SELFCARE SUNDAY - COPING WITH AN INSECURE FUTURE

06:32:00

When one of you said dealing with an insecure future was one of their biggest mental health struggles I could relate so well. Since graduating high school there have been so many crossroads for me, where I had no idea where I would be in a year or even in four months. I have moved at least every 9 months throughout my bachelor, started new in eight different cities across six countries and three  continents over the past six years of my life and yet again with a finished Master degree I still have no real idea where I am headed next.

Not knowing your future is stressful in itself. You need to be constantly alert, able to adapt to all changes and obviously you are highly dependent on other people´s decisions, which you have almost no influence on. Be it uni courses, jobs, semesters or years abroad... very often you have to apply for these things and hand your faith and future over to another person you highly likely never met. And if this person decides you are unfit for whichever position you applied for, you also have to deal with crushing self doubts. Especially if  you struggle to see your worth outside of feedback from others or doing "well" (whatever that means to you) or if you are afraid of rejection (hello it me) applications can easily be detrimental to your mental health and sense of self.

On top of that with an abundance of choices presented to you at all times, you constantly feel insecure about your choices. I feel like this applies more than ever in your mid twenties, when people around you at the same age can have completely different lifestyles. I am 26. Some of my friends are still in uni, some like me are spending time abroad, some are working full time and some are expecting babies. Some are dating, some are single and some are planning their wedding. And with all of these different lifestyles around me I feel like a kid in a candy store, that simply cannot choose. I adore an alternative lifestyle, taking time off, going with the flow, living abroad and experiencing new cultures, foods, people every single day. But I also love journalism and want to make my five years of studying and ten years of working in the field worth it. I want a career, I want to do well and I wan to be known for my stories. And on the other hand I have always dreamt of being a mum, I am deeply romantic and adore the idea of marriage and finding a person you are certain you want to spend your life with. So here I am and I feel like it is time for me to make a choice, to choose one of the myriads of roads in front of me and then follow it - only I am terrified if I miss my exit then I may never get to go back and try driving on the other roads.



This feeling of infinite choice, while simultaneously being fully dependent on other people´s choices to open up doors for you can be crushing. It stops you from fully enjoying what you are currently doing and constantly trying to figure out what would be best for all of the options presenting themselves. While it may seem like I am only living it up in Australia, I have been finishing up multiple very work intensive applications for journalism traineeships at home in Germany and have already been rejected from some of them, which to be honest crushed me.
While I try to enjoy the summer here in Australia and maybe for the last time in my life being without a full time job, I need money to continue travelling and feel like I should actually be offering much more stories for my freelance radio job at home. And with all of this I have no idea where I will be living after March, which obviously makes the classic relationship plan of: meeting, dating, moving in together, getting engaged, marriage and children very very difficult and yet more time spend long distance with my boyfriend that much more likely.
I love Melbourne and could see myself living here for a while, but I am also crossing all my fingers to get my dream job. I enjoy life here on the other side of the planet and love my friends here, but I also miss my boyfriend, family and friends dearly. I am stuck in this continous limbo and really have no idea where I am heading next, what the best option is and what choices to make. I often feel like I am not living any of my thousand options to the fullest and like I am never doing enough. On the other hand I also cannot influence the biggest decisions in my life, because I am still waiting on people judging my applications and deciding if I am good enough. The applications are sent and I have zero influence on how people perceive me based on some documents, grades, recommendation letters and samples of my work. Obviously non of this is great for my mental health.

So what can we do when we deal with an insecure future? How can we go about this the right way? Much like all other struggles I do believe these times of radical change can teach us a lot about ourselves. For example I had to and want to slowly learn to detach my self worth from outside judgements. While it is nice to look at your accomplishments and be proud, if you are only loving yourself when you do well or are productive, you do not truly love yourself. Yes people can reject me from jobs, hey maybe I am not the greatest journalist of all times, maybe my applications for Master degrees were rejected, but despite all of that I am still a warm person. I am brave and adventurous. People trust me with their most intimate stories and I don´t let myself be held back by what I am supposed to do or not to do. And nobody can ever take that away from me. So while it is nerve-wracking and terrifying to not know what happens next in your life, it also forces you to reevaluate yourself again. To focus on things outside of societal expectations such as degrees and money and jobs and find what truly makes you you. And even what makes you truly happy. So try to embrace that, try to let go of this continuous feeling of having to perform and see what makes you so loveable outside of a capitalistic need to be productive.


Next to this, these periods of challenge are another chance to let go of pressures, self hatred and self doubt and an opportunity to learn to take care of yourself - and to reach out. When writing my Bachelor thesis I was going through an accute mental health crisis. I was so terrified of my future, was not sure if going back to Germany made me weak or if choosing to move to my boyfriend´s city went against my feminist instincts. I was so intensely stressed, I felt like I was falling apart, but I never really showed this. Neither my boyfriend nor my friends realised how much I was struggling and I felt so alone during this time. But I also never really had reached out to anybody or let anybody in on how vulnerable I felt because I could not bear to seem weak.
Two years later, when writing my Master thesis I had learned from this. I learned to reach out, to talk to my friends about my struggles and especially I learned to slow down and take time off as much as I could. I learned to not beat myself up for not eating perfectly or working out regularly on top of two jobs and my thesis. I actually learned to communicate my feelings so people around me would realise what I needed. And while my Master thesis was no more fun or less stressful than my Bachelor one I felt so, so much more understood and happy throughout it.

So in conclusion as hard as it may be try to net let periods of transition or insecurity break you, but see them as periods of learning. Learning to reevaluate how you understand your sense of self and especially self worth. Learning how to take better care of yourself and reach out. Learning to let go of expectations of others and society and find what really works for you. And to be less hard and judgmental with yourself. Your twenties are a crazy time. They challenge you in incredibly ways, they teach you so much, they make you terrified. But they can also be so so so intensely fun. Never will you have as much time to learn about yourself, build true friendships, find a path that works for you, party, travel, have hungover brunches, text cute boys, try to figure out what happened last night, hop on a plane to the other end of the world... so instead of continously trying to figure out what´s next maybe just enjoy them. Including the insecurity, including all the options. You do not immediatly die at 30. You can have kids and a marriage in your mid thirties or not at all and you can change career paths at 50. So breathe in, breathe out and let some of this stress go and simple LIVE YOUR LIFE! And maybe try to love it while you are at it.

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Thanks so much for your lovely comments, constructive criticism and suggestions. I will try to answer all of you!

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