Four years ago I wrote a post on Medium called ‘How to choose when you’re 25’. I had just finished a law degree and come back from a life changing two months in Europe and I was feeling the pressure to choose my forever path. I described the ‘pristine beach of possibility’ that had been replaced by a series of tunnels, one of which I had to commit to walking down. And so I selected my tunnel — a sensible job in my beloved hometown, and a pact with myself to still travel and write, and always remember my ‘why’. But as always, the last four and half years didn’t turn out anywhere near how I expected. And as I approach 30, I realise how wrong I was about choice itself. So these are the things I would tell my mid-20s self, today, if I could.
There’s no such thing as a forever path- Just like every great story, the book of life won’t make sense until the very end. Everyone will change careers and partners and cities. The world is like a big, global village in 2019, and millennials are more likely than ever to be like cats and have nine different lives. And that’s an exciting, amazing thing – there is no being locked in.
The confusion doesn’t magically disappear with age; I’m just as confused about my future now as I was then. You don’t get to commit to a path in life, and suddenly feel completely happy with your direction, and never question anything ever again. I used to be obsessed with getting that clarity – with knowing what I’d be doing and who I would be. It’s better to work on understanding yourself, and to just roll with the chaos of the Universe.
Putting off decisions is sometimes good – I used to agonise over all the possibilities if I had a big decision to make. But now I just take a step back and let the right answer come to me. Make a list of all the options on Friday night, have a relaxing weekend, and then see how you feel about the choice again on Sunday. Some options will be so ridiculous you’ll wonder why your past self even considered them, and others will fall away because they were always impossible. But one will probably keep occurring to you, and that is a sign.
We are technically living all the possible versions of our lives anyway. We think small so we’re not overwhelmed by the sheer craziness of the fact that we’re all infinite beings experiencing a finite chunk of time in a physical form. But we’re all living the reality we’re meant to – in this life, in this body. Don’t worry about all the things you’re not seeing and doing. Another version of your atoms is all over it, and living with constant FOMO just makes this slice of reality unbearable.
We have free will – but only free will to decide how we react to things, not to 100% control our destiny and construct our future. The Universe has a plan of its own. The older you get, the more times you will have seen things completely turn out how you don’t expect or want and that’s life. There is no fairness, no rhyme or reason, and no amount of planning that can protect you from heartache, pain, loss and suffering. You cannot choose your way out of bad things happening to you or the people you love. But the good news is, you can realise that, and choose to react as best as you can instead.
The gold standard. Does it feel right? At the end of the day, the only things in life I’ve ever been disappointed about were things that I forced. The only choice you ever need to make is ‘does it feel right?’ And not the knee jerk, disconnected version of that question that you may ask, but the tuned in, deep, soul involved decisions that go far far past a flippant emotion. I think ‘feeling right’ is the terminology that gets churned out the most, but people misinterpret it to mean, the best choice is on the spot, no deliberation. You have to get your ducks in a row, and be in flow, before you can rely on this as a choice maker.
But what if you’re feeling stagnant? Or if you’ve been dealt a terrible hand. How does choice and free will fit in there. Sometimes life seems impossible, and it feels like all control has been taken away from us. It’s a horrible part of life that this world isn’t fair. But there is still merit in tapping in to how you feel about things, even when everything seems terrible. Because if you’re conscious to it, if you’re awake to it, you’re asking the question – then the universe can show you where you’re meant to be going. If you’re in denial, if you’re resisting, if you’re forcing things, then things won’t change for the better, and decisions will become harder and more uncomfortable until you’re forced to bend.
So, 25 year old Beth, I’ll tell you this. The beach isn’t a place out there, it’s actually in here. In your mind. Don’t stress about choosing the right tunnel, in fact, don’t choose a tunnel at all. They’re dark and cold, and there is enough darkness and coldness in the world already. Build your own path to the beach, step by step. Life isn’t fair, it’s not one path forever, and there is no way to choose your way out of hard times – they’ll happen anyway. But you can choose to do the best you can everyday, and bring some awesome people along with you to the beach, and that’s just as amazing as any fantasy future life you envisioned when you were 25.
You can find me on Instagram @21xseven