Today is my 26th birthday. I feel young enough to conquer the world but old enough to realize I’m not far from being in my late 20’s. That’s kind of a scary thought.
Almost exactly a year ago on this day, I put in my notice at my job at an advertising agency. I had no idea what I was going to do except that I was going to start a travel blog to document my solo trip in Spain – the one I hadn’t planned yet. In the two years prior, I’d interviewed and had been rejected from too many jobs to count but still wasn’t desperate enough to accept another agency job. I was 25, jobless, and lost with no direction.
I was also scared. Terrified, really. Despite the fact that the Internet makes it seem like quitting your job is an easy decision that happens with alarming frequency, it’s still one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. The only thing reason I pulled the trigger was because I was more terrified of the status quo: a four-hour commute, an unhealthy work environment, and complete and utter burnout. Despite this, it was felt impossible to envision a future that didn’t look like the job I’d just left behind.
I’d lost my faith that things were going to work out, and I knew my only hope of getting it back was to embrace being lost.
The unknown is scary, you guys. It can be exciting, but for most people, it’s stressful and anxiety inducing. Myself included. When you remove structure and routine from your life, you’re left with the assumption that something amazing or awful could happen at any given moment. As someone who is incredibly impatient and hates surprises, this didn’t bode over well for my life plans. I didn’t see the endless possibilities as opportunities; instead, they paralyzed me. I knew I needed a solo trip to clear my head.
I didn’t leave my job to travel. I left with a round trip ticket, with every intention to get a “real” job upon my return. I had amazing experiences and met extraordinary people. Flinging myself out of my comfort zone with solo travel was the best thing I could have done.
Now, one year later, I’ve come to some conclusions.
I’ve realized that nobody has any idea how life is going to turn out. Zero. You will make plans and they won’t work. You’ll encounter opportunities that you never thought you’d encounter. Things might turn out a little worse than you expect. Or maybe they’ll turn out a little better. Or maybe your priorities will change. Or maybe you’ll learn something about yourself that you never knew.
The best days of your life do not end when you throw your cap in the air at graduation. Despite what everyone says, the best days of your life are now, and are yet to come.
Maybe everyone already knew this. I didn’t. Nothing was worse than coming home after 5 months of post-grad travels than the realization that I would never be able to travel long-term again. I actually thought that my adventurous years were over because it was time to be a grown up and settle for two weeks of annual vacation. I thought the adventurous times were over at age 22. How sad is that?
The best days of my life aren’t just the days I’m getting on a plane or eating new foods or meeting new people. The best days are also the days where I’m blogging at 2 am, brainstorming with my boss, or tackling my never-ending to-do list. But most importantly, the best days of my life are the days where I am consciously grateful for life, opportunities, friends, and family. The best days of my life aren’t a place, but a state of mind.
The best days of your life are now and are yet to come.
I’ve realized it’s okay to be lost. It’s okay to have no idea what you’re doing with your life. It’s okay to be a mess. We’re all a mess, even those that seem to have it together. I’ve realized that all my planning and overthinking and analyzing was for nothing because in the end, things turned out wonderfully and completely differently than I’d expected. If you had told me at age 22 that I would be working remotely and running a travel blog and getting paid for both, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me that a year ago, I would have had the same reaction. I’m so grateful that this seemingly impossible achievement is now my reality.
Today, at age 26, I’m one year older and hopefully much wiser. There is so much more to experience. So much more to see and do and learn. It won’t all be sunshine and rainbows. There will be days where the stress and the anxiety of the unknown take over. Days when I’ll freak out and realize I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I certainly don’t have anything figured out. Now when people ask me how life is, my answer is always the same: “life’s a mess but it’s great.”
We can envision and plan and stress all we want. But the world has so much in store for all of us. The beauty of life is in its messiness and mystery. So don’t worry too much about figuring it all out. Nobody does. All you can do is treat life like one big adventure and embrace the unknown.
Tell me: when was the last time something completely unexpected and amazing happened to you? Share your story!
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