When I was in college, I was often told that I should find a good job after graduation and make a career out of it. I heard it so many times, that I did it. Right after graduation, I started an internship in an international organization and got hired right after. It was a job I had always wanted but somehow I got bored after a couple of months. I lived in one of the most beautiful cities in the world; my salary and job were nice. But somehow I was not enjoying my life so much. I was bored and very uncertain that my creativity would survive spending five days a week in front of a computer screen. I was wondering what work could mean when you are a twenty-something today.
What do I want?
Being an expert in one field sounds appealing, but personally I do not have a strong interest in just one topic to dedicate my time to on a daily basis. I started asking myself questions about my ideas of success and career. When you are young, enthusiastic and just out of school, I wondered, why are you asked to fit in the corporate world? The transition from student life to corporate life is not easy. You essentially move from a universe where you are encouraged to think for yourself and structure your own spare time, to a completely new world. But what is the purpose of that?
Do I really want stability and the 9-to-5 schedule that comes with it? Do I need to follow ideas and dreams from another generation? And beyond anything else, why do I feel lost even though I just finished my studies and got the job I thought I wanted? After a few months in the corporate world, all I wanted was to feel like myself again.
And so I left…
I was fortunate enough to start my life as a grown-up without any student loans to repay and have been able to save up during my well-paid graduate job, giving me the luxury of being myself somewhere else without too much financial pressure. It was scary to leave everything behind for the world. I wondered how I could justify that I had not even completed a year at work the next time I would apply for a job. I was also worried about entering the market at an older age than my friends. But I realized I was too young to be this cautious. After all, I do not have children to provide for or a mortgage to pay. I was sure there was something else to do when you are in your twenties. For me, it was now or never.
As Steve Jobs once said, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. And here I am. Listening to the whispers that push me in another direction, those that are telling me there is much more to live, and that a more exiting path is waiting for me. I believe we shouldn’t define adulthood through your career and ultimately your social position. Adulthood should be an exciting beginning. You have spent years educating yourself and now you are qualified to start working. You are also healthy and young enough to enjoy outdoor activities, travel the world, and most importantly grow your personality through new experiences. In my opinion, it is impossible to define yourself only through your degree and focusing too much on your job might not be the best move.
I decided to travel to Southeast Asia because I was already familiar with this region of the world and absolutely loved it. I started first with Thailand, one month ago. I’m now writing these words from a hostel along the Mekong River in Laos where I had never thought I would go. But life has this unexpected way of surprising you and here I am with my new friends. You never know what will be next and you can not fully predict your future.
This is the story of my own happiness. I’m not telling you blindly to quit your job and travel the world. Only, I couldn’t grow as a person through my career, at least not yet. On a recent holiday during my winter break I realised what I needed was to meet people my age with completely different lives and backgrounds – and traveling was the answer.
There are many other ways to find yourself and you do not need to be far away from home to distinguish what you want to be from what society wants you to be. My own reflection started not so far away from home in front of my computer. There are many paths in life, and I hope you’re able to choose yours without any external influences. Sometimes, it only takes a couple of minutes to make a new decision, only a couple of minutes to be brave enough to follow your heart.
Have you ever changed your life?
This is a guest post by Aurélie Rousseau (with additional photos by Tomáš Dančo).
Aurélie graduated from a business school one year ago and recently decided to take a year off to travel the world. She is constantly documenting her travels through photos she posts online. She aims to inspire people to embrace the life they are wishing for. Follow her on Instagram