So, I thought I’d write something a bit different on here, based on what I’ve been reflecting on over the past few months.
In less than 6 months, I will turn 25. Many people will say that this is the age to be “discovering yourself” or “starting out in your career”, and that there’s so much opportunity. However, for me, I’ve been so driven and determined to achieve any goals I set myself since I was in primary school. I’ve worked hard to ensure I’ve met my personal and career goals…and whilst I should be enjoying the “starting time” of my working life, I actually feel like I’ve hit a wall, am anxious about the future and am uncertain of what I should be aiming to achieve next. So, I thought I’d share a couple of points which have kept me going through this time of uncertainty, to hopefully ensure I don’t have an equivalent of a quarter-life crisis…
NOTE: I definitely can’t take any credit for thinking these ideas up at all; most have come from the wisdom of some incredible people I get to spend time with, from my Business Coach to family, friends and loved ones.
–You are not defined by your career/your career is not your life. This is so hard to actively believe when we spend so much of our lives at work. Most of the time, it can feel like it’s the majority of our day and working week, and everything else is just one the side-line in comparison. However, my Business Coach recently highlighted to me that in reality, work is only a third of each day of the working week.
So, considering we aim to sleep for 8 hours a night, it gives us a full third of our day to do whatever we like to define ourselves. Whether it is hitting the gym, cooking, hobbies, reading…anything! Therefore, I’ve made sure I spend this time doing things I enjoy and am passionate to ensure that I know and appreciate my value outside of an office environment.
–Family is so important. I cannot stress this enough. Gone are the days where as a teenager, you’d strive to gain your independence and have time away from family. These people are so valuable, especially for reminding you of how special and important you are. Seeing my family and extended family grow around us has been such a rewarding experience. Even as nieces and nephews grow, and parents get older, you realise how quickly life can pass you by…and how important it is to spend time with these people.
Since being married, I’ve also embraced being a wife, and that my husband and I are now a family unit (with or without kids). We have so much value in being a family, and aim to have as many adventures as we can so we can grow and enrich our life together. Having and being a family both are so important and precious in creating a clear identity for now and the future, and I’m learning very quickly that this definitely should not be placed on the back-burner because of work, finances etc.
–Friend networks become larger, but not closer. As a young adult, friends are now not only classified as those that you “hang around” with because you’re studying the same things/doing the same things etc. Your career, family, gym and anything related to life creates branches of extended networking opportunities to meet new people and connect. Hell yes, it’s scary though. Suddenly, you are connected with so many people, yet the types of friendships you had as a teenager (the close BFF types where you’d stay up all night on MSN and discuss every minor detail of life) drift apart, or even drift away. I guess this happens as our priorities change and we have less time to socialise on the same level due to full-time jobs.
Though, something I have learned since graduating from university is that it’s so massively important to be a friend to yourself/love yourself first rather than depending on others to define your importance and value. So, in summary…you’ll have friends from varying different social circles, and it’s ok if the dynamic of the friendships is completely different to those you had 5-10 years ago.
–Staying healthy is hard. Whoa…where did that metabolism go that you had in high school? Oh wait, your hormones have sorted themselves out, and you now have to actually be cautious when eating/exercising etc. Now is the time where, naturally, your body seems to stop “growing” and sorts itself out with anything that used to help you stay in shape without actually “doing anything”. That being said, I never was lucky enough to experience this, thanks to being a Type 1 Diabetic and classified as “overweight” since primary school.
Since starting my professional working life, I’ve had some stark health scares and realisations: of course, sitting in an office chair for almost 8 hours a day, then going home to watch tv/play video games is not going to help you stay healthy. So, as anyone following my blog would know, I started a commitment to myself to be as healthy as I can be. Yes, I have Type 1 Diabetes, Coeliac Disease and Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticoruim (a rare skin condition where I get ulcers on my legs for no apparent reason), but these are NOT going to be excuses for me to mope and not make an effort. I’ve joined a gym that fits my lifestyle perfectly (I cannot recommend Curves highly enough for any woman!) and I’m also trying to eat a lot healthier, get my daily water intake and also work on my “mental health”.
Seeing the improvement in my blood sugar levels, as well as the positive changes in my body has been so rewarding. Yes, it’s hard work, and it’s not a “12 week transformation” where I’m getting instant results. But it is results that will be long-term and keep me on track for being a healthier person overall.
-Learning doesn’t stop once you finished university. Keep learning. Ok, so I *technically* haven’t finished university, as I’ve just started postgraduate studies by distance to further my qualifications. However, I’ve learned that it’s so important to keep your brain active. In the results of a personality test I undertook recently, I discovered that one of the things I value the most/am passionate about is a love of learning. It’s good to reflect and remember on how satisfying it was to *finally* understand theories from your university studies, or learning about an entirely new component of a culture that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise if you weren’t in an academic setting.
For those who aren’t pursuing further tertiary study, I highly recommend to keep trying to learn. If your university has an alumni system that allows you to have a library membership, go for it and keep trying to read journals in your areas of interest. There’s so many opportunities to learn online, such as learning to code, or generic brain training. It’s tempting to continue to switch your brain off from “extra-curricular” learning once you’ve gotten into a stable job that is relatively easy to do on a daily basis…but it’s so enriching to continue to have the drive and initiative to learn.
–Keep your mind “happy”. This is on the same note as continuing to learn. Strive to fill your mind with enriching content; things that will keep it active outside of work. Don’t just settle for crappy TV because it allows you to “switch off”: keep a balance between watching some shows to unplug, and watching things that are interactive. For example, I will shamefully admit that I do like to watch the occasional episode of “Winners and Losers” or “Offspring”, however my husband and I also watch “QI” and “Spicks and Specks” every night. Allow yourself to read good, intellectually-stimulating books- don’t settle for “Fifty Shades of Grey” just because everyone in the office has read it and it’s the “next big thing”.
Also, if you’re a casual gamer like myself, ensure that you play thought-provoking or strategic computer games. As much as I think I’d get addicted to games like “Candy Crush” or similar, I love games with good stories or with a D&D setting to allow for a form of escapism. So, in summary: unplug, but don’t allow yourself to become brain-dead.
–Don’t bring work home. This is a biggie. My husband and I have a “hug it out” policy when we get home, where we spend however long we need (some days it’s 5 minutes, other times it’s an hour) debriefing about work while having a cuddle. After this, we then aim to not bring up anything work-related for the rest of the evening. It’s not because we don’t care about hearing about what’s happening in each other’s lives, it’s that we like to clearly separate our working and home lives.
–Unplug. I really struggle with this one, but it’s related to separating work/our public lives from home/private. For me, this would be not checking work emails out of the office…or first thing in the morning…or before bed…or on holidays. I’m a sucker for constantly checking emails, whether it be for work, personal or uni. Yet, these things have their allocated times when they are important, and shouldn’t need to be constantly on my radar (I mean, how important is it for me to check my emails before I go to bed?! Nothing can be actioned for it anyway until the next day!)
On the same note, I am pretty much constantly hooked into social medial; whether it is Facebook or Instagram. For me, I’m learning that I really need to stop checking these 30-60 min before bed, or even when I first wake up: it’s not needed, and can disrupt any chance of having a good night sleep! It would be even better to not even have my phone in the bedroom, but I don’t think I’m ready for such a commitment yet (I mean…my phone has my alarm on it, so…)
–You’re still doing ok, and there’s no need to rush! Sadly, in our current economic situation in Australia, so many people I studied with in my undergraduate degrees have been unable to find employment since they graduated. Hearing how many have had to battle with Centrelink (and with the new government policies aiming to cut off payments for many of these people) is such a reality check as to how it is for most graduates under 30 in the degree areas I studied. I have realised that I am extremely lucky to have landed myself a job straight out of graduating, and in the fields I hope to specialise in…and I definitely need to keep remember this!
While I may not yet be at the exact level or role I aspire to be in to achieve my form of “career enlightenment” or equivalent, realising that I don’t have to rush to get there is important. Considering I’m permanently employed, have awesome super, and a current salary that ensures that we’re making ends meet (even if it’s only just) is something very rare and very lucky for anyone under 25.
-It’s ok to not know where you want to be, or what you want to do, or how you’re going to get there. I’ve been told by so many people recently that they didn’t have a complete idea of the direction they wanted to take until at least after their 30s. Also, that the prime of one’s career is normally around hitting the age of 50. Releasing that I’m absolutely not in the prime of my career, and that I don’t need to know everything for my career at this stage is key in staying sane in a world of uncertainty, economic crisis and job cuts galore (thanks to our government). Focusing on living “in the moment” is key, and valuing where I currently am at life is important. Spending too much time worrying about the future could mean I don’t appreciate my current achievements and celebrate present moments in life.
And there we have it! I haven’t written a decent blog entry/reflective piece in a while, so please excuse my dodgy writing skills. As always, thanks for reading 🙂