Those of us approaching our last year or two of college are starting to get familiar with the anxiety of not knowing exactly what we’re going to do when we graduate and go out into the “real world.” The education system has provided structure for our whole lives, and now it’s time to figure out how to afford having a roof over our heads and food in our fridges. Many of us thought that being alone was a pretty intimidating unknown. And then the pandemic hit.
Now we don’t know when we’ll be able to enter into the world. We don’t even know the world we’ll be entering into. There are so many factors completely out of our control. We’re stuck sitting at home and don’t know how long we’ll be here.
When I was younger, if I was nervous about a situation or interaction, I used to run it in my head over and over and over again. I’d lay awake at night trying to think what it would look like and how it would happen. I was a painfully shy kid who was intimidated by most social interactions, so this was a regular practice. It took me a long time to realize that no matter how much I played it through in my mind, the reality would never look anything like I’d imagined it. The conversations would never follow the script I’d practiced in my head. I lost a lot of sleep and experienced a lot of anxiety in creating this illusion of control.
When it comes to handling the unknown, the work is not to try and predict when and how everything will happen. It’s learning to be in the moment, and trust that you’ll be able to handle everything as it comes. This isn’t an easy practice. Sometimes I find that when I try to be in the moment, I experience a flash of fear that this will prevent me from being fully prepared for the future, or that it will separate me from my past. I’ve learned to breathe through it and let go of that initial fear; you sacrifice a lot more by not being in the moment than by being in the moment.
At this moment, I have no idea if I’ll be going back to school in the Fall or not. I’m not even sure if that’s what I want. So I’m spending my time working on projects I don’t normally have time to work on, making progress on applications for things I might do when I graduate next year, reading, meditating, hiking, watching movies with my friends over Zoom. If I find out that I’ll be going back to school next semester, I’ll adapt to that reality. If I find out that classes will be remote and I’ll continue to live at home, I’ll adapt to that reality. There’s nothing I can do right now to predict or control it, so I’m just doing my best to be here now.
Right now, I’ve found it to be important to find the balance between doing things to better myself and doing things to take care of myself. And that’s all there is to do. The more I explore this site, the more I recognize that this relates to what CredibleMind talks about with regard to a healthy work-life balance. Stressing about the future will not help anything. No matter how we picture it, it won’t look like what we think.
Whether you’re 15 or 30 or 60, you’ve made it this far through the ups and downs. You’ve experienced for yourself how beautiful and fun life can be and how painful and difficult it can be. With the skills you’ve gained and the support of the people around you, you will be able to handle the transitions and challenges that will come. For now, all you can do is be as present as you can in the moment that you are in.
If you’re interested in a more detailed practice about living with the unknown, check out a fellow CredibleMind blogger Michael Stern’s excellent piece on A Simple Practice to Improve Your Resiliency.