisors, and peers to know what the hell I was doing. So I picked something I thought sounded good to major in. I had a whole plan worked out. And it was a disaster. I joined groups and signed up for things because I felt powerless in my own life. None of it is anything I would change, but looking back now, I was so naïve.
Today is my 20th birthday. This is what I have learned.
College is a factory. A nice pretty factory with brick buildings and in-house gym facilities, but a factory nonetheless. You are essentially paying (or your parents/the government are) to be a product of what someone else thinks the world needs.
Does the world need trained doctors and teachers and engineers? Yes, certainly. Does the world need people who can recite Chaucer and Dickinson from memory? No, good lord. Unless your degree is practical, what really are you gaining?
Yes, the whole university experience is precious. Living with your friends for 4 years and whooping it up on weekends, having afternoons free for naps, dating who you want when you feel like it. I get all that. But I have tried all of it, and it doesn’t work for me, at least not in the way I thought it would.
I have realized that I am never going to wake up and be someone else. I am the same person I have always been, from the time I was a toddler throwing books in my mom’s lap to when I was thinking of my first story in high school, and creating characters whose profiles are still on my hard drive.
6 months or so of writing on this blog and I have come full circle, just as I suspected I would. But I was too afraid to face reality.
The idea of leaving the world of higher education behind is terrifying and scares the hell out of me. It’s safe and cushy and full of people my own age. But I know, just as I know that I have five fingers on each hand, that I am meant to be a writer. That I will never be in love with academia the way I am with writing and the pure freedom it brings me.
I didn’t have an epiphany or anything. I just realized it one day as I was writing, that I love it. Writing is as natural to me as breathing. It still bewilders me that I am the one doing it, that people are reading my words the way I have spent my whole life reading the words of other people.
Writing is the best and (least expensive) therapy I have ever had, and the greatest way I can express myself to the outside world. I’m not a big talker, you see. But when I write, I am truly myself.
Writing is a continuous learning process. There is simply no way to learn it all on your own; you need teachers, peers, editors, and supporters. You need to read the work of other people to gain knowledge. And luckily for us, there are so many wonderful writers to learn from, some of whom I have had the pleasure of speaking with and getting to know through their blogs and articles and eBooks.
But most of all, you need grit. You need the determination and perseverance to push past the rejection (or just the plain ignoring) to keep writing and getting better.
I have no illusions of a Carrie Bradshaw-esque life, or of supporting myself wholly from writing for a good long time. Great careers, great people, take time to come into fruition.
I’m not planning the rest of my life out anymore. I still want to live in France, go hiking in New Zealand, master several languages, etc. Someday. But am I only entitled to those things if I am being a “good” person and following what society has lain out in front of me? I don’t think so. And maybe I am putting too much emphasis on equating being a good person with a good student, but programming takes a while to undo (insert evil laugh here).
There are so many reasons why I shouldn’t be a writer. But I can’t care about them. Or rather, I am learning to fight through the Resistance (from War of Art by Steven Pressfield) so that I continue to do what I love, day after day. Hopefully with less grammatical errors.
Again, life shouldn’t be so hard unless it’s worth it. If the hours you put in over that chemistry class you are taking so you can become a veterinarian is worth the toil and sweat, then SO much power to you. I applaud anyone who knows what they want and is firm about sticking to it. Especially chemistry, that class was hell.
I know that I will have my moments of wondering whether I am making the right decision. To possibly discontinue my education, and embark on something that I have no idea of. To write and essentially be naked on the screen. To lovingly and tenderly construct a novel (which in my eyes is equivalent to a baby) and have someone tell me that it’s ugly and should be kept out of sight (you get the picture). It all sounds so enticing, doesn’t it?
My life has gone in a million ways I never anticipated. But it’s all led me to this point, to this apartment with the hideous beige carpeting in this party-hardy railroad town in this beautiful state I wasn’t born in. To changing my mind about things I thought were a given. To stripping away the layers of other people and finding out who I really am.
To everyone who has gone with his or her gut and said to hell with the rest, thank you for giving me the strength to do the same.
You feel like the figurehead on a massive ship, having no control over where you are going, or how fast you get there. The ocean mercilessly sprays your face; the breeze whips your hair in front of your eyes until you can no longer see what’s waiting in front of you.
There are those times when you feel as if you are on a rollercoaster that you cannot get off of. The ride is moving, faster and faster, until everything is a blur and you can no longer think straight.
You can hear yourself screaming on the inside, begging for someone to listen to you, to know you, to understand you. For someone to not minimize your pain, telling you how much worse the circumstances could be. You want to, need to know that there is a light ahead in this dark tunnel you have found yourself in, that you can get out with your sanity in tact.
