**This is an opinion piece from my own life and experiences. The process of growth and moving on as well as what it means to be happy looks different for every individual and that’s okay. **
Sometimes, we all can get caught up in the ideas and pictures that we paint in our heads. We can begin to see our lives going a particular way. Adjusting our schedules, sacrificing the sacred “girls’ night”, maybe even dream up new futures because of these pictures. It can be so hypnotizing that we get lost in them, to the point where these pictures that we’ve dreamt, these thoughts and plans that we created, begin to impact our lives in various ways. If an individual dreams of becoming, let’s say, a lawyer, they jump through the hoops with little to no mistake and then isn’t able to obtain their license or rejected from practice, it has the potential to be life-altering. That person’s entire plan may go completely out the window. They’ve dedicated the time, effort, and energy to this idea, what are they going to feel knowing that it wasn’t to the other’s expectation? While this example is oddly specific, the backbones of this problem can be seen everywhere. A person gets a feeling, dream, or idea. Then, they begin to act on it. They take steps in order to maintain and develop it. And then something causes all of it to come to a screeching halt. Every plan made, every picture painted, every dream dreamt morphs into something that’s unrecognizable to what it was. I was unexpectedly reintroduced to this feeling of “oh my goodness, what am I supposed to do now?” pretty recently. All of a sudden, everything was different and for a while, I was different. I felt as if I was running in place, exhausting myself without really going anywhere.
We can call this feeling anything that we want to. From rejection to heartbreak. From perceived failure to grief even. But we can’t just stop there, most of the time we won’t allow ourselves to. I didn’t either. At some point “what am I supposed to do now?” starts to take up too much space. It grows and becomes heavier to the point where it becomes a nuisance, an issue, or even a roadblock. There has to be something to get us past it. I had to find something to shrink this feeling. I didn’t do much of anything, to begin with, because I didn’t really know what to do. Originally, it seemed like the things I was trying weren’t working because I couldn’t even figure out what I was doing. I got in my car and drove on two different occasions. The first time, it worked like a burn cream. It minimized the feeling, but it was still present. The feeling was still sneaking up on me. The second time was the first time I had felt real relief from the pressure. I had the realization that, even though I might not be where I thought I was going to be, it couldn’t be my world ending. I realized that I had become so wrapped up in this idea that I had in my head that when it was over, I felt like everything was ending. This drive showed me that nothing was really over. Nothing stopped. The world kept on turning, doors kept opening. Sure, something might have ended, but nothing was over.
After this, things started to slowly pick up. I was still having a hard time, don’t get me wrong, but I could feel that I was picking back up. Slowly but surely. It was just a little easier to do the things. I was able to dedicate actual time and space to activities. Strangely enough, seeing the fact that I was doing things again, whether a distraction or not, made me feel even better. I was having an easier time completing tasks in other areas of my life. Dedicating brainpower to anything but the “what am I supposed to do now feeling?” was a relief. This made me reinvent what my new normal was. Obviously, my bubble had been popped, what I used to think was my normal schedule didn’t exist anymore. I had to recreate a normal. I started creating lists and organizing my tasks a lot more efficiently and effectively. This was a huge improvement considering the fact that at the beginning of this journey everything seemed like a task. Saying that I also knew that I had to give myself grace. I couldn’t be too hard on myself for the things that I didn’t complete or accomplish at that time, or on that day. Don’t get me wrong, deadlines were still deadlines, but I didn’t overreact on myself for breaking a lecture up rather than doing it in one sitting.
After a little bit, I had come to an understanding of what my normal is now. I know what most days are going to consist of, or at least have a rough idea. I took this to mean I could start adding spontaneity. Summer was getting closer and, since I could feel myself improving, I made it my goal to have a great summer. One that I’ll look back on when I’m old, sitting on my rocking chair with the breeze flowing through my grey curls. I made plans to travel and explore. Get out there and see the world. Well not really, because there’s a pandemic, but to at least do something. Plus, I’ve been fully vaccinated and I’m a summer baby, so this summer has a lot of potential to be an unforgettable one.
This became the last short-term goal that I had made, without even realizing I had. The first one was the goal to reclaim my time and figuring out my new normal, which I feel I did, and am continuing to do. The second being that I was going to finish off my quarter strong, which began to form after my second drive. When I started restructuring my time and my normal, my grades improved immensely. That may or may not have been a cause-and-effect goal, but as of right now it is one that I am actively achieving. And finally, to really enjoy myself this summer. By the time this article will be published, school will be over and summer break will have officially begun. Already, I have many adventures and journeys on the horizon. I have memories to be made.
The spark to this flame was that I got too wrapped up in something that wasn’t reliable. It was just something that I was telling myself to be true. Something that I had imagined and convinced myself would be good for me. Out of the blink of an eye, everything was different in ways that I didn’t think they were going to be. I was left very confused and angry. At the time, the “what am I supposed to do now?” weighed a million pounds. It was suffocating. Those two drives were the first breath of air. Reinventing what I did with my time and how I chose to spend my time was like I was actually breathing again. It was something that was consistent. It was the first answer to the feeling that took form as a question, I was supposed to choose and reevaluate my time. The second answer to this question revealed itself shortly after, I was supposed to enjoy my time. This is, not surprisingly, why I began spontaneously planning to visit places and family (safely of course). Through these answers, I began to act in ways that would maintain them. Everything that I thought was an end was really just a beginning that I hadn’t realized yet. At what I used to consider the end, I thought it was the worst thing that could happen to me. I had no idea how things were going to get better. Now, I’m grateful. Even though in the grand scheme of a human life span, it hasn’t been long, I feel like a different person and I’m really proud of that. I still have a lot of work and growth ahead of me. But it’s not intimidating or scary anymore. I’m more excited for the adventures I’ll have, the ways I will grow, what I’ll learn, and the memories I’ll make than I am anything else. Cheers to the beginning of a new journey, moving on from the assumptions we made and the people we grow up to be.