You're Not Stuck.
I had breakfast with a friend who's still working on her undergrad. She said post-graduation was so stressful, not because her lack of options, but because she had too many choices. She pined for one grad school or job offer, those circumstances would simply relieve potential of an incorrect choice. The blame would fall squarely on the fact that her hand was forced, it would be a safety blanket.
I felt numb listening to her. Mainly because it coaxed out my senior year monsters. It reminded me that I, too, had options. Not having other opportunities compared with having too many choices was a different type of anxiety. It invited thoughts that following one path could lead to a career. And fresh out of college that's exciting. I'd have hope for a difference, and what seemed more important, I'd have a paycheck.
But then my overactive brain started churning.
I start the job, and eventually I get an apartment, then a car, and maybe even a desk, some responsibility. Then I get a routine, and I get more responsibility, which comes with longer days, and a raise that's supposed to compensate for my lost time. Then I decide I need a significant other. That all sounds fine, but I'm a masochist, so I get married, and I get a house, I get a kid, which means I get leftover mac and cheese my two year old won't eat - highlight of my day. And I get tired, I sip sad, black office coffee, I'm still tired, I get extra pounds, I get old. I got old. I lost energy, I lost that change-the-world spark. I lost my opportunities.
Like my friend, I was terrified to make the wrong choice. But my fears were silly, because at the time I had offers, a few of which were full-time positions. Even still, stress pushed me to seek solutions; I needed information. So my fingers waded through my phone's contact list, and I pried into anyone's life who seemed remotely successful, interesting, or who would let me meddle, for that matter.
I wanted to know what they did, what they had done, do they like where they are, and my favorite question, if they could go back in time knowing what they knew now, would they change anything?
Some of my advisors listlessly spoke of a dream job that seemed out of reach, and then how they let security root them to their current path. Others were perfectly content with where they were, because they'd found solace in post-work pastimes. However, all had a common thread; this was not how life was supposed to go. But life happens anyway, and change is hard. And even those who got away from a mundane desk job, told me to stick with the full time offer. It was safe.
And that's exactly what I did. I took the full time offer, and my pangs of regret were almost immediate. It took me over a year to subdue the throbbing mistake. And to be fair, I sought and took that advice. I was comforted by it. I neglected a key piece of information during my decision process. Me, which was the original point of the conversation.
That brought perspective to my apathy. Perhaps the dull reaction to my friend's issue was exorcised cynicism from my memory grave. Because whilst listening to my friend, I was sad to see her mirroring me. It needed to stop. I was more upset she wasn't emphasizing her own experiences. Her choice was being made through a mish-mash of other people's decisions, not her goals.
Fuck that. Fuck all of that. Her own hoped-for-adventures are worth lending more than a thought. Not those of her parents, friends, professors, non-existent future families, whatever it may be. Because when the time comes, her big girl life decisions are just that - hers.
Toward the end of breakfast she turned to me and said, "but I love seeing you aren't stuck, you're still finding a way to do what you want to do." I'm flattered it seems that way. Yet, it was only recently that I came to the conclusion that I'm far too young to be constrained. And now I idealistically trust that will hold true regardless of age.
My decision to take the secure offer felt wrong at the time, and it still feels so. What has changed is my decision process. So, sure, I'm "stuck" now. But by battling the internal struggle of my unfit choice, I realized that I can always do something about it. Immobility isn't for the motivated. And yes, I do understand that quitting a job to travel at length is not in every person's cards, nor should it be. Otherwise, this advice was for naught. However, my travel could be someone else's move to a new city, learning how to cook, or finding a new hobby. The point is, there is always an opportunity for change, regardless of whether it's natural or forced.
So, for my friend's sake, I sincerely hope she makes a decision based on her beliefs now, and ambitions for the future. Otherwise, she would be doing herself a disservice, and selling herself short.