After years of work and thousands of hours studying, I was in the last semester of my undergraduate degree. You would have thought that I would have been on cloud nine. After all, I had worked my tail off getting to this place: I was only taking five credits. I had tons of free time, the weather was getting warmer, and I was graduating in a couple of months. Instead, my last semester of college was a disaster, and I felt like everything was falling apart at the seams… I could barely get out of bed.
I froze with fear. The million-dollar question kept rolling around in my heard. “What am I going to do with the rest of my life.” It didn’t help that my friends and family asked me that same question every time I saw them, and every time they did, it seemed to drill it further into my skull that I didn’t have an answer. My mind was blank. Oh, the shame! I had spent many years in hopes of finding clarity on this decision—tens of thousands of dollars spent with this one goal in mind. I thought I would graduate and step confidently into real life. Right? The opposite couldn’t be more accurate. Instead, I had a girl I couldn’t get out of my head; I didn’t want to do what I sent to school for, and I could have moved anywhere. I had so many options, too many options, I felt exhausted, depressed, and completely done.
I write that to let you know that you aren’t alone in where you are. Navigating the “real world,” adulting….whatever you want to call it, is a daunting task! At times it can feel like you are in an impossible situation, and for most of us, we are mostly left on our own to find the way. No guides, no comfort, no road map.
In my last spring semester in college, I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other, didn’t know what to do, and felt like I couldn’t even take the first step. I hope this quick read will bring some hope, clarity, and maybe a little thought organization, and at the end of the day, you may feel a little more settled, grounded in who you are, who God is, and where He has you headed.
For over a decade working with college-age guys, and through personal experience, I feel like three major topics continue to rise to the surface.
Even though I could not have verbalized it then, those were the questions crippling me. If you are anything like I was, I need you to take a deep breath (seriously, take a deep breath – you are stressing me out :), put both feet on the floor, and join me as we dive into the thoughts behind each question.
What am I going to do with my life? (Calling, Occupation, Job)
This one has so much pressure to get right. Making this decision to me felt so much like a marriage. My emotions told me that I would be stuck doing this “job” for the rest of my life. No change, just stuck in this day in, day out grind. It almost felt like making this decision would impact the next 40 years of my life. Not only that, but I was also wrestling with the questions of, “do I do what I love and am passionate about?” “do I chase money?” or “can I do both?”. To top it off, I was also trying to understand “God’s will.” The water was definitely muddy.
Where am I going to do/live life? (Location, Community, Church)
This question is complicated because our close relationships shape us so much, causing us to ask, ” Do I go back to my hometown? Or a new town? Where will I go to church? Where will I invest in a community?
We also really care about our emotional health and development. Asking questions like, “What do I need relationally in this next season of life?” The book of Proverbs talks about the profound truth that we becoming like the people with whom we live life. At the same time, we want to continue to be challenged in our faith walk, finding the balance between serving and being built up. These are incredible “adulting” topics and the right questions to ask.
With whom am I going to do life? (Spouse)
Now this one…take a seat, buckle up, and hold on. This one isn’t just about you but also includes another lovely soul. Navigating these waters takes some courage and some transparency.
I can hear you say, “Thanks, Cory. Now I’m more stressed out.” Hold on. We are getting to the helpful part. Below are some practical ideas I hope will help remove some of the stress.’
Be honest with yourself.
Have a conversation with yourself. I know that sounds crazy. Get to a still place, ask questions to your heart, listen, and journal. What is your heart telling you? Write down what you hear, and put it up where you can be reminded (documentation is super important). Sometimes our greatest adversary is forgetfulness.
Seek some close, trusting counsel
Perspective is clutch, and we need an outside perspective. Who around you do you trust? Whose life do you admire? I can guarantee that those people have been where you are right now, and they have had seasons of doubt.
Listen to worship/The Word.
The truth changes things, even when we don’t feel it. We have so many negative/dark voices chasing us, voices of regret, shame, and loneliness. I’m not trying to be religious here. I’m trying to emphasize the power of truth. A quick illustration. Have you ever tried to rinse a container that has soap in it? Every time you try to rinse it out, the bubbles stay in the container. But, if you run the water filling the container, the bubbles rise to the top, flow over the edges, and completely rinses the container clean—same principle. If you continue to fill yourself with truth, the darkness will rise to the surface and flow away.
Here are a couple of verses that helped me. SPECIAL NOTE: this is not about a feeling, an emotion. You are not chasing an emotion; you are grounding yourself in the truth.
Unprotected- Colossians 17:1, Psalm 18:2
No Plan- Jeremiah 29
Unprovided for- Philippians 4:19
Alone- Deuteronomy 31:6, Matthew 28:20
This season is about discovery and exploration. There is no shame in where you are. Be a student of yourself, God, and the world. Let it be playful. Like you are looking for buried treasure. Humility can also get you a long way. So many adults walk around like they have all the answers, filled with pride, mostly about their accomplishments. That’s a very two-dimensional way to live. What if this season was about new adventures and experiences? And what if you could celebrate this opportunity?
Find a new Rhythm, Stick to the Basics.
This one could be the most important and the most practical. Especially in our early 20s, we have tons of chemicals rolling around in our brains, and some of those chemicals can crush us. Some of those same chemicals can help us get out of our darkness. I can not overstate that our bodies and brains play a huge part in our makeup, and they are at the center of how we perceive our reality and how we think.
Try these quick, easy body and mind hacks.
Get good sleep. This one can be elusive, but it’s also super important. Our bodies need a daily reset, and they have to go through a specific cycle to start working right. Stay away from late-night tech and try your best to have a consistent bedtime. I know, this sounds boring, trust me, this could help launch into your next season.
Work out push your body physically in some manner. Again, this goes back to the brain. Reminder: your brain is a part of your body. Anaerobic exercise is a BRAIN exercise. Get out, get some sun, do some stretching, go for a walk/run/hike, or find a bike.
Breathing exercises can also be a winner. You need your head to be clear as you process this season, and filling your brain with oxygen is a game-changer. Check out Win Hof’s app; it can really help.
Watch what you put in your mouth, and I can’t say it enough: refined sugar and refined flour can slow you down. These ingredients actually work against you. Don’t destroy the little clarity you might have by a Late-night taco bell and Mountain Dew binge. Remember, this is about your brain. Be aware—use alcohol and caffeine in extreme moderation. We need to get rid of cloudy thinking, as Mando would say. This is the way.
These systems help you create rhythm, and rhythm can be a lifesaver. If you can’t manage your schedule/rhythm, find someone that can help you.
Stink, reading back on that, I sound like such a parent, yet I can’t deny that if you use even half of my suggestions, it can help. Remember, this is about winning, moving forward, and embracing a new season with God, yourself, and others.
And lastly…you got this, and God has you.
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