The Gap Between Finishing School and Starting the Rest of Your Life

The Gap Between Finishing School and Starting the Rest of Your Life

“So what’s next?” Is that dreaded question when leaving school. For me at least, this question made me squirm inside.

It all seems well and good for those people who seem very clear about this decision. Some friends make decisions to go to university, work, or travel overseas. Others seem confident in taking a break. And some people, myself included, just have no idea.

The truth is, not many people really know what they want to do after school. Yes, there are those kids who have been passionate about being a doctor since they were 5 years old, and so it’s a no-brainer that they're going to try to get into Med school. But let’s be honest, that’s one in a thousand, and I think I’m being generous with that statistic. For most of us, we don’t really know what the world holds for us, or even what our options are. And that can just be plain scary.

Some people tell us to follow our heart, others tell us to be sensible and do something that will set us up for a safe future. Career quizzes tell us all sorts of things that may or may not be helpful. It suggested to me to be a cartoonist. Needless to say, I laughed and moved on.

It is easy to be influenced and swayed by others during this time. There are pressures of parents, friends, and ultimately ourselves to make a wise decision.

What I want to remind you is that no matter what everyone else is doing, and no matter what everyone else is saying- They are all just opinions or ideas. They are based on their own history, life experience and culture; as well as their insecurities and fears about their own future. All of these things will shape the advice that they give you; so please be aware of it.

This is an opportunity to take time to think about yourself and what you want. Quit pleasing others, you’ve done that long enough. You don’t want to reach 80 years old and still be running around pleasing others in order to feel valued and loved. What you really want is to do something for you. And only you know what that might be.

One thing I want to say is that you have time. What you want this year might be different from next year, so be flexible with yourself. Things are temporary. Relationships, jobs, houses; all these things come and go. Give yourself a break and don’t criticise or judge yourself for not knowing what you want. Maybe you can be kind and gentle with yourself while you figure it out.

And while you’re doing so, here are some tips that I wish people told me…. 

1. There is no ‘right’ answer. We have such a big fear of making mistakes and wanting to make the ‘best’ choice. Yet, it is better to relax. If you don’t like what you choose, it’s pretty simple- you can change it and choose something else.

2. Follow your own dream life, not anyone else’s. Parents often project what they didn’t do. My mum wanted me to be a town planner because that’s what she wanted to be. I actually seriously considered it, until I realised it would make me miserable, and that there's no point living another persons' dream life. Your decisions will impact your life the most, so it’s better to please and follow yourself over others.

3. Be open to asking for help and advice. It’s wonderful to ask people you trust for advice. Talking about your options can help to clarify both what you want and what you don’t want for yourself. This can be invaluable.

4. Once you’ve made a decision, don’t question it. It only makes you suffer when you bring doubt into your decision making. It's fine to weigh up your options, but once you’ve decided, drop the doubt. Commit to what you’ve decided and if you want, review it in a few months time.

5. Accept the differences between your life and others. Try not to compare your situation and reality to others. Drop the fair or unfair, better or worse comparisons. Your life is yours, and it is incomparable to anyone else's.

6. Loneliness is inevitable. Whether you’re at home and others have gone abroad or to college, or if you’re at work while your friends are out having fun, there are bound to be different choices made between you and your peers. These differences can bring loneliness, which is very normal.

7. Follow what feels truly good and right for you. Enjoying what you do is more important than how much money or how much recognition somebody or something will give you. The satisfaction from doing something you love is such a wonderful thing, and will likely spread into many other areas of your life.

We would love to hear from you about your experiences choosing a career path and options after school. Sharing your experiences might just be the inspiration someone else needs to help them through this time too!

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