Dear 2018 Alys,
Sometimes you wonder if you’re doing the right thing with your life. In this fast-paced world of constructed online identities and overwhelming arrays of things and places and people and opportunities, you often feel lost. I see that look in the hazel of your eyes, your decisions are as uncertain as the shade staring back at you – some people see brown, others green.
But the question that consistently plagues you on some kind of level, whether that’s a buzz at the back of your brain or a drill in your temple, isn’t brown or green. It’s study or work. Distance learning or physical university. Travelling the world or the ease of home life. Healthcare or writing or the media industry. Internships or volunteering. Europe or America or Australia. It’s have you made the right choices so far or should you have done something different? And what’s the next step?
These are mental battles forged in the comfort of privilege, the option to have so many options. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier for you though, does it? Yes, you know you’re lucky to have supportive parents, an economically-sound background, a good education, white skin and a handful of other aspects in life that probably put you in a good position. You don’t have a private education or billionaire parents, connections in high-up (or relevant) places or a bucketful of confidence, but you are definitely privileged.
Nevertheless, or perhaps because of this, you feel directionless. And knowing feelings of anxiety are coming out of a situation of privilege makes you feel guilt. The world’s your oyster, but you’re unsure about how to consume oysters or if you even want to. You’ve somehow found yourself in a fancy restaurant, being offered the most expensive seafood on the menu; you’re surrounded by the chefs, waiting in anticipation for you to make a move. They all want you to try it, they all want you to approve, and to validate what’s in front of you. But hang on, you don’t eat fish and you don’t know how you got here, did you choose this?
At this point you’re not sure who chose what, or if anyone chose anything. You don’t at all wish for a different past path or regret where you are now, but you sure as hell don’t know where the roadmap went for the next part of the journey. Coming up, there’s a fork in the road, wait no, a junction with multiple streets spiralling away from it; the panic specifically reserved for thoughts of the future is making itself known. You’re slowing the car down, trying to keep distance between yourself and the decision-making process but trucks are piling up behind you, horns blaring…
Breathe. That’s the most important thing I want you to remember this year. Be mindful of your breaths, be grateful that your breaths flow in and out every minute of your existence. Remember to deepen your breaths at the start and end of each day; ground yourself. Whenever you feel the panic start to rise, and the anxiety claw its way up your throat, open your airways and feel a forceful, competent rush of air into your lungs. Allow your breaths to steady you, hold you, carry you forward. Let them calm you, soothe you, motivate you. Let the oxygen make you powerful.
You don’t know what you’re doing, but that’s okay. And also, that’s not completely true. You know what your core values are, you know what your passions are, you do have a sense of direction you just haven’t decided on a location yet. And that is honestly fine.
You can face the decisions that lay ahead of you. Perhaps you’ll have to pull over on the side of the road for a while, or send the oysters back and order something else, but things won’t remain this confusing. Maybe you’ll take one road off the junction, realise it’s wrong and turn back. You can always circle the roundabout twice, and perhaps you’ll enjoy the views along the way! If the food makes you sick, spit it out and try whatever’s on the next plate. And remember, either way you’ll reach the dessert at some point, or maybe your car will run out of petrol, but at least you had an adventure.
Lots of love,