The one thing you need to know
Three months ago I was going through a particularly tough time. I was unmotivated, and completely uninspired. I was sad that I wasn’t living up to who I thought I should be and that I had moved back to a hometown I swore I'd never return to. I felt lost believing I wasn't "cut out" for the job I studied six (6!) years for and afraid over the thought of needing to create a new plan; one that somehow related to my field of study because of all the years I spent studying it. I was embarrassed that at 24 I was completely reliant on my parents when I should have had it together.
Instead of blooming where I was planted, I let myself get overwhelmed by expectation. By the expectation that university students had to start a job after graduation, and that the job they took had to be in the field they studied. By the expectation that as a social work grad I had to take a certain type of job and practice a certain way. I searched and searched for "traditional" jobs that suited my personality and wanted so desperately to say I made it and did what I was expected to do. But the job never came and week by week I felt more and more like a failure.
So I let myself wallow.
Wallowing is good, until it isn't. We need to be angry, sad, defeated, and/or frustrated to grow. Not having what we want shows us what we do want, and motivates us to create a path to get it. But too much wallowing is debilitating. We need to feel the pain, the upset, the defeat, but not allow ourselves to set up camp and live in it.
I eventually got tired of feeling sorry for myself and decided to challenge what it meant to be successful. I decided to challenge the expectations society had for me as a recent social work grad. I made a list of all the things I loved and started to rebuild my life based on what I wanted and not what society wanted for me. Instead of thinking "I'm not cut out to be a social worker" I got intentional about the parts of social work I enjoyed and how I could create a social work career that suited my personality and values. I stopped trying to fit into what other people thought I should do and started following my heart for what it knew I was meant to do.
Today my life looks much different than it did 3 months ago. I'm getting paid to write (something I LOVE), I'm meeting so many wonderful, likeminded friends through Instagram and connecting with people who share my experience as an empath who are thanking me for making it safe to talk about something they have felt for a long time. I'm still living with my parents but I'm getting ready to move to another city to start a temporary job that will allow me to save up and travel abroad in June. I'm spending my days learning to take photos, talking openly and honestly about crystals and energy work, and making vegan meals (... or attempting to make vegan meals...) and I don't think I've ever been happier.
Not one bit of my happiness is because I succeeded at what society expected of me. In fact, it's all because I didn't. I'm happy, healthy and inspired because I chose to let go of who I have always thought I should be and started embracing who I really am.
Every expectation we have for our lives is based on a belief or set of beliefs and it's important to check in on where those beliefs come from. We can get so caught up in the 'should' - where we should be, what we should have, what we should be doing/feeling/being - that we lose sight of the magic of being where we are. Not being able to find a traditional social work job that suited who I am and what I am good at felt like the end of the world because there was an expectation I go a traditional route. I now realize not finding a traditional social work job was an absolute gift, a space in time that allowed me to redirect my life and start building it into all I want it to be.
It's OK I don't fit into what society expects of me; in fact it's necessary. If we all did what society expected, how would we create change? What isn't OK is believing I'm somehow wrong or at fault for wanting something different. It’s not OK I call myself "unsuccessful" because I am uninspired to travel a path other people have set out for me. A ‘should do’ and a ‘want to do’ are two completely different things and it's important we practice the latter.
If you're feeling down, unmotivated or low, check in with what is being expected of you. Ditch the 'should be's and the 'supposed to's and follow the wants. If your expectations aren't YOUR expectations, get rid of them. Get real, get honest, get deep. Are you living for you? Or for everyone else? Whose beliefs and expectations are leading your life?
You'll be happier and more inspired if the answer is yours.