You’re currently being propelled. Surprise. You feel like you’re independently flying and making your own path, but soon that gust is gone before you realize how much you relied on it. At least, that’s what I experienced.
Our whole lives are mapped in front of us in the measurements of milestones and achievements. I’ll be the first to say, that isn’t necessarily a bad concept. Both provide the comfort of structure and are often celebrated. I loved and craved the structure, pushing for something and knowing exactly what that something was. I hit every checkbox there was without realizing I was doing it, because that’s what college is designed to do. And when I hit those marks, I was propelled.
When I succeeded in class, I heard, “Awesome! You’re going to do big things.” When I got my dream internship, it was “Fantastic! You’re going to impress them.” When I got academic awards: “Amazing! We’ll all work for you someday!” When I got a job before graduation, people said, “Wow! You’re going to be so successful!”
And you know what, it felt great; it’s supposed to. Your friends, family, professors — whoever — want to support and encourage you. But as I got older, those remarks became scarier. I was being propelled further and further into the sky and I was starting to realize how high I was. I felt like I absolutely could not fall.
Now, there are fewer milestones. I got the diploma, the job, the accolades and all of a sudden, I didn’t realize what I was striving for anymore. There was no clear checkpoint for this next, major chapter in my life, and all I knew was that I was expected to continuing soaring into the sky with no idea how I was going to stay in the air. I was flying free and flying blind.
I began constantly looking for affirmation in work to ensure I was doing things right and living up to the expectations I thought had been placed on me. I fell into the ever-expected comparison game on Instagram and felt myself participating. I needed people to think I was high in the sky, loving my job and doing well in my social life. It got harder when the reality hit of crying in the bathroom at work because I was exhausted and I messed up. It got harder when I realized I didn’t love the job I had been striving for and wasn’t even sure if I was in the right field.
I wish I had a, “here’s the secret tip to success” sentence for you, but I don’t. You’re going to have a hard time when you leave school. And so is everyone else. We all experience different kinds of propelling and we all feel the same heart-drop moment of fear when it’s gone. You have to learn to create your own wind and stay in the air and it’s going to take a while. Create your own milestones and celebrate personal achievements. The scariest part: realize they aren’t what you thought they’d be.
It’s finding your “people” in your new town, it’s buying your own car, it’s working your way out of a scary situation, it’s your first solo vacation, it’s your first interview at another company when you realize it’s time to move on … it’s whatever you want it to be.
So keep being propelled. Get as high in the sky as you can. And begin to brace for impact, because it’s going to be terrifying when you’re free flying. But you can soar, whatever your definition of soaring may be.
Written by Maeghen Carter