I’m 28 and now is the first time in my life that the ‘what if I don’t make it in my career?’ question has entered my mind. For me ‘making it’ looks like a best-selling book – or maybe a TV screenplay (I’d take either, I’m not fussy). For most of my twenties, I’ve focused on making money & I’ve achieved that in marketing and PR. When I was 24, my motto was ‘you’ve got plenty of time to sort yourself out, just make money now’. And sure, it’s not a bad motto to have in your twenties. But now I’m 28 I want, no, I need more.
I’ve spent the last few months obsessing over this. I’m talking, lying awake at night making minor adjustments to my characters in my head, level obsession. But this morning I reached a point when I had to tell myself to just stop.
I’ve spoken to some friends and it turns out that this preoccupation with where we’re heading is actually pretty common in our late-twenties. So, here’s a list of ways you’re doing a better job than you think. I hope this brings you some solitude.
You’re Not Afraid To Admit You Don’t Know It All
I used to think that asking for help in my career was a weakness. Whether you’re a novice or you’ve been in your industry for decades, there’s always room for improvement. I’m more open to taking classes, to exploring other avenues and to ask questions. I’m less afraid of rejection now. I used to nod along and pretend to understand just because I wanted to ‘fit in’. If my twenties has taught me anything is that you’ll never really, truly fit in if you’re trying to impersonate everybody else in the room. Be yourself, say if you don’t get it and also, disagree if you fancy disagreeing.
You’re Doing Something Every Day To Achieve Your Dreams
For a long time, I didn’t do that. I was 22 when I finished my first novel and sure, I had some good conversations with literary agents, but mostly it was a pile of rejection. Why? Because my work wasn’t good enough. I’ve learnt a lot since then. But the rejection knocked me so badly that I went head first into a marketing career that I hated. I didn’t want the pressure anymore and this seemed like the easy option. At least I got to sleep at night, right?
For some people, that decision works. But for me, it doesn’t. When I’m old, if I can look back over the years and say ‘I didn’t make it, but wow, did I try’ then I’ll feel satisfied. It doesn’t have to be huge leaps, but little steps each day will help you to feel more content.
You’ve Got People Around You Who Love You
Let’s just have a moment for how great that is. The Fault In Our Stars is my favourite book for so many reasons, but this sentence probably tops the reason list:
‘You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me, I know about you.’
Hazel says this to Augustus when he moans about wishing he was able to make his mark on the world before he dies. What you don’t realise, is that you’ve already made your mark. Being loved by other human beings and loving them back is an amazing gift. When all is said and done, that should be enough.
You Aren’t Playing The Comparison Game
It’s easy to compare yourself to others, especially with social media. If you’re prone to those feelings, I hope you’ve found the courage to delete people who make you feel bad about yourself. I’ve been so bogged down it other people’s successes (people I don’t even know on social media) that I’ve taken an entirely different life path just to try to align myself with theirs. The only career path you should be on is yours. We’ve all got our own stuff going on, and I don’t have to tell you how social media skews the truth, so let’s keep things positive.
You Can Look Back Fondly On What You’ve Already Achieved
This isn’t just about careers, now. Look at the bigger picture. In the last 10 years, I started Uni, finished uni, fell in love, had so much fun, bought a house, sold that house, bought a new house, got married, got a dog. It’s so easy to forget the milestones of life when you’re working at 10pm or when you feel like you’re getting nowhere. But just remember that there’s good to be had in every day. Don’t forget to look for it and look back at it.
You Refuse To Be A Victim
Using negative circumstances as a way to limit your potential is rubbish. Nobody else is doing that but you. If you refuse to be a victim of circumstance, you’ll open yourself up to a whole range of career possibilities. Lies I’ve told myself include; ‘Well, you don’t know anybody in the industry, so how will you get your foot through the door? and ‘I can’t work full-time and write’. These are annoying situations but you can’t let them define you. I know life is tough sometimes, but hey, you my friend are tougher.
Accept What You Can’t Change & Change What You Can
A lot of people have to carry on their full-time jobs while they’re pursuing their dreams. This falls into the ‘accept what you can’t change’ column. Unless you’re born into a whole load of privilege, you’re going to have to work. Don’t let that get you down, though. Work quietly on your own stuff. You have lunch breaks, you have after work or before work. I know it can get tiring but it’s not going to come easy, none of the best things do.
You Don’t Give Up
Impatience is a product of our generation. We’ve grown up with everything at our fingertips and it’s hard sometimes for us to accept that we can’t always have what we want instantaneously. Every time you give up, you’ll have to start again. Trust me, I know because I’ve done it. I know it gets so, so tough sometimes, but just keep persevering and don’t divert off the end goal and I promise you’ll see success!
This is the last – and obviously the most important one. In The Office US (AKA my favourite TV programme), Andy Bernard said this:
I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.
And, SAME, Andy. When we’re always searching for more and waiting for something we’re never looking at what we’ve got. At University, I used to be excited to finish it and get on the career path and in my job, at Grey Pocket I used to always be looking for the next big client or project. Now I look back both of those experiences have hugely shaped me as a person and my god, did I have fun. Look around you, ’cause you might just be in them!