What are you doing next year? Grad school? Law school? Do you have a job yet? What are you gonna do for money? Do you have any plan at all? No? Really?
Okay, breathe. Relax. Other people have schools, jobs, and professional plans. Good for them. And I don’t mean that sarcastically. It’s actually good for them- they have dreams and aspirations just like you do, and they are pursuing them. The world is a better place when people are “the type to say a prayer and then go get what [they] just prayed for,” to quote ya boy Aubrey Drake Graham.
Then there’s you. A 22 year old with a degree in something you don’t care about and no concrete idea of what will make you happy or how you will contribute to the world. That’s pretty scary. But think about it for a second- what is scary? What do you fear?
Sheesh, easy with all the questions. What kinda sick existential quiz show is this? Well, if I’m being honest with you, which is also being honest with myself since you’re a weirdo who decided to write himself a letter at 2 am instead of playing Nazi zombies with his apparently very angry college roommates, I think you are both afraid of the unknown, and uncomfortable because you graduate in a week, after which you are going to be thrown into the real world and expected to do something important. To this, I have some words for you, hence the letter. But first, your friend Louis CK has a couple for you too.
“You’ll be fine. You’re 25. (See, that’s 3 whole years away) Feeling unsure and lost is part of your path. Don’t avoid it. See what those feelings are showing you and use it. Take a breath. You’ll be okay. Even if you don’t feel okay all the time.”
Not feeling okay is part of it. Good. That’s encouraging, considering that’s how I feel every time someone asks me, which is enough to where if I had a nickel for every time they did, I wouldn’t have to find a job anymore anyway.
Stop avoiding the lost feeling by embracing it, and embrace it by trying to figure out what makes you forget about that lost feeling. Find something you love, that you’re good at, that gives you a sense of purpose, and does something positive. Passion, profession, vocation, altruism. You might not find all four at once, but try immersing yourself in jobs that meet one or two of these criteria. The idea is, eventually you’ll stumble upon one that you’ll learn actually does all four. But no matter what, the one that must exist is passion. You must love what you do. Too many people in this world are clocking into jobs they hate, simply because it’s the comfortable, easy thing to do, that is also paying the bills. Find something you actually love, and when you do, “let it kill you,” as Bukowski said.
Once you find it, whatever it is, go for it. I know you didn’t exactly know what “let it kill you” meant, or who Bukowski even is, so let me tell you. He was a hard-living poet who rarely worried about what people wanted him or his poetry to be, and letting your passion “kill you,” is simply the act of throwing yourself into it without much regard for the details, because the details are what can hold you back. Details like that “fear of the unknown” we talked about. Well, since we’re on the subject, I want to remind you of something.
Every time you have left home, or said goodbye to someone you love, or done anything that makes you scared and nervous and everything… it has always become something that you can’t imagine your life without having done. Every situation that has made you feel like that has always resulted in something beautiful.
The other problem is that word beautiful, because beautiful does not always mean the best possible situation. Taking chances obviously doesn’t guarantee success, but it guarantees beauty in that you will have experiences. You will learn. Life will happen in a more different and vivid way than ever before. And that is the beauty that is waiting for you.
I’m not saying any of this to be comforting, either. This letter is to help you calm down and figure out what you’re going to do, not to make you feel good. Try to remind yourself of these things whenever you get the chance to take a step outside your comfort zone. Some of the best things in life happen outside one’s comfort zone, so you can’t let fear keep you from embracing the opportunity.
My dad always told me whenever I was scared of making a decision: “Life is one giant series of decisions, each of which point you in a slightly different direction. If you make one and distract yourself by wondering if you made the best choice, or if you over-analyze a decision before you make it, you’ll be effectively keeping yourself from focusing enough to make the right one, which could be, and probably is, way more important than whatever is distracting you. The best thing you can do is know who you are and what you want, and make the decision that you think is best for you. Then move forward.”
Life is scary. There’s no avoiding that. Moving forward is even difficult sometimes, but as long as you keep trying, things somehow have a way of working out. Not trying to make yourself happy is how people end up in jobs they don’t care about, wondering what could have been. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don’t end up like that; wasting the most precious commodity we are ever given- time. The one thing you can’t buy or get back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. The good news is, that giant, mysterious future that keeps creeping in on you, also grants you the freedom to go wherever and do whatever you want. As long as you are still breathing, you have time to make it happen. Nothing can stop you if you don’t let it.
Now, I’m not a very religious person, you know that. Every time I’ve found God, it has never been in a church. Curious how I ended up at a Jesuit school. But if there is anything that I remember from the education that I have received, it is a quote from a prayer by Pedro Arrupe about finding God and falling in love:
“Nothing is more practical than finding God,
Than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
Don’t worry so much. Don’t even think as much as you do. Just commit to making yourself happy, even if that is selfish sometimes. Remember a time when you’ve fallen in love with a girl, and would do anything for her. Remember that feeling. Then make that person you. Do anything to make yourself happy. Fall in love with something. And even if it breaks your heart, that only means there is something else out there that’ll be even better. Trust me, I’m pretty invested in what happens to you. And I can’t wait to find out what that will be.