We’ve become multi-generational around these parts.
I won’t point out by name the older of our friends here on the CD. It’s okay, though, to talk about the younger people. Younger people, such as today’s guest poster, Britta Buchanan of It’s a Britta Bottle! blog.
Britta’s on that brink of life we all knew at some point – with school behind us and the rest of our lives ahead of us. She writes brilliantly about the transition and her approach.
I hope her words also serve to remind us that we can find ourselves on this cusp in any part of life. This adventure isn’t exclusive to the young.
You’ll love Britta’s honest, conversational style.You’ll find common ground with her in a love for books, coffee and conversation. Give her a warm CD welcome, and be sure to check out her blog, too.
On Transition Periods and Why I’m Choosing to Let Life Happen
Last year at this time, I wouldn’t have been caught dead living the life I’m living now.
Last year at this time, I had just returned from a summer of interning at the National Postal Museum in Washington D.C. I was incredibly proud of the eight weeks I had spent as a curatorial intern at one of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution’s nineteen museums—even though I learned in the process that being a curator was actually probably the last thing I wanted to do with my life. I loved the research I had engulfed myself in, but I got bored with it rather quickly because that’s all I did. I wanted to do something more than research and writing and I was incredibly thankful I had discovered that during my internship instead of finding myself later unhappy in a graduate program or first job.
Last year at this time, I was preparing for my last year of college and I was nervous and anxious for the future. But I had a year of safety ahead of me, in my quiet little college town with my college friends by my side. A year of safety, where I could figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
It only took me most of the school year to figure out that I didn’t have to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with my life by the time I graduated from college. Nor did I want to.
This last school year was a year of growth for me. A lot of growth. One of the most valuable things I took away from that period of growth?
Anybody who says you have to have your life figured out by the time you graduate from college is full of crap.
And so, today, I find myself living with my parents in my hometown. I work at a gas station espresso bar—a job I love, by the way—and am preparing to head to Thailand in about a month and a half. I’m heading to Thailand to teach English for an unspecified amount of time, and I can’t wait. Because I’m young. I’m twenty-two. I’m heading to Thailand because, in the last few months of my undergraduate career, the idea of graduating and entering the workforce became so unappealing to me. An office job. Working 9-5. I didn’t want that, at least not right out of college. I wanted an adventure…a meaningful adventure. I’ve always wanted to live for a time in a foreign country. I wanted something new, I wanted something different. I wanted to be able to learn and grow from an exciting and worthwhile experience. Over the past year, I’ve developed an interest in education and I find the idea of teaching others so inspiring. So, when I found this Thailand opportunity, I jumped on it.
I have opportunities at my fingertip and I’m going to make the most of them. I don’t have my life figured out and that’s okay. I mean, let’s be real here—what’s life without a little adventure?
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Above, when I said I wouldn’t have been caught dead living the life I’m living now a year ago, I wasn’t kidding.
Living with my parents, working a blue collar job just barely above minimum wage? Not having a definite plan for my future beyond Thailand? A year ago, I would have scoffed at all of this. I had big plans. Museum work. I wanted to move back to D.C. right after graduation. I wanted to prepare for graduate school in museum studies. And I wanted to dedicate my life to museum work.
Because I really loved the concept of that path? No. More so, because I didn’t know what else to do and I needed to have a plan. Because periods of transition scared the hell out of me and because I couldn’t sit around wasting my life.
What I failed to realize last year at this time, was how valuable some down time can be. What I’ve learned in the last year is that big things take time. They take work. They take effort. I’ve learned that you don’t always end up where you anticipated…and that’s okay. Working at a gas station espresso bar is an opportunity that came out of left field and it’s one of the most humbling and most rewarding experiences I’ve ever done for myself. It’s also something I would have stuck up my nose to last year at this time. This job, though…it’s given me the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment I’ve never worked in before. I’ve met so many different people from all walks of life whom I’ve already taken away so much from. This job has gotten me out of the sheltered, comfortable university atmosphere and thrown me into real world situations—and for that, I am unbelievably grateful.
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In the past year, I’ve learned to ignore the people who question my apparent lack of direction in life: “So, you’re going to Thailand in September—what are you going to do after that?” My response—why should it matter? I’m doing something that I truly want to do. I’m going on an adventure that will be life changing.
Yes, I have an idea of the career I want to pursue after Thailand. My dream is to be a genocide educator. I’ve had a weirdly strange obsession with the Holocaust since approximately age twelve; while my classmates in school were reading books about high school drama and catty girls—if they were reading at all—I was picking up and reading every single young adult novel about or related to the Holocaust that I could find. Somewhere around late March, early April, something clicked—I realized that I could turn that interest in some of humanities darkest moments into a passion—a passion for teaching others that “Never Again” should actually, really mean Never Again. So, that’s my dream now. But if I know anything about life, it’s that dreams change. And who knows the person I will become in Thailand.
I’m twenty-two years old. I have Bachelor’s Degrees in History and English. No, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with those degrees so please stop asking. If I had a clear answer to that question, life wouldn’t be an adventure and I wouldn’t be satisfied. Because life is an adventure and people are all too often prone to forgetting that. I am finding that it’s these periods of transitions that can often remind people that the adventure only ends when you choose for it to end—whether that includes uprooting yourself to an entirely new country and culture like I’ll be doing in a handful of weeks, or maybe just picking up that hobby you’ve always wanted to try but have never found the time to. After all, adventure doesn’t have to be big—sometimes the best adventures are right under our noses. Sometimes, it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference.
So, I ask you—think back to the periods of transition in your life….whether it was your own college graduation or something else; maybe relocating to a new area or changing jobs. Perhaps, if you’re much farther along in life than I am, it’s retirement. Think of those periods of transitions, those moments that may have scared you because you were moving away from what was comfortable.
And ask yourself—is it really so bad to not have a clear direction?
Personally, I believe that the most rewarding opportunities come when you least expect them.
Not having a clear sense of direction doesn’t mean I’m not driven or that I don’t have goals. I consider myself a very driven person and I certainly have plenty of goals. Being in this period of transition has taught me a lot, though. It’s forced me to consider my options—I could either melt into a puddle of anxiety (a feeling I am all too familiar with, I might add) and fear the unknown of the future or I could make the most of this time period and welcome the future with open arms. Personally, I prefer the latter option. Of course, that doesn’t mean the latter option is a piece of cake, by any means. In fact, sometimes the latter option is absolutely terrifying—but I also know that, in the end, it will be worth it.
No, not having a clear sense of direction doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams for myself. It certainly doesn’t mean that I’m lost. More so, it just means that I’m open to life happening…and well, isn’t that what life is all about in the first place?
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So yes, I’ve learned a lot in the past year. And I believe I’ve really started living in the process.
Britta is a recent college graduate who is trying her best to live life one day at a time and to its fullest. When she’s not blogging or writing in general, you can likely find her reading–most probably historical fiction, though she delves into other genres now and then, too–daydreaming, doing yoga, or spending time with friends. She spends most of her time these days scooping up milkshakes and pouring coffee drinks at a gas station espresso bar, while preparing to embark on her upcoming adventure to Southeast Asia, where she’ll be teaching English in a Thai school. Follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.