Last week, I caught up with an old friend after almost a year and like most conversations ours too invariably reached the topic of our careers. She kept telling me about how she felt existential and demotivated in life because of lack of direction and satisfaction from her job, and that at 22 she felt like she was already going through a mid-life crisis. While it was upsetting to see an old friend go through that, what was more upsetting was the fact that I’d had the same conversation with at least six more friends in the same month itself.

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“I don’t know what to do with my life, I’m thinking of quitting my job because it’s just not me.”

“Everyone else is doing so well and look at me, I think I’m going to be a broke, homeless person.” 

These are all things we’ve either said or heard in the past year. I wonder why an entire generation of young, outgoing, college graduates find themselves at this crossroads – aimlessly working jobs they don’t want, doing multiple certifications one after the other and sidelining their passion projects; all because they can feel socially validated. If you or your friends have ever had such a conversation and can relate to this sentiment, then this article’s for you.

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Here’s a simple exercise, try reading the text below as fast as you can and in one breath:

Now ask yourself one simple thing, did you understand the meaning of that sentence? If yes, you can probably stop reading here and get back to work, but if you didn’t, don’t worry, you’re part of the majority of people who just performed a task they were given without truly evaluating or comprehending it. Most of the time, life is like this – we get out of college, we get a job, some of us go for further studies, and some make more serious lifelong commitments; but most times, even though we think we know what we’re getting into, we find ourselves lost and far from shore.

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We fret from taking time out to get a broader perspective on things because – what if I get left behind while all my peers excel? What will my parents say, or what will my neighbours’ parents say? What we fail to understand is that sometimes taking a month or even six out of your life to truly put things in perspective will prove more fruitful than working a job you hate for the next five years. If we consider our average retirement age as 50, six months of downtime account for 1/100th fraction of your life; don’t you think that’s worth finding your calling?


Here are a few things I learnt in the last six months:

  • It’s okay to take a break and slow down sometimes. Initially you may find yourself intimidated by your friends and family alike, but eventually both you and they will understand that this is the right move.
  • Just because the job is safe, doesn’t mean it’s good. Sometimes you have to ditch the security of a blue chip firm in order to truly identify your strengths and weaknesses. Go work for a smaller firm, maybe even a start-up; I assure you that you’ll end up adding more value both to yourself and the company.
  • Don’t shy away from making mistakes. You only have to be right once.
  • Honesty is the best policy. Be honest to yourself and to your parents about what you really want from life. Many a times that may involve breaking their heart, but eventually they’ll be proud of you for having the gumption to chase your dream.
  • Loathing is counterproductive. It’s okay to indulge in self-pity occasionally, but if you’re doing it all the time, you need to sort out your priorities.
  • Most importantly, You’re not alone. It’s perfectly normal to feel this way, it’s a rite of passage; eventually everything will fall into place.

So if you ever feel out of sorts and conflicted, remember what Captain Jack Sparrow once said –

The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude towards the problem.

Make it a habit to slow down every once in a while and take a breather, think about what you really want from life, and don’t be afraid to go after it; I promise you that a few years down the line it’ll be worth it.

About the author:

Ali Ukani is a 22-year old finance graduate who loves to travel and write, and tries to make a living in the middle.