Over the weekend, I was on the phone with Brittany, one of my good friends back in Atlanta. We were on a topic we talk about a lot -- what we want in our careers. As we talked, I said to her, "I hate two questions. 'What's next and what do you want to do?'"
"Why do you think that is?" she asked me. It took me a few minutes to really think about the reasons why. I'd never given the why much thought. As she let me ramble on about the reasons it could be, a light bulb went off.
For one, those questions make me feel like I've accomplished nothing. Secondly, they make me feel like no one has paid attention to what I've been working so hard for over the last ten years. Our conversation got me to thinking about how this could be affecting other women in the world that feel overwhelmed (and sometimes stifled) by their dreams. Mainly because our dreams sometimes seem so big that saying them proudly to the people closest to you seems impossible, at least in my case.
Here are a few ways to get through those moments when you feel more overwhelmed than inspired:
Lately, I have been making myself stop when I feel overwhelmed by my goals. I stop everything I'm doing and go outside (without my phone), pull out my journal, and write at least one thing I'm grateful for in life or that day. It could be as simple as having a nice cup of coffee at my desk in the morning (which is one of my favorite rituals) or something as big as getting an email about a new opportunity. The practice of being thankful really can help put things into perspective when you feel yourself spiraling.
Think Less About The "End Game" and More About The Process
Last week a friend asked me, "What's your end game?" My real answer to that is, I have no clue, and when I think about my life in that way — I just want to give up. The reality is, end games change. One year you could see yourself getting your Master's degree in Public Health and the next thing you know you're teaching English abroad or starting a family. For me, my end game has changed too many times to count.
When I graduated from college, I thought I was going to be the next Jovita Moore, but thanks to the recession, I took whatever job I could get to ensure my student loans were paid. I ended up working at an art museum for seven years while pursuing acting and building a successful stationery company. What's wild about where that pivot took me is that my stationery company, Mae B, is why I was invited in for an interview at BuzzFeed. Two weeks after the interview, I was offered the position and was packing up my life and buying a one-way plane ticket Los Angeles to start a career in the brand new field (with zero experience).
That experience taught me to do the work I love and plan less because what is for me will show up sometimes in a package I never imagined. No end game needed.
Think About What You've Accomplished (Big or Small)
If you'd asked me a couple of weeks ago what I think I've accomplished, I probably would have looked at you with a big blank stare. I have become immune to my achievements because I'm too busy checking things off. Get my business featured in these publications. Check. Book a commercial. Check. Write for xoNecole. Check. These were all things I'd dreamed about, but when they happened, I was on to the next opportunity to check off of my list. That is a sad road to take because you'll never take time to pat yourself on the back, and you'll never be pleased. We don't have to make everything happen in this weird timeline that is projected on us. I believe that one of the keys to success is taking the time to look at yourself in the mirror and say, "You did that!"
Stop Comparing Your Journey
I can't tell you how many times I've thought about packing my bags and buying a one-way ticket back to Atlanta. Why? I'm watching someone else win and wondering why I haven't gotten the cool opportunities they're working on. I'm so over myself. For one, jealousy isn't cute. We don't know how long someone has been working to see the fruits of their labor bloom. Two, if these people are in our fields and look like us, we should be lifting them up (I'm talking to myself here) because that means they're making space for the rest of us. Instead of comparing, I reach out to the people I admire in my industries. I have invited them out for coffee and even gone on Target runs with them. Not to gain any intel, but to be in the presence of women I admire.
Don't Be Ashamed To Talk About What You Want In Life
Saying you want to make a career out of something that was unexpected can bring resistance. Maybe your parents saw you doing something else, you chose to take a pay cut, you followed your wildest dream, or you've done all of the above? I've wanted a creative career for as long as I can remember. My dream was to go to college at the Fashion Institute of Technology, but that was quickly shut down because in my household, my sister and I had to be practical. A traditional four-year institution was my only option if my parents were going to pay for it.
But, hey, I'm a creative so practical has never been my thing. Feeling the need to think about my life in those terms has made it difficult to share my true aspirations out loud out of fear that I'll hear "grow up," or worse, if they don't happen as quickly as I'd hoped, I will be labeled a failure. Speaking about your work proudly can open up new doors. You never know who you're talking to or who has the means to be able to help you get to your next step.
Take A Minute
If you've read any of the pieces I've written here, you know I talk about social media often. I am sure that generations before us felt pressured by the societal time clock, but I think that we aren't just feeling it, we have a visual 24/7. Each time we open our apps, we're reminded of the partner we haven't found yet, the grandkids our parents want, the house we haven't bought yet, or the career we wish we had.
As one of my favorite people would say, "You gotta chill." You can rush all of the moments I mentioned above, but will they be tailor-made of you? I don't think so. Slow down. Breathe. Journal. Travel. Delete the apps. Pray. Do whatever gives you space from the hamster wheel in your brain and that the things that feed it.
Being an adult is hard, no need to add to that by feeding your brain's negative narratives and overloading ourselves with all of the things we haven't accomplished yet. The reality is that it doesn't serve us or our higher purpose. I believe we all have one.
Good luck, beauty. You've got this.
Featured image by Getty Images.
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