From a young age, I was told I could be and do absolutely anything I put my mind to.
I was told I deserved it all.
The world was my oyster, so why should I settle for anything less than extraordinary?
I appreciate why the ones who love me most would want me to believe this and push me to live the best life possible.
What they didn’t understand, however, is the immense pressure this places on me, and so many other millennials like me, as we grow up and begin to take on the reality of our society.
We’re raised as seekers rather than appreciators.
Not long ago, I had it all. An amazing job with a great paycheck, a brand new car, a house that I loved, incredible friends and family, and a boyfriend I was crazy about.
On paper, this was more or less it: the American dream (even for us Canadians). I felt like I was on top of the world but, in hindsight, I didn’t know how to truly appreciate what I had.
I left my amazing job—the best one I’ve ever had—because I wanted more. I didn’t want to settle. What if the grass were greener elsewhere?
But more isn’t always better.
I’ve felt so unsettled and unsure since leaving that job. Sure, I’ve taken on many ventures since and they’ve all brought me some form of contentment and satisfaction, but nothing quite like that first high. So, I kept changing paths and taking on new ideas—always seeking.
It became increasingly evident that approach was getting me nowhere, so I decided to sell every last thing I owned at the end of 2016 and I booked a one-way ticket out of Canada with no plan. My only intention: figure out what fulfilment really means.
I’m now in my late 20s and—no surprise here—I feel more lost and uncertain than ever. But I’m not alone. The more I connect with people my age, the more I realize this is a common theme.
Many of us feel as though we peaked too young and we don’t know what to do when it’s just not enough anymore. We’ve been taught to never settle so, even when we have it good, we want more. This leads us to constantly re-evaluate relationships, jobs, our definition of happiness and success, where we call home—everything we stand for and who we think we are.
We’re ill-equipped to deal with this quarter life-crisis on our own and navigate our way out of it.
Yes, the experiences we have and everything we take on helps us to learn and grow in fundamental and powerful ways, but where do we go from here? How do we live a more fulfilling life when we feel like nothing will ever compare to what we’ve walked away from, or what we imagine we should be striving for?
For those rolling their eyes, thinking we’re just young and naïve: I am truly happy you’ve figured your world out and are rocking it, but this is our reality. This is what so many 20 and 30-somethings are dealing with and working through right now.
It’s why we have so many transient people feeling lost, looking for a purpose through travel. It is why we have so many people making a living off being life coaches, hosting seminars with names like “Find your Purpose” and “How to be Happy.” It’s why more and more young people are attending retreats that claim to be able to help us “find ourselves.” It’s why psychologists, counsellors, and therapists are booked months in advance.
We don’t know what we’re doing half the time, but we’ve grown up being told we can do whatever we want and that the key to a happy life is just turning our passion into work.
That’s sh*t advice, whoever started that trend.
I don’t know about you, but reading books and drinking tea sure as hell isn’t going to make me a comfortable living. I’ve also discovered that when we rely on our passion to make us an income it can just cause more stress and actually take the love out of it because, now, we’re forcing it to become our life source rather than just doing it for the joy of it.
We may be young, but these struggles are all-too real, and we need to start learning how to find the balance. How can we settle into a comfortable, sustainable lifestyle without losing our passion and ambition. How can we truly enjoy this beautiful life we have, now? After all, we only get one shot at it.
Here’s where we start:
We take a moment to be grateful for everything we’ve been able to live through and experience up until this point.
We continue to learn, fail, and try again.
We acknowledge that we would not be even close to the person we are today without having gone through, and let go of, everything we have experienced in the past.
We learn from heartbreak, pain, confusion, and uncertainty, allowing it to guide us toward what will fulfil us now and in the future.
We appreciate that whilst we may feel we have peaked young, that doesn’t mean we have nothing left to offer, or experience. We learn to find that satisfaction again, in smaller, more sustainable, sometimes even ordinary ways because we have learnt that bigger isn’t always better.
We celebrate the wins, big and small, and learn from the losses over the years, honouring this journey, because it’s not even close to over.
We stay young at heart and true to our nature as we grow older, doing the things that resonate with us and taking our personal growth and happiness more seriously, but not too seriously.
We let go of the naivety that we can have it all, shifting our perception toward appreciating what we already have right in front of us. We stop searching for that greener grass and start watering the garden we’re already standing in.
We stop romanticizing the past; those days had their fair share of hardship too. We stop idealizing the future; there will be plenty more challenges along the way, no matter the path we choose.
So, let’s get out there and take on the world on our own terms. Let’s throw the conventional definition of success out the window (as well as the one being fed to us by self-proclaimed “happy life gurus“) and just be decent human beings.
Let’s contribute to society the best way we know how and live a life we can be proud of.
Author: Amanda Hanna
Image: Jakob Owens/ Unsplash
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Danielle Beutell