Let’s face it: Life almost never goes as planned.
The career you’ve been dreaming of your entire life doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Relationships don’t have that fairytale ending you were hoping for. People you trust will betray you.
And we all have those low points when nothing seems to be going to way we had hoped or expected.
Growing up, I used to think I could rule the world. I liked to think that I could, or at least in some capacity.
But no one actually rules the world.
Maybe we knew that life wasn’t easy.
Yet I still forget that things can be this difficult.
Difficult in terms of everything crumbling when I tried to piece it all together. Or working hard and realizing that hard work doesn’t pay off. Realizing that people don’t always get what they deserve, and good-hearted people often get completely screwed over. Or trying to make sense of things when nothing makes sense.
Sometimes, it’s not meant to make sense.
At least, not at the moment.
During my moments when everything crumbles, I’ve noticed my own pattern of behavior in terms of how I cope:
First, I generally throw everything out mentally.
From my career path to relationships or friends I used to trust, I throw it all overboard.
When my career path is falling apart, I’ll switch completely. I’ll throw out those goals I had to rule the world, and decide to be famous instead. Not actually, but I have switched from the human rights field to governmental to media to public relations to hospitality.
There’s more than one way to rule the world.
Just because you realized you couldn’t rule the world, doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to rule your own world.
In terms of friends and relationships, I have cut off ties with a number of people. Many seemingly-knowing and completely well-intentioned adults will warn you against burning bridges. I understand and I’m not encouraging making enemies. But it is essential to be able to stand up for yourself. And you shouldn’t have to make time for toxic people in your life.
This does mean losing a lot of people you thought were your friends.
It can be terrifying and lonely.
Mentally throwing out everything in your life leaves you extremely bare. Now you have an open career path and much fewer friends, if any. Maybe this was fine when you were eight-years-old in elementary school when everyone had an open career path and made friends quickly.
But you’re in your twenties now.
Which brings me to my next phase:
Going back to the basics.
Deferring to my inner child.
I return to things my eight-year-old self did. Simple things like reading and writing, or photography and travel. Or sewing or knitting. My grandmother taught me both, but I didn’t keep up with either in the mess of life. Other little hobbies that I’ve lost along the way include simple crafts or sketching, and I go back to these hobbies that I used to have as a kid.
It’s basically the art of finding what you like again.
As a kid, you didn’t even think twice about it. As an adult, we become muddled with so many other societal expectations. Our career is balanced between what we like, what our family and friends expect of us, and how much money we’re making.
Sometimes we lose balance.
As a kid, I also thought a lot about what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I know I wanted to travel. I wanted to go everywhere, and learn languages and cultures. I wanted to be better at sewing and knitting. I wanted to write a book. I also wanted to be one of those super-active adults that could run half marathons or a super-fit young woman strong enough to do pull-ups and flexible enough to do the splits.
I wanted to be independent and free.
This is basically the idea of finding what you want to accomplish. After rediscovering what you like, you’re taking time to realize what you want to accomplish. It’s not taking it as far as what you want your salary to be or what you want your house to look like or when you want to get married. We’re not thinking in terms of long-term life anymore.
Remember, we mentally threw everything out to think like a kid again.
What did your eight-year-old self like to do?
What would your eight-year-old self want to accomplish?
Maybe this seems extraordinarily simple. In fact, maybe it seems so simple that it won’t accomplish anything. Maybe it’s so simple that it’s complicated. How do you even begin to think like an eight-year-old again? Your eight-year-old self didn’t know what would happen by the time you reached your 20-somethings.
Maybe your eight-year-old doesn’t know what to do in life.
But if everything feels like it’s falling apart, chances are that your 20-something-year-old self doesn’t either.
It’s not about finding all the answers. Your eight-year-old self doesn’t have all the answers any more than your 20-something-year-old self does. But we often lose our sense of selves along the way, as a result of everything from difficult life experiences to societal expectations to what we expect of ourselves. Our eight-year-old self didn’t have these worries or concerns. We might have even known ourselves better at that age, especially in terms of the simple things.
So I defer to my inner child, because my younger self was constantly dreaming about the endless possibilities of the future.
We’re not too old to dream like a child again.
And it’s not too late to pick up the pieces and live a life of endless possibilities.