This past 2 years has been odd on many levels, for many people. My family, like many others, have had quite the rollercoaster. There’s been a growing business, university graduation, A Level results, key workers and relearning how to live together. There has also been bereavement, distance from many family members, and the challenges of studying and leaving university while being locked-down.
These challenges are well known to many school and university graduates, and especially those who have graduated over the past two years. Students and graduates, across many fields, have been required to finish huge academic milestones during a tumultuous and unnerving few years. And yet, so many of us still hear the question “so, what’s next?” on a regular basis.
“A good sleep”, I’m inclined to reply.
I’m writing this, in part, as a way to work through the anxieties that question poses for me. I’ve always been someone who is looking for the next certainty, next job or next passion project. And now, 6 months on from graduating with an undergraduate honours degree, it’s apparent just how much pressure there is to be constantly inspired, constantly vibrant and constantly achieving.
For so many graduates, a good sleep is what they need. And yet, we’re constantly encouraged to glorify a busy, tiring lifestyle.
The glorification of busy is present everywhere. Aside from the same-24-hours-in-a-day controversy rife on the internet at the moment, Kim, Wadwha and Chattopadhyay perfectly demonstrate this point in their article on busy lifestyles in advertising. They show that most popular brands, including Apple and Dunkin’ Donuts, portray and glorify busy lives. Apple’s Siri advert, for example, shows a manically busy day in Martin Scorsese’s life. We see these influential companies correlating success and busyness all the time. We are constantly infiltrated with “so, what’s next?”, in our conversations, expectations and adverts.
So, how do we even begin to navigate this re-entry into busy lifestyle, when the past 2 years have been spent in survival mode?
I have found that the answer lies in prioritising the things that bring me joy, instead of only the things that keep me busy… (Stick with me here).
For example, learning Korean has been part of my answer to the “so, what’s next?” of this year. It’s difficult, it requires concentration, and it naturally forces me to live in the present. What vocab am I learning today? What am I watching in order to hear Korean in a natural setting? When is my next Korean class? Learning a new language has, in a way, liberated me from stress, because it both provides a focus for the present and a promise for the future. More so, Korean is not a box-ticking, achievement exercise for me. I’m not learning it to impress anyone. I’m learning it because it gives me joy, and I chose to do it for myself.
Whatever I do next, I will find quiet time to choose the things I enjoy.
So, what’s next? Aside from a good sleep, I’ll steadily, quietly ask myself to enjoy the