If there’s one thing I’m grateful for, it’s that the turbulent start to my year taught me a lot of valuable lessons. Deciding to go in an entirely new direction in life is scary. In fact, it’s probably one of the scariest things you’ll ever do in your life, especially if you’re the type to be pretty set in your ways. But it’s possible to have a career crisis and come out not only smiling, but also smarter.
I don’t claim to be an expert. There’s a lot more about life and dreams that I still have to learn. But I did learn a lot from the past two months of not knowing where to go and what to do, and despite how awful it was to feel like such a failure, I will always treasure what that time period in my life taught me.
1. It’s okay to question yourself.
It’s okay to not know what to do with yourself. It’s okay to stop and take a minute to think, Is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? Because the alternative is to be stuck for life in a career you’ll end up hating, and who’ll end up the loser there? That’s right, you.
Yes, there are people your age who are out there doing amazing things, while you’re lounging on the couch in your parents’ living room still wondering where to go. There are people who know what to be when they grow up from the moment they set foot inside a kindergarten classroom. There are people who get this big ‘aha!’ moment in college and know what to do with the rest of their lives.
But the thing is, these people aren’t the bar against which you should be setting yourself. Life isn’t a competition – it’s a journey, and all of us have our own paths. And it’s okay to wonder if you’re on the right one. As long as you’re a better version of the person you were yesterday, you, my friend, are winning.
(Obviously, if you have children to support, these are questions you should be asking hypothetically, because job-jumping isn’t exactly stellar parental behavior. But I’m assuming you’re a career-oriented twenty-something with no kids wondering what to do with a liberal arts degree or something to that effect, so.)
2. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people or ask for help.
The day I didn’t enroll for my second semester in law school, Gill, one of my sorority sisters, texted me and asked if we could meet for coffee. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to bumming around my house looking at ads on JobStreet while my friends prepared to start the second half of the school year, so I agreed to meet up with her at Yardstick, a coffee shop in Makati.
The conversation for the first thirty minutes was stilted. I stiffly told my sis that I was okay, that I wasn’t too upset, that, in fact, I was considering other career options that wouldn’t require such a hefty tuition fee. I don’t know how she did it, but Gill somehow coaxed it out of me that yes, I was extremely upset; and no, I was not okay at all. I ended up crying in front of her and telling her how lonely I felt, and how stupid I thought I was being since it was my decision to leave, and therefore my own fault why I was feeling lonely. And you know what? It helped a ton, being able to articulate all that to someone else and not just to myself or my journal. Gill let me cry, then when I was done, she helped me outline my options on what to do next and gave me more suggestions on who else I could talk to.
The moral of this story is this. Whatever you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through, you’re not alone. There are tons of people who’ve gone through similar or even identical problems, friends and family who can lend an ear or a shoulder to lean on. You never know who has the answer you’re looking for.
3. Let yourself feel things.
Sort of a corollary to number 2. If you’re going to let yourself ask people for help, you should also be allowing yourself to feel things – not just the good emotions, but the bad as well.
As we say on Tumblr, I come from the Dean Winchester school of dealing with feelings.
That, as you can imagine, is not the healthiest way to process bad things that happen to you. You have to let yourself feel it all – anger, sadness, frustration. Only then can you begin to analyze your feelings and work through them towards a solution. It’s been said over and over again, but it’s also really true. Bottling up your emotions does you no good, and in the end it’s self-destructive as hell.
4. Don’t give up.
However, allowing yourself to feel all your anger and sadness comes with a danger – that of spiraling down into these feelings and being bogged down by all your negativity. That’s where not giving up comes in.
You have to remind yourself that this is not the end. That when you’ve hit rock bottom, the only way is up. Whatever you want to hold onto in your mind, you have the convince yourself that you can’t let go. You can’t give up.
What you have to remember is that we’re young, and still fairly resilient. All the obstacles thrown in our path are surmountable. It’s important to allow yourself to feel bad things, but it’s also important not to lose sight of the horizon.
I’m going to put in another Supernatural reference here (I’m a huge fan – can you tell) and add, in the immortal words of the almighty moose Jared Padalecki, always keep fighting.
5. Keep an open mind.
I have – well, let’s just call it a complicated relationship with God. But if there’s one thing I’ve always believed in, even when my faith was crumbling, it’s this. When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
Sometimes, when things don’t work out, it’s fate, the universe, God, whatever you want to call it, redirecting you to something better. Right now, I have my dream job – a job that I wanted ever so badly when I was a fresh graduate. I’m looking at further opportunities to get a master’s degree in a field of study that I was absolutely fascinated with as an undergraduate student, not to mention I might be able to do so on a full ride thanks, once again, to my wonderful, wonderful job.
And I wouldn’t have found myself here if I didn’t take that scary step into the unknown and decide that maybe law school wasn’t for me.
I’m not saying quitting your job or dropping out of school is the answer to every career crisis. It’s certainly not the best thing to do when you’re absolutely sure of the path you’re on and you’re just having a bad day. But when you start to regularly wonder if this – whatever it is you’re doing at that moment – is what you want to be doing for the rest of your life, when you start talking to other people and asking their advice, maybe you should consider something along those lines.
At any rate, the key takeaway is, as I said, keep an open mind. The world is full of opportunities and answers, if you’re only determined enough to find them.