As lazy as I claim to be, I love being busy. I work and feel best with a structured schedule and like having my plans made in advance. So for me, this past year has been a difficult one. After changing career paths at the tail end of my college career, I knew my first year post-grad would basically be one of rebuilding my resume, applying and waiting for grad school to start, and attempting to make some money along the way. I had a lot – a lot – of entirely open days, and weeks where I only had a few hours of obligations. Now for a lot of people, a year of freedom to sleep in until noon, responsibility-free sounds like an absolute dream. But let me tell you, it gets old real fast. Like, 3 days fast. It was a frustrating year in a lot of ways, but it also taught me a whole lot about how best to navigate these sorts of transitional periods. So here’s what I learned.
You have to get out of the house. This is without a doubt, the most important tip I could give. There were days when my only time outside was a 15-minute trip to the store to grab milk, but that’s okay! Never let a day go by where you are not getting even just 5 minutes of fresh air. Staying indoors alone, day in and day out, is the most isolating experience and will drain all of the motivation and energy out of you real fast.
Don’t just rely on others for your plans. Of course, the ideal way to get out of the house for me was to meet up with friends. But when your schedule is essentially the opposite of everyone else’s, you realize that making plans is not as easy as it seems. For me, this was one of the hardest parts of this past year. I felt alone and frustrated that I never got to see my friends, and it felt like I was just planning my life around when they could squeeze me in; it’s hard not to take that personally. Start getting comfortable with spending time by yourself, that isn’t just vegging in bed watching Netflix.
Develop hobbies. I’ve always hated, hated being asked what my hobbies are, because it inevitably leads to me feeling lame that I really don’t have that many things I enjoy. But I think it’s because of what we consider hobbies. I think the best place to start is to look at what makes you happy, and break it down into all the tangible things you can do with that. If you love music, your hobby doesn’t necessarily have to be playing an instrument; browse Spotify discovering new artists, or make customized playlists for yourself and friends! If you love food, try out a new restaurant each week, or even a new recipe to make at home. Particularly as recent graduates, I think we have a level of guilt when we spend our time doing non-work related things. But especially in these times of transition, it’s crucial to develop your self-care as well, and find things that matter to you to invest your time into.
Be proactive. I felt stuck in what I could be doing to further my career; I took whichever opportunities in my field I was qualified for, but I still felt there was nothing more I could do to jumpstart my professional life until I started grad school. And that’s how this blog was born. Focus in on the trajectory you hope your career will take, and what exactly is important to you. Then find ways you can begin cultivating that now. It goes beyond just scrolling through job listings. There is only so much about that that is in your control. Seize what you can control: start reading books on the topics that interest you, develop a projected business plan, or yes, even start a blog. These are the small steps that will launch you above the pack when your career does come knocking, and in the meantime, you will begin to feel more in control and confident in your goals. Take this time to get prepared!
Seize this opportunity. Yes, having nothing but Netflix for days at a time is incredibly overrated and dull. But there’s also an upside to the freedoms that these periods of transition provide: there are few times in life where you have nothing but yourself to focus on, so take advantage. Use this time to get yourself in the best possible place. For me, this past year helped me get my mental health priorities in place, travel, and take chances I wouldn’t normally try (*cough cough* my Wheel of Fortune audition…). Starting the next chapter of my life is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying, but I feel hungry for exploration and have my game face on because of that time I gave to myself.
In times of transition, remember: stay curious, take care of yourself, breathe in the good days, and breathe through the bad ones.