So, you go on this big trip, and it is supposed to change you. It's challenging, revealing, and fantastic. It's a privilege, an opportunity, but most importantly, an “adventure." But what if you show up for your adventure, figure out that it's only the location that has changed, and you’re still the same you you’ve always been?
You had imagined yourself going out every night to museums, lectures, networking events, concerts, and parties. You’ll do interesting, meaningful work that makes a difference and, of course, you’ll always have an Instagram full of spontaneous journeys you and your friends will organically and magically have at least once a week.
But what if you figure out that after your 9-5 unpaid internship, you just want to go home, crawl under the covers, and eat reduced fat popcorn, just like the stereotype you promised you’d be different than? Of course, I’m not having these problems, I’m just looking out for the people who might. So, the question of the week, asked by a concerned reader (because this isn’t about me, remember), is “what do you do when you feel completely unmotivated while on what was supposed to be your consistently satisfying, life-changing adventure?”
1.) Freak out - Good constructive panicking is hard because it is almost impossible to schedule when you panic, but if you can find the right friend who will sit and listen without giving any advice, then freaking out is one of the most important steps to feeling better. Complaining about things is your God-given right and it does the mind a world of good to periodically let go of reason without fear of judgement or being taken too seriously.
2.) Realize that your life is not scripted - I know I’ve had this fantasy before, and I think other people have it too; the one where your life is a TV show or movie, where each experience is formative and every scene is important. I like to imagine my life this way because it make me feel important, like I am part of a larger, overarching narrative and even the bad parts are important because they’re just there for character development.
While I think this can help sometimes, I think it also sets us up to be hurt even more when we get so stuck that we lose the plot. Nobody tells the part of the story where the protagonist has to plan their dinner schedule for the upcoming work week, or when the hero has to stay home on a Saturday cause they spent too much money the last weekend. We are not characters in books or superheroes on the screen; we have to live much more complicated and challenging lives. Lives that include the small, seemingly-insignificant parts, the parts no one wants to read about. I recommend taking this distinction in stride, holding your head high because you live a life far more intricate than anyone could ever write.
3.) Set a goal - Big or small, silly or serious, specific or broad, a defined goal bends that story arc back into your hands. Unfortunately, the burden of giving our lives meaning has been placed in our shaky, clumsy hands. It's comforting and terrifying, but you already freaked out at step 1, so you’re ready for it. To set a goal, you must take yourself seriously, something I have learned is harder than it sounds. Taking yourself seriously takes about 30% self confidence and 70% bravery to try, even when you’re pretty confident that you’ll fail. Right now, my goal is to write this blog every week and while I know my writing won't be changing the world any time soon, I’m trusting that 70% will be worth something anyway.
4.) Be your own best friend - Agent Cooper from the TV show "Twin Peaks" said it best when he told his deputy, and the world, “Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen.” Aziz Ansari, during his hallowed time on the TV show "Parks and Rec," shared a similar philosophical concept in his promotion of a yearly “treat yourself” day. I can’t really expand on this advice, I think it's pretty self explanatory.
These are just some ideas. Transforming your life into the adventure you want it to be is a unique experience and it's even harder than it already looks. Even when you move to a new city, get a new job, and live a completely different life than you ever have before, you can still feel stuck. I would theorize that someone who felt this way might feel guilty for not being as transformed as people and he thought he’d be. This theoretical person might be giving advice he doesn’t always follow himself, but it’d still be good advice.
You can change all the external factors, but ultimately it's up to you to decide to if you are ready to change. So, as some final overarching guidance, I would say a couple last things to someone who felt this way:
- Adventures are much better with other people around
- Your adventure doesn’t have to look like other peoples' adventure
- There are way less montages than TV makes it seem
- It's ok to admit when you’re having a hard time
I hope this helps that concerned reader out there.