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If you’re anything like me, you’ve read a ton of articles about finding the right career path or how to pursue your goals. You know the articles I’m talking about right? The ones that list pointers and ask you to write down what you’re good at (you have no idea), your interests (Netflix?), and visualize your ideal work environment (wherever you get paid). Then they tell you to “go for it” and “have courage” because the future is yours! It all sounds dramatic and you write down a solid to-do list, and you’re like heck yes. You take a second to check Facebook, text some friends, and a few hours later, your roadmap to success has transformed into another scrap of paper. You’re over it.

For some people, finding their passion came naturally. They sang in talent shows before they could even walk and now they’re on Broadway. Meanwhile, you’re having a quarter-life crisis wondering why you haven’t figured it out yet. Deep down, you do want to have those sleepless nights with bags under your eyes, working toward something you love. The issue isn’t your willingness for grit, it’s that you don’t even know where to start.

The truth is, it’s easy to get caught up in what you think you’re supposed to do or where to be – especially when your parents have expectations or when the goal is based on the size of your paycheck. On top of that, social media makes you painfully aware of the differences between your life and the lives of others. But it’s okay to be unsure of where you’re going. It’s okay that you don’t want the same things other people do. In fact, not all dreams should be pursued, and not all passions should be made into a career. On the flip side, just because something isn’t a career path doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it for the sake of pure enjoyment. The best part of not knowing exactly where to go or what to do, is just that – you don’t know where to go! It doesn’t have to be dreadful or frustrating, it should make you excited about life.

Fortunately, there are a million ways to stumble upon your dreams. Personally, I’m a big fan of wandering. This doesn’t mean you have to travel the world because let’s be honest, that’s pretty unrealistic. You’re not Julia Roberts in Eat.Pray.Love. What I mean by wandering is simply being open to what’s new and interesting, whatever that may be. If you’re in school, check out some new clubs. Not in school? Join Groupon & try new activities! Pick a non-profit that you believe in and volunteer! I think one of the best things you can do is to conduct as many informational interviews as possible. Expand your network. Not only can you gain mentors this way, but it will help you learn (without experiencing it firsthand) if the path could be right for you.

Think of this as a deductive process: keep checking things off that you don’t like, and as a result, you’ll be many steps closer to finding what you’re looking for. Safe to say, this is not a passive kind of wandering. You have to make sure that you wander honestly and unapologetically.

By that, I mean it’s not always fun or easy. Many times when people talk about pursuing dreams, they paint a pretty picture: Follow your heart, work hard, and you’ll live happily ever after. Yeah, sure. What I never read about is the emotional toll it takes on you and your relationships. You may find yourself feeling guilty, anxious, or even wrong when making decisions that are for you, and not anyone else. It’s the scariest thing on earth, but that comes with the territory. You can’t find your passion by lying to yourself.

While you are beginning to change and finding your place in the world, the people you love may not be down for the ride. You can’t blame them – they didn’t sign up for it, they didn’t agree to it, and it’s not their path. Because of that, their opinions can hold you back despite their best intentions. The more you grow, mature, and learn more about yourself, the more you may realize that some people around you aren’t meant to stick around. Brace yourself for the possibility that you may have to go through the journey without their blessing, but it’s only meant to make room for new people who deserve to be in your present and future. That’s not a comfortable idea, especially when “where you are” isn’t even bad at all. But if you want to be 80-years-old and in awe of the life you’ve lived, settling won’t get you there.

I can’t say there’s a “right” or “better” way to handle those situations, because the solution lies in your own personality, values, and what you can handle. All I can say is try to make the right decisions for you and be prepared to trust them wholeheartedly when they are questioned. Trust that they will lead you to where you belong. Trust that they will cultivate a life filled with love and genuine happiness in whatever path they take you. Trust that by being yourself, you will naturally attract others similar to you, and will push you to be better at whatever it is you embark upon. Success and happiness is different for everyone, so define yours. Just look at that girl who quit her $95k job to live on an island.

