Enjoying the Ride: Finding Freedom in an Uncertain Future

I’ve been stressed out. A full-blown, out-of-my-mind, can’t-think-straight stressed out.

I’m 22 and one year out of college. People keep telling me that this is the best time of my life. I have no kids, no husband, and no real geographical constraints besides the fact that I have an unhealthy addiction to the sunny beaches of Southern California.

The road of my life stretches endlessly in front of me in so many directions. I find myself terrified to start moving.

‘Let go and let God’

I took off to Germany right after I graduated last June, telling myself that I would figure it all out when I was there. I would blow off some steam in legendary Berlin night life, get some distance from Stanford, and hopefully a world away it would all become clear. What kind of job I needed to look for, where I would live — it would all fall into place once I had some much needed perspective.

It didn’t. Upon my October return to the United States I still was at a complete loss. I was even at a loss for the neighborhood where I would start looking for a job that might lead me to what I wanted to do.

Months later I have a dependable job and a general life plan of going to law school in a few years, but I still feel worlds away from content. I second-guess every decision I make, wondering if it’s going to push me down a life road that I’ll wake up one day and regret. Every guy I date I triple cross-examine in my head, wondering if I’m just wasting my time.

I’ve been mentally winding myself into impossibly tight knots, scared to death to commit to anything lest it be the wrong life decision. Everyone has been telling me to just calm down, that things will work themselves out on their own time, on God’s time. But chilling out when it comes to my future has never been something I’ve done particularly well.

Theoretically, I’ve always subscribed to the idea of “let go and let God” — that God has a bigger plan and failures almost always prove to be blessings in disguise. But when I’m the one whose failing, who doesn’t know what I’m doing, who has to take the advice I’ve offered so many times in the past, I just find it all a lot harder to swallow. The truth is, I don’t fail well. I don’t deal well with things I can’t control, and I epically despise not being good at whatever I try.

A different perspective

About a month ago I was tossing and turning after yet another night of trying to unwind my mind. So I did what I always do at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep. I moved myself down to the couch and tried to numb my brain with copious amounts of trash TV.

Somewhere in between “16 and Pregnant” and “Hoarders,” something in my brain started moving. It started with this one lady on “Hoarders” — a show about people trying to sort through seemingly insurmountable amounts of stuff they’ve collected over the years. It really moved me how this elderly woman was bravely confronting such a major lifestyle change at her age, despite the fact that she had to face so many personal demons to do it. I started thinking about my parents, how it had taken them at least three jobs they hated (apiece) to point to the direction where they wanted to end up. And how often their biggest failures turned into their biggest opportunities.

And that’s when it hit me. You can be 22, 32, or 62 and still not completely know what you’re doing. Life is in a constant state of movement and I want to be the kind of person that can change with it. I realized there’s not going to be one day when I’ll wake up and feel like I’ll have everything figured out — and all I’ve been doing is driving myself crazy trying.

Dragging myself back upstairs, I fell into eight hours of uninterrupted calm sleep and from that day started seeing things a little differently. I had been looking at my future from such a place of fear, just thinking about all of the wrong jobs I could take, all of the wrong people I could end up with. I had been overlooking the amazing opportunity of freedom that my early 20s was offering me, a once in a lifetime gift that I was ignoring.

So I tried online dating. I started enjoying the free date sushi, rather than over-analyzing whether or not it was going anywhere. I dyed my hair red because it was something I always wanted to do. I bar hopped and stayed home the same amount as before but stopped feeling guilty for both.

At this point, I don’t have much figured out besides the fact that I am finally ok with the fact that I don’t have much figured out. But changing the way I look at everything has made all the difference.

LSAT classes? Bring it. Will I go to law school? Maybe. Most likely. I love to write, love being right, and am good at making complex things not so complex for other people. But maybe my calling lies somewhere else. Maybe I’ll wake up one day halfway through law school and realize that.

For the first time in my life I am going to be ok with that.