Letting go of people and places seems like the easiest thing in the world when you feel as if you are huddled alone in some dark corner, waiting to be discovered by some stranger who knows, who has been there before. All you can think about is the act of getting out, of leaving for distant shores, of moving on to something far away.
The people with whom you once shared meaningful experiences with fade into the background of your life, ceasing to endure in the everyday, casual way they once did. Their opinions matter less than before, for you know that there will soon come a day when they exist to you only as a memory. The places that you once cherished for their familiarity become mere buildings as you drive past, their Friday night appeal and vibrant atmospheres failing to excite you as they once did.
The aspects of your city or town that illuminated your eyes when you first arrived diminish as you become lost in your own darkness and fail to appreciate the utter beauty of your surroundings. How lovely it is to be able to sit quietly by the river, taking in the shy gurgle of the water, the lively chirp of birds and slow croak of bullfrogs. How luxurious to be able to wake up at an unreasonable hour on a Saturday morning and bathe in the sunlight basking through your window, knowing you can walk down the street to grab a coffee when you feel like it.
Maybe you were never meant to be here for very long. Perhaps this was just a stop in the journey, on the way to something greater than yourself and who you are here. Because who you are here is unique to your surroundings, you erase parts of yourself in order to fit in, to aimlessly drift with the crowd. You struggle to rise against the status quo, to fight for what you want out of the hours you have right now.
We always think that we have all the time in the world to get out and see everything we want to see, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Your time on this earth is finite, and there may not always be a next year. Too many of us allow education, work, and relationships to limit what we can do in life, in this time that we have been given.
Sometimes it’s better to release ourselves from these chains that bind us of our own doing, to simply let go.
Insincerity. Deceit. Hypocrisy.
You feel a specific moment of impact when you discover that you were in fact, not worth the truth.
It feels a bit like free falling, at first – your stomach plummets rapidly, while your heart soars into your throat. You may fight to choke back tears, or clench your fists as your anger rises.
Why wasn’t I worth your honesty, you think. You briefly consider what is fundamentally wrong with you that the other person chose to omit their words, to intentionally deny you the possibility of knowing.
Instead, you think: how utterly cruel.
I truly believe that the person who outright lies about important matters is lounging in their own grave, a bed of cowardice. It is easier to lie down and pretend that there isn’t a whole world existing above the ground, that there are other people in the world that do not live inside of your head.
A liar remains in their emotional safety zone, where they do not have to deal with the consequences of the truth. They dole out excuses to appease you, to deflect the blame off themselves, make you think you are simply stupid.
We all tell small white lies on occasion. Undoubtedly most of the time it is not intended to be malicious or unkind. Sometimes it is simply easier to deny the truth instead of laying out the gory, nitty gritty pieces for interpretation and at worst, judgment.
For matters of the heart, however, it is a different story.
When lying to a person whom is important in your life, you are setting precedence for a relationship ridden with distrust and doubt. A bond that was once strong may hang loosely by a thread, because as humans, our hearts can only take so much.
We are resilient creatures that can nearly always pick up the pieces, brush ourselves off after we are hit too hard by life. But sometimes, it is better to leave the pieces where they are, and attempt to heal ourselves.
The ache you feel, like you are screaming inside and no one can hear you.
The red anger streaming through your body, the boiling resentment clouding your vision, the saddening hurt flowing from your eyes.
It’s all okay.
You are fixable.
Must we ridicule one another for being earnest, at worst naïve? Is someone’s lack of knowledge or know-how really worth the scathing remarks and uncomfortable atmosphere that permeates the room? How empowering is it, to chip away at someone else simply because you can? The others present in the room may feel a sense of entitlement, that they were “in the know” while the one who wasn’t, is left outside in the cold.
To a young person, this can be exceptionally detrimental; despite the inevitable protests of, “well they should toughen up! I had to!” not everyone was conditioned the same way. We weren’t all taught to be thick-skinned at a young age, perhaps our parents babied us too much, or we didn’t submit ourselves to lots of socialization outside of what we had to. We are not robots and therefore, each of our manuals is written entirely differently.
No, we are not all special snowflakes. We are, however, unique human beings with life experiences that vary as widely as the people who live them. We see the world through different sets of eyes; we feel things with distinct perspectives.
Yet to some, it seems like the easiest, most obvious thing in the world to rip on someone who may simply not know any better. Their ignorance could be considered tragic, yes, but it ought to serve as a foundation for learning, not as a platform for malice. It is so painfully easy for a bully to tear through the veil worn by another and intentionally put someone down, make them feel small. While they lay down on the ground, the bully and their ego can stand on top, precariously at best, because that person, should they choose to stand up for themselves, will make them fall.