There’s a famous saying, “If you don’t write your own story, someone else will.” So make some big decisions and make some small ones that feel purposeful and fulfilling to you. Learn to take one fearful step in front of the other, and I promise the next step will be less wobbly than the last.

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CultureHealth

“I think we’d like life to be a train… You get on, pick your destination and get off. Every day, you have to see where the wind is and check the currents and see if there’s anybody else on the boat with you who can help out. It’s a sailboat ride — the weather changes and the currents change and the wind changes. It’s not a train ride. That’s the hardest thing I’ve had to accept in my life. I just thought I had to pick the right train — and I worked hard to pick the right train. And darned if I didn’t get off at the end of it and find out that was just a midway station.”

– Barbara Brown Taylor

As so poignantly said by Barbara Brown Taylor, life is not a straight shot path. And that itself is a lesson that so many of us have to unlearn. The timelines, deadlines, and benchmarks of life condition people to think that moving forward means moving in a predetermined, sequential order. Midterms to finals to graduation. High school to college to career. So when an event or decision veers us in another direction, anxiety ensues. Why are things not going as planned? Why isn’t it easy to stay on course? Some people are able to, so why not me?

The problem with these questions is that they are asked on the basis that veering off in life is unfavorable, incorrect, or negative. The funny and elusive fact about life, however, is that deviating from the expected order can be positive and beneficially life-changing.

Ever heard of “Slash Careers”? It’s when an individual with multiple interests pursues multiple careers successfully. Yeah, it’s a thing. There are people out there who start off pursuing a career that they had always planned on but additionally spend time in their already-busy lives to grow an additional vocation. Think a lawyer/filmmaker or therapist/violin maker (that’s real, check out his story and more here!). If you allow yourself to act on your interests, adding a “slash” to your life might be what you need to feel more whole. It’s definitely not something that everyone plans on, but it may just be the adjustment that binds your career(s), passions, and purpose together.

It’s ingrained in all of us to hold on to things. To hold on to plans, people, and expectations. If we always do this, we risk opportunities to create something new and our potential to live freely. Looking for a new job or losing the one you have, changing your college major, taking longer than expected to graduate, backpacking through South America, applying to graduate school or deciding not to, anything and everything that we may not have seen for ourselves, can be a possibility to reroute. We can try to live from point A to point B, but definitely not all the time. There needs to be an awareness and acceptance of life’s true trajectory. It’s not a line, it’s a design that’s yet to be made.

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Culture

In life, we end up settling for a lot of things. We settle for the salad instead of the burger we’ve been craving all week, or for the steady job instead of pursuing our dream career in music or art. We settle for the little things, and then the big things, and keep telling ourselves that in the end it will be for the better.

Unfortunately, life is short. The message of Carpe Juvenis is to #SeizeYourYouth and to live your life right now. Don’t wait for later to pursue your passions. And with this comes the idea of never settling.

A lot of the time we coordinate the phrase “never settle” with the concept of relationships. But not settling applies to all aspects of life and is something that you should live your life by. You never know when a chapter in your book is going to be closed or a page might turn, which is why it is important to do what you love and be happy doing it and to never settle. We spend such a huge portion of our lives caring what other people will think of us if we wear our favorite orange sweater out in public or if we decide to go to the gym even though we’re desperately out of shape. Instead of caring about what others think, care about what you think and do whatever brings you joy and the feeling of accomplishment.

At the end of the day, your happiness is most important. And while there’s no time frame on chasing your dreams, you won’t be young forever. Live your life to the fullest, seize your youth, and never, ever settle.

