Alternative title: Why I Quit My Job With No Plan Other Than to Travel Across the Country and Subsequently Realized That Nobody in Their Twenties Has Any Clue What They're Doing or What They Want, or Why.
"I need to quit this job."
"You know you've been saying that since you got there, right? So why don't you quit?"
"I don't know, because life is expensive and I wanna save up to go back to school."
"But I wanna travel! I wanna go back to Paris and live there for a while and sit at beautiful French cafés... But I also wanna make money."
THE TWENTYSOMETHING DREAM
You know those travel accounts on Instagram with 'inspiring' yet utterly meaningless quotes Photoshopped onto pictures of beautifully blue brochuresque getaways and hashtagged #lifegoals and #travelgram? It's the kind of thing that makes you sit at your desk and think, "That's it – I'm done with the corporate life! I'm quitting my job and traveling the world!"
Then you go out to eat and realize you can barely afford sushi, let alone your dream Eurotrip.
Alas, 'tis the mark of a quarterlife crisis to quit one's job in search of purpose, wanderlust, and freedom from the shackles of corporate slavery. 'tis also the mark of sheer stupidity.
On that note, I quit my job.
It wasn't even one of those epiphanies where you wake up one day and realize that you're wasting your life toiling away at a dead-end job working toward something you're not actually invested in, so you decide to drop everything and chase your dreams. Ok, maybe it was a little bit like that – just a bit more pathetic.
I left my job without much of an idea of what I want to do other than "explore Egypt, get to know people, and tell stories," and without a clue where my income would flow from. That's the twentysomething dream, isn't it? To quit your mundane and meaningless life to go soul-searching, pursuing your passion and meeting people from all walks of life in hopes of renewing your sense of self and finding purpose in the simple things.
And while my Instagram account may tell a different tale, reality did its thing and ran a bulldozer through my expectations.
EXPECTATION VS REALITY
The distance between expectations and reality lies in those #lifegoals and #travelgram Instagram accounts I was just telling you about. Social media lets us curate how people perceive us and exactly what parts of our lives they see, allowing us to fabricate a reality that makes it seem like "chase your dreams" and "carpe diem" are luxurious walks in the park. So while my Instagram is flooded with gorgeous travel photos, reality is that I live alone in an apartment that gets minimal sunlight and has killed my drive to carpe the shit out of any diem. Reality is that I put together an elaborate plan of all the awesome things I want to achieve with this phase of my life, but I end up just staring at the list, getting overwhelmed, feeling stuck and exasperated, then promptly giving up for the day – every day.
But who the hell posts about reality, anyway?
Everybody's busy showcasing a beautiful facade of success, trying to convince others (or themselves, if we're honest) of how awesome their life is. What no one's telling you is that the road to your expectations is paved with mounds of festering shit that you have to push through, taking one step forward and falling on your ass 10 steps back. Instead, you're watching everybody's highlight reel and filling your 'motivational' Pinterest boards with things like "work a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life," meanwhile you've been working your ass off to the point where you're jaded, and now you're just sitting at home eating a family-sized bag of chips and wondering when your reality is going to look anything like your expectations.
Kinda puts Britney Spears' 2007 meltdown into perspective, huh?
So what started out as "I'm going to freelance, go to the gym, and explore Egypt" eventually ended up as somewhat of an existential crisis as experienced in painfully lengthy WhatsApp messages from the vantage point of under my covers.
MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS
What am I still doing in Egypt? Am I going to stay here? Do I move to a sunnier apartment and hope to freelance enough to pay rent?
Should I work part time? Do I find a fulfilling full-time job? What kind of work do I want to be doing right now – or even in the long-run?
Do I want a temporary money-making gig where I can write on the side, or do I want a job where I get to invest myself in something I'm passionate about? What the hell am I 'passionate' about, anyway?
Can I get someone to answer these questions for me instead?
Conclusion: Confusion does not equal failure.
"My world right now is work work work, then travel somewhere in the middle of nowhere."
"Are you happy with the work work work, travel, rinse, repeat situation? Is this what you want for yourself right now?"
"No, this isn't what I want for myself; I'm just trying to get the best out of everything. I'm not sure what I want out of life right now."
"So you're in that stage of 'I don't know what I want, but it isn't this, but I'm gonna stick to this until I figure out what I want'…?"
"I like what I do. I really do. But I don't know how long I want to stay at this stage. There are childhood dreams chasing after me, and a dream to grow and be bigger… and in the middle of all this, you forget to ask yourself the right questions."
Disclaimer: Some of these stories are true, some are embellishments of the truth, and others are entirely fictional. Then again, in the mind of a writer, the line between fact and fiction is all but clear – it's just a matter of getting into character. Which are true and which are tales? That's up to your bullshit radar.