May is a good time to give advice because people are looking for it: Life changes happen a lot around this time of year: There are Graduations, Weddings and Babies, Apartment hunting, Job hunting and on and on. We may want to figure out New Years Resolutions on our own – but when things seem a little out of our control – and there are other people involved – we want some advice.
So, a little advice from someone who’s the veteran of quite a few life changes:
Answer the questions you can: When I entered college my major was undeclared, and by the end of the year I had switched it to English.
Why did I make that decision?
Looking back, one of the big reasons was because people didn’t know how to handle the label “Undecided” when they asked “What’s your major?” Neither did I. I wanted to be able to answer their questions, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to live in no man’s land. Of course, as soon as I switched my major to English, the question became “Oh, what do you want to do with that?” Which, I also didn’t have an answer for.
People ask questions, and frankly, they’re just trying to make conversation. It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” If you’re afraid of shocked silence – you could also say “I’m interested in this (job, idea, movement) but I don’t have all the details figured out yet.” Your roles (or non-roles, like being ‘undecided’) shape you – but very few of your defining roles will last your whole life.
Make a contingency plan : Any information you gathered before you made your plan (no matter how exhaustive) is incomplete. Before I got married, I quit my job to travel with my new husband; little did we know we’d be pregnant in less than two months. I had made the job-quitting decision based on the best knowledge available. However, the information I really needed – was a unknown. Sometimes our best plans, best intentions, most carefully laid schedules are all based on information that can quickly become outdated and foolish. At that point, cobble together a contingency plan, and go from there.
Collaborate –I love the process of networking, but I hate the idea that I have to sell myself like a commodity. So often I find myself asking “Wait, what am I really good at again?” If you’re confused about your skills – Back your friend’s projects. Support their charity, champion their new business, read their writing. It might give you ideas, and it will also create a support network for when you do figure out what you have to offer. As one of my favorite writers, Gretchin Rubin, says, “People Succeed in Groups.”
Something will always be the problem – No matter what changes in your life, there will always be something else. My old camp director used to say “There’s always a harder camper waiting in the wings.” The number one whiner of the week may have been sent home from acute homesickness – but the girl that wets the bed every night is just waiting to drown you. Whatever your biggest problem right now – even if it’s solved there is another one waiting in the wings to take it’s place. I find it helpful to, as Ann Vokamp says, Choose Joy. Others would say to Focus on the Positive, but the idea is the same.
These are four actions I’ve learned through my own life transitions – what are some things you’ve learned? Also – who do you turn to for advice?
And, some recent great blog posts on advice I’ve been reading –
- Paul of All Groan Up (great stuff!) – 4 Things I wish I could have told my 21 Year old Self
- Becka P of BexesYearofBooks (and a half dozen other blogs) – Advice
- Justin Zoradi, here at Storyline: Nobody really knows what they’re doing.