What Comes Next?

I love school. I love the process of learning – the process of connecting ideas and theories to one another. I love learning theory in class and seeing it played out in society or even just in my own life. I finished my undergraduate degree last month and as with any big milestone, it has me feeling, what now? School is safe. I get why people stay there forever. I know the rules in school, I know how to do it. 

Outside of school is like the jungle. There is a new set of rules to adhere to in the workforce. You are at the whim of your employer and their likes and dislikes. 

School has been part of my brand, my identity. People know me as ‘the single mom in school’. But if I’m not in school, who am I? I’m just a working, single mom? That doesn’t seem interesting or exciting. Four the past three and a half years I have had a goal – get to graduation. While COVID may prevent me from actually getting on a stage, I have completed my degree. But what now? The truth is that I debated writing this post because I have no succinct, neat way of wrapping it up in a feel-good bow. I am floundering. I do not have the answers. There are goals I have in my life, such as starting a podcast and writing a book. But right now, my fear is greater than my passion. I knew how to succeed in school. I don’t know how to succeed out here. 

Perhaps the point is that I didn’t always know how to succeed at school. I didn’t give much thought about returning to school. I said to myself I need an education and a job so I need to go to school. It wasn’t until I was actually 3 classes into my semester that I asked myself what the hell I was thinking. I didn’t know how school worked. I got a few C’s and even one failed exam along the way. But I learned. I learned how school worked and I learned that it works as hard as I do. There’s no secret formula to getting A’s. It’s pretty much just show up, do the readings and do the work and ask for help when needed. 

Maybe it’s just that simple in the real world? Show up, research what you need to know, actually do the work that needs to be done, and ask for help.

It’s the last one that gets sticky. In school you’re supposed to ask questions, outside you’re supposed to have answers.

Maybe I am a student at heart because I have always believed that life is about learning the questions to ask and not the answers themselves.

Asking myself who I am now?

Asking myself if that’s even definable?

Asking myself what I want to do?

Asking myself what gives me fulfillment?

Asking myself how to fuel my passions?

Asking myself how do my passions feed my children?

Asking myself why I need to answer all these questions to feel like I can move forward?

Asking myself why I am defining myself by where I am in life rather than who I am in life?

That seems to be the problem with a goal oriented culture because once you reach the goal, what comes next? Searching for a new goal has me contemplating going back to school just to find a sense of purpose once more. But it’s in these murky waters that I know have to swim which offer me the greatest chance for self-discovery. The chance to learn who I am in the silences rather than the noise of busyness. I don’t like it. It makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel restless and lost. 

It’s like when your doctor prescribes a life of healthy eating, vitamins and exercise for longevity and quality of life and you roll your eyes. You know it’s true but all you can think of is ugh in the face of kale and jogging. 

 But growth is never comfortable. It hurts, It aches. It probes. It demands. But above all else, it is necessary for a life lived wholly and fully mine. 

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