Here are some real life examples for daily ways to keep yourself from having to settle:

  • Work hard in school and complete all assignments on time so you don’t have to settle for a college or job you don’t truly want
  • Stay dedicated to your job so you can afford to purchase that item you’ve been saving up for
  • Hold your friends accountable to being on time and following through on commitments (and do the same!)
  • Plan study dates with friends so you can get the A you need to keep your GPA high
  • Practice for an interview ahead of time so that you don’t bomb it and have to settle for a different job you’re less excited about
  • Eat a healthy homemade meal so you can enjoy an indulgent treat later in the day, guilt-free
  • Go window shopping with your friends instead of going on a shopping spree so that you can continue to pay your bills on time

Image: Gratisopgraphy

Culture

We are all afraid of making the wrong choice and it doesn’t help that we constantly have our family and friends telling us what we should or shouldn’t do. When we have so many people giving us advice, how do we ultimately decide what to do with our lives? This question is one that has been asked many times and, because of that, there are so many answers. However, the only one that comes to mind is to take the road less traveled.

This advice is not my own, of course. But if you’re familiar with Robert Frost, then you have read his poem ‘The Road Not Taken.’ It’s a short poem that is seemingly about someone who comes across two paths in the woods, but one of the most magical things about poetry is that it can be interpreted in many different ways. With that said,  when the narrator in the poem says that he (or she) “took the road less traveled by,” I immediately think of the unknown, and how scary it is to do something that no one else you know has done before or to go somewhere where no one you know has gone.

Some people push through the fear of the unknown and open themselves up to an adventure, only to find out, in the end, that it “has made all the difference” in their lives, in the way that they look at life, etc. Then there are the people who are terrified to take their own path because they don’t have a shiny, crystal ball at their disposal. These are the people who don’t do what they want to do with their lives because they don’t know where their dreams will take them, but they do, for example, know where majoring in the major their parents choose or getting into the family business will lead them. They have these pre-planned maps laying in front of them, telling them which paths to take to get them to a destination and, for most people, that’s less-intimidating than not knowing where their life will end up.

But you have to remember that not all roads are straight; they wind and bend and sometimes things fall on them, blocking you from finishing the journey that you started. In other words, even with a life map, you can get misguided and led astray. You aren’t free from obstacles just because you’re taking the road that everyone else has traveled.

Life doesn’t simply go from point A to point B. There are so many other things in-between that prevent you from getting to B, and if B is not truly your desired destination, what is going to motivate you to get you there? Yes, it’s scary not knowing where you’ll be five, or even ten, years from now, but even with a ‘safe plan,’ things can go wrong and the future you thought you would have might not be the one you get.

No one is sure of what their future holds and that is why the only way to see your future is to get there. Don’t waste your time moving toward a future that you don’t really want because not only will it be harder to arrive at but you won’t be happy in the end. So think about where you want to be years from now and get there. It doesn’t matter where ‘there’ is, as long as you put all of your energy into reaching a desired destination instead of a destination that you know you don’t really want to reach.

If you want to go to medical school or visit every continent at least once, then make sure you take the road that will allow you to follow your heart because your heart is the only thing that matters when it comes to planning out the rest of your life. Your family and friends might say they know what’s best for you, but only YOU know what that is. And the greatest mistake that you could ever make is choosing to travel down a road where you’re not too fond of the destination. If you’re not happy about where your life is going, that is your heart telling you that you are heading in the wrong direction.

I know that following your heart can be just as terrifying as the unknown, but you don’t want to live a life of regrets; you don’t want to look back when you’re older and ask ‘what if.’ It doesn’t matter if people say that the journey to medical school is hard or if everyone around you thinks that experiencing the world is not as important as getting an education. You do what is right for you, not because it’ll make life any easier (because it won’t) but because you’ll be more motivated to reach the end of that road you chose to travel down. With your desired destination or goal in mind, you can achieve anything, be anything, and do anything you want with your life. The sky is not your limit, because there are planets above the sun and the moon and the stars. Yes, you will encounter obstacles. Yes, the road will wind and bend and, at times, it will be too dark to see what lies ahead, but as long as you remember to always follow your heart, it won’t ever lead you astray.

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