I’ll admit that one of my biggest weaknesses is the constant quest to maintain purpose in my life – which is actually a common trait of INFJ personality types. The rush I get from a project I’m passionate about is exhilarating and all-encompassing, but it leaves me feeling restless when I have a copious amount of free time. That being said, after a semester of nineteen credit hours-worth of busyness, routine, and structure, post-graduate life has already been an interesting adjustment period. As much as I love to have time to reflect on my life, I can’t shake the persistent feeling that I “should be” doing something more important with my time.
A few days after I graduated, I was lucky enough to take a trip to Paris, France for a week. After observing the French lifestyle for just a few days, I couldn’t help but recognize how startlingly different their culture is from that of the United States. People of all ages could be found lying in the grass of a park on a sunny day – some of them conversing with friends, others reading a book, and some simply sitting alone with their own thoughts. I truly admired how comfortable the French are with solitude and contemplative thinking, and it made me realize how fast-paced I feel the need to live my life.
That trip was more than a croissant-filled adventure for my friends and I; it served as a bit of a wake-up call for me. Do I even know how to relax anymore? Who am I without the attachment I have to a project, internship, or class? By no means am I devaluing the concept of hard work, but it’s interesting to consider the kind of person we become when we’re not throwing ourselves into the next item on our to-do lists. I can’t help but think that others, especially recent college graduates like myself, must feel the exact same thing. After spending our entire lives under the rules and constraints of the education system, do we truly know ourselves in a less-structured world?
I always like to think that every part of life holds a specific purpose. As someone who clearly likes to overanalyze the contents of her existence, I struggled to find the meaning behind the free time I’ve had since I’ve graduated college and began my job search. I find myself constantly wanting to jump ahead to the next thing: the new job, the new apartment, and the new friends and colleagues I will meet in the future. While it’s great to set high standards and have big aspirations for yourself, it’s equally as important to find joy in the present moment.
The transition from structure into uncertainty is daunting for everyone, which causes some people to settle for less than they deserve, just so they can reestablish a routine. As counterintuitive as it may sound, sometimes, turning inward and facing yourself is more difficult than throwing yourself into a new commitment. Waking up and not knowing what lies ahead for the day is often more frightening than a full day of work or classes. We’re so trained to operate on certainty that when the smallest bit of freedom comes our way, we absolutely freak out (or, at least I have).
My parents have advised me to enjoy this post-college transitional process, and I’m starting to realize that they’re right (as they are about everything else, too). When I think back on my life, the best things have come out of spontaneity: I’ve met the most intriguing people, visited places I’d never imagined I’d see, and reached potential within myself that I didn’t even know I was capable of. I can’t help but think that this time in life will follow a similar path. How are we supposed to know what we truly want and who we truly are if we don’t take some time to stop and breathe?
As scary as having time off seems, I’m beginning to view it as another life lesson. Not everything in life will play out in the way you expect it to, so when you have the opportunity to veer off the beaten path, take it and run with it. You may discover a latent passion or interest that could set you on the path to success, love, and fulfillment. From someone who has trouble operating without a purpose, I believe that this period of time is meant to teach me to bask in the uncertainty and find joy in the present moment. No matter where you are in life – whether you’re the CEO of your own company or on the hunt for your first job – you matter. You will find your way, and, in the meantime, learn to appreciate the minute details that surround you, for they could spark something inside of you that will change your life for the better.