There have been times in my life where I have instinctively been the one to openly mock someone who just didn’t know, didn’t “get it”, because of the sheer easiness and temporary power it gave me. I recall having been in that position of the victim myself at times, so when I got my turn, I took it. Finally, no one could hurt me, I thought. If I was the first one to maliciously intend to hurt someone with my words, then I would be stronger.
Sadly, the opposite effect prevails, just as it should. Your power drains more rapidly than you could ever predict, and you are left with an empty shell.
There is really only one true way to finding happiness, I think – and that is within us. You must fill your shell with things that you enjoy, that bring you fulfillment, and you must fill it to the brim, leaving no room for negativity.
External sources, such as our relationships with others, our careers, our hobbies and passions – can fill up 1/3 of you. The rest, must come from within.
Our feelings (I hate to sound like a textbook shrink) and thoughts must dominate us, because they are the true indicators of happiness. They are the ones pulling the strings, navigating us in our life’s journey, helping us decide where we want to go, and who we want to be.
Inevitably, breaking others down to build our egos up can only lead to our own demise as a human being. Happiness doesn’t come from shiny cars or trophy wives or from rudely dismissing a helpful waitress at a restaurant – it starts and ends with us.
The society we live in today is one of posturing, of keeping up with the Joneses, driven by achieving the illusion of perfection. Our deep cracks and chipped edges that make us inherently human are smoothed over and whitewashed to achieve a gleam reflective of the people we wish we were.
We smile blandly and robotically make small talk about the wonderful busyness pressing upon us, the momentous events going on in our lives, and yes isn’t it amazing? Our eyes tell a different story, clouded with whispering doubts and a tugging voice of refusal telling us the thousands of reasons why we cannot be what we want. Yet on the surface, we glorify every detail, plumping up the wonderful parts and tossing aside the gory ones.
And I see why people do this, this act of painting over, of erasing the wrongs and embellishing the rights. People want to heal, they want to forget that time they brutalized someone else with their words or humiliated themselves in a public forum. It is only natural, a totally human reaction, yet we must all remember that at one time or another, we have been the imperfect one.
The one who lacked all sensitivity towards another human being and irreparably damaged a relationship. The one who made a costly error that inadvertently affected an entire family or community. The one who embarrassed themselves in a manner that caused them to be judged critically by a panel of their peers.
We often hide behind our appearances, desperately hoping that that new cashmere sweater will make us just the tiniest bit happier, the slightest bit higher on the totem pole. We invest in beauty treatments, in Botox and facelifts and plastic surgery, praying in the back of our minds that this act will reclaim our youth or help us find the love of our life. We love beautiful things simply because they are beautiful, and that is okay. But we must remember that no tangible thing or object can erase our errors, or rebuild what is broken.
We are not that flawlessly airbrushed model who exists in a glossy edition of Vogue; we are humans with cellulite and stray eyebrow hairs and split ends, who break out in frantic bursts of acne on occasion, and don’t bother to cover it up.
We are not that perky cheerleader from that 90’s movie who maintains a pristine academic record along with a supportive yet sincere group of friends plus handsome jock boyfriend and volunteers at the soup kitchen every week. We are moody, with dark mornings and bright evenings, and we often put off studying for something else we enjoy. We don’t give back as much as we could, but we are doing our best to be good, upstanding citizens in our communities.
We are not that lithe yogi who exists on a plant-based diet and lives in a house with solar panels and a sustainable garden, while saving shelter animals on the side and being a full time nurse. We avoid the gym most days of the week, and we ate a few too many Lays Dill Pickle chips last night while watching Friends for the umpteenth time. But we recycle and eat our kale and spinach in a homemade smoothie, which is close enough, right?
Voicing our hesitancies out loud, our fears of what lies ahead, is powerful in that it releases the resistance. Once you hear that nagging voice, it can be silenced and dissolved, because you have eliminated its strength. The voice only ever wanted to be heard, for you to take notice of it in that rusty corner of your brain, so you can make the best possible decision while knowing all of the challenges you are facing.
Speaking of our shortcomings and misguided errors can create bonds between us that we would have never thought possible. One person’s mistake has inevitably been made by another to a different degree. That bond forms a sort of sanctuary between the two of you, a place where no one can be judged, only a place to heal together.
Allowing others to see us as imperfect takes courage, to fight against the internal struggle that rustles in all of us, to simply smile and say I’m fine. It is not to make other people uncomfortable with a monologue of your unhappiness, but to be authentic and showcase your open heart, to remove the cloak and reveal a peek of the human being underneath.