“Now you understand why Peter Pan didn’t want to grow up.” ~ Unknown
Welcome to the real world.
High school was fun, college, even more so, but now with your diploma in hand, you’re officially in the real world—the place where adults seem to be having so much fun, and where it might cost you to be who you want to be.
This isn’t pretend, nor is it a rehearsal—this is real life, and it’s happening now.
But I promise, there is beauty at every stage of life we reach.
Endings are sad, because we don’t know what lies ahead of us. So as you hug your friends and roommates, pack up the car, and travel away from these places you have grown, for so long it’s going to tug on your heartstrings.
It means that you cared, that you lived and that you spent your time doing something that matters.
Yet, no matter how hard it is to leave where you are, I promise that the best is truly yet to come. Each phase in your life you’ll wonder how it could get any better. Senior year of high school is magical in the way everyone seems to come together. In college, staying up until the sun rises over bowls of ramen, breakfast burritos, and boxed wine seem like the pinnacle of what life is all about.
But it’s not, because there are other phases coming toward you.
Traveling with just a backpack and a passport. Watching the moon from the rooftop of your own first apartment. Calling up a friend to celebrate the job they just received that will actually allow them to put their degree to good use.
And then there’s the finding someone who sets your soul on fire and your heart at ease. There’s the way life unravels in your 20s only to be stitched back together more beautifully in your 30s.
It’s life and while never perfect—it will only get better.
Sometimes, however, you’re going to want to quit—I can promise you that.
Even knowing that the best moments of life are the ones you have yet to experience doesn’t mean that it will be easy to get there. Sh*t just got real now—this is life, and you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. There won’t be anyone to bail you out every time something goes wrong and sometimes, there may not be anyone around at all.
But, the moment you want to quit is the same moment that things will start to improve. Don’t ever forget that.
Sometimes, we have to hit rock bottom: job lost, finances a mess, and that relationship we thought would never end doing just that. It’s painful hitting that point where it feels like nothing is working, and so sometimes it seems easier to just give up.
It’s tempting to take the crappy job and swear off love forever, but those choices won’t get you to where you want to be, and they certainly won’t bring you happiness.
When you feel like quitting, sit with it. Let yourself feel bad, but remember it’s a temporary feeling. For it’s in those moments that we tend to build our strongest dreams.
In this process, you’ll learn that happiness is an inside job.
It’s funny how we think we have it all figured out at 18—or at 22—yet the reality is, that’s still just the beginning. Up until this point you’ve followed a map; you’ve attended school and graduated just like you were supposed to do.
But here’s the kicker now: there is no obvious next step, and no one is telling you what to do.
Your happiness is going to have to come from within you and the decisions you start making now that you’re in the real world. It’s going to be hard, because for possibly the first time in your life, what you want may not make those closest to you happy. You may begin to realize that what you want is different from those around you, and you’ll have to face the choice of making them happy or following your dream.
I know it might be difficult, but I promise you that the hardest choice is usually the best one.
You have to make yourself a priority, and your happiness is the root of all of that. If you’re not happy, then no one else in your life will be either, and everyone will suffer because of it. It’s not your job to do what others think you should; rather, it’s your job to follow whatever dreams you have, wherever they might lead, or to whom.
Because at the end of it all, no one is living your life but you—so don’t forget that.
Up until now there most likely have not been many, if any situations where you were literally brought to your knees because you didn’t know what to do. Well, here in this real world deal, those days become more common, as some mornings, you wake up wondering if you’ve permanently messed up your life.
Yet these moments are wrapped in growth and change, and probably will mark a pivotal moment in the direction of your life.
It will be tempting to choose the easy one, the one that looks like it has a more well-worn path or the one that makes everyone else happy. But trust me when I say, it’s never the easy choice that will plant you where you need to be. It’s never the easy choice that jumpstarts your life.
The best choices often follow the toughest route, the one you doubt you’re even capable of following, and yet somehow, you will find more strength each day until it’s not a matter of if—because you’re already walking it.
That’s how this real world thing goes—it seems impossible at times, but we’ll still manage to do it anyway.
Because life happens whether we’re ready or not, and the truth is, we sometimes just have to close our eyes and learn to fly on the way down.
Author: Kate Rose
Image: Eddy Pula/Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton