Figuring out how to work towards realizing your life’s dream can be especially exhausting when you don’t have one or have too many. Sadly, we’ve forgotten that having a blank slate to color in with the most devastating and transformative mistakes we can make also entails the possibility of things working out impeccably well.
There’s a line in one of the songs on “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack that I heard recently and have been thinking about incessantly ever since— ‘Every night I lie in bed, the brightest colors
fill my head, a million dreams are keeping me awake.’ It’s sublime how precisely these lyrics portray the way my imagination, especially dreams go feral every night I get in my bed, in the moments after I make a conscious decision to not consume media any further and right before I drowse off. Oftentimes, my longing for a future wherein I’m content is so overpowering that sleeping is no longer an option, I either want to jot down my ideas and epiphanies down in my journal lest I should forget them before morning, or open Duolingo and continue learning the language I started and left within two weeks, or sit through an entire online course on a subject that’s got nothing to do with the degree I’m pursuing, or apply for another internship though I haven’t gotten a moment to myself in the past two months, or finally get to the end of that novel I’ve ruined for myself by reading only halfway twice, or maybe just lie in bed till the restlessness I feel is finally replaced by a wave of sleepiness and a dreamy world.
Over the years, I’ve been momentarily devoured by my love for many hobbies, many small and
big hopes and many unexceptional talents leaking out of the tips of my hair. Not being able to
fully actualize these inclinations or make the best use of my potential has left me in a constant
state of ‘figuring it out.’ This uncertainty comes with countless anxieties that either paralyze me
into inaction or rush my growth to the extent that I start looking for meaning in other people’s
journeys. If I stop looking at the world through the lens of what others are doing to achieve their
goals or the expectations I’ve placed on myself due to years of societal conditioning, I probably
wouldn’t be left with a lot of convincing arguments for the decisions I’ve made so far. I don’t know what I’d like to study after graduation. I don’t know if there’s even a job creative enough to not leave me feeling unfulfilled, that also pays well enough for me to not live in existential dread. I, frankly, can’t even tell if studying my major in University is something I’ll look back on with resentment or see as an essential phase of my personal development. In a world where the most ideal cards one can be dealt with is having dreams that mirror one’s monetary aims, navigating a professional life can be especially hard for those who’re constantly juggling their need for financial stability and certainty and their desire for materializing a life that reflects their truest personalities, capabilities and passions. It’s all the more onerous for those who don’t even know what to do with all the skills and artistries they’ve accumulated throughout their lives. Like most Gen Z students, I’m terrified of never having the requisite skills to be employable. I’ll probably never own a house of my own or land a job I’m passionate about and don’t feel like an imposter in accepting. And as much as I’d like to believe, these fears aren’t irrational. I’ve learnt to cope with them by attaching my worth to my productivity; I’m only as deserving as I perform hour by hour, day by day. Somehow, I’m always running low on time. Somehow, there’s always another thing to be worried about, to cross off my checklist. And yet, all the working seems pointless in the face of a future that might not be in alignment with my most honest desires.
Image Credits: Julia Borovaya
On days when I’m particularly exhausted from not knowing what my work life will look like in the future, I have to remind myself that it’s perfectly okay to not feel thrilled about what’s coming next. Sometimes, the best we get is curiosity (and a dream?) and a blank slate to color in with the most devastating and transformative mistakes we can make. And that’s not too bad either; having space to mess up also entails the possibility of things working out impeccably well. If there’s one thing that religiously crossing tasks off my to-do lists has taught me, it’s that the only way to deal with an overwhelmingly messy circumstance is to consistently and wholly focus on whatever feels like the next right step. We can’t possibly know what we’d like to do with an entire lifetime of ceaseless possibilities. So it’s not fair to have to face the troubles of a future that hasn’t arrived yet when our bones are already heavy with the burdens of the day we’re trying so hard to get through.
As a society, we’ve idolized the prospect of having a dream we can devote all our living hours to
so excessively that we’ve forgotten that not having an all-important life purpose to fulfil is also an equally grand way to experience life. And so is having a myriad of tiny dreams that multiply with every ecstatic breath we take in and crumble and evaporate into thin air with each of our sighs. Not following a conventional path for a career in a particular field and instead exploring every single job position that fascinates us is just as valuable as wishing for a simple, steady life spent in the ambit of a single office building.
Despite knowing better, I still stay up all night every now and then, thinking of all the things I could possibly do with the one life I have, obsessing over curating the most authentic, yet stress- free way of life for myself. It doesn’t always make me feel anxious and restless though; sometimes I find comfort in knowing that nothing’s set in stone. I’m gonna graduate with a degree in Economics, maybe I can become a research analyst or a journalist or an editor if I dare. Maybe I can soak in words from thousands of books and become a professor when I get tired of analyzing or reporting or editing. Maybe I’ll quit after my first week, shift to Shimla and use my life savings to open a cozy little restaurant-library up in the hills. Or maybe I’ll spend the entirety of my life in a city of my liking, living in an apartment that feels like my sanctuary, working a job I’ve had and loved forever. I really don’t know, but it’s good to know that I don’t have to, even if I feel otherwise.
Featured Image Credits: WeHeartIt on Pinterest