The Existential Crisis: What Am I Doing With My Life?
I am sitting in my apartment reflecting on my day: after work I went to the gym, and then stopped at the grocery store so I could cook dinner for myself instead of ordering takeout. Nothing out of the ordinary, but today was a good day for me. An average but productive day.
Yet, I’m still unsatisfied. Like many of my peers, I am constantly asking myself, “What am I doing with my life?”
When I was in college, I had a path, and a clear set goal. Work hard, get a good education, learn new things, get a job. I sailed through my four years and accomplished everything on my list. The only thing I didn’t hit right-on-the-mark was to get a job in what I thought was my dream industry.
When graduation came around, I didn’t have the job I wanted, and fell into a downward spiral of existential crisis. Now, I have stopped spiraling down with the post-graduation blues, but I do question my path and where I’m going quite often (ahem, almost daily).
While I don’t have the answer to this question exactly, I have been realizing it’s more about short-term and long-term planning, goals that you need to set for yourself, and understanding that sometimes we don’t know what we’re doing, and that’s okay.
My mom sent me a card recently with a quote that said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself.”
Often, I hear stories about someone from our generation going off on unique excursions to find themselves. Or, I’ll hear someone say that they just need to “find themselves” and then they’ll have the answer as to what they want to do. I’ve even felt like I just want to escape reality for a bit to figure out what I’m interested in and then I’ll be happier.
Life isn’t a series of boxes we can check off though, nor will it be better when we accomplish XYZ because there will always be “something.”
So, if you’re like me and trying to figure out what you’re really interested in or what your purpose really is, don’t stop moving. Don’t hide yourself away to try figure it out. Explore. Keep trying new things. Keep pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and disregard the boundaries you’ve set for yourself.
Listen to what interests you and follow it. Set up a short-term plan and a long-term plan. If you are striving towards goals that are actually achievable, then you will see actual progress and you won’t feel overwhelmed by the daunting task of “figuring it all out.”
If you think about it, long-term and short-term plans work together like an impressionist painting.
Up close, it’s pretty clear where the dots are and what color they are, but it’s hard to see what they’ll look like all together or how they’ll form a bigger picture. Only when you take a step back can you see how each dot (or each short-term goal!) works together to build this beautiful image.
Don’t forget to zoom out to that big image of your dream and then zoom back into the importance of the details. You won’t wake up tomorrow with a big checkmark next to your big picture. We all need to focus on the little steps it takes to get there, and try to be in the moment of the journey as we grow. Slow progress is still progress, and often it is longer-lasting than something that instantly gratifies.
If you don’t have all the answers, that’s okay. Just start asking the questions needed to find out. When you do this, you’ll be able to stop asking yourself, “What am I even doing with my life?!” You’ve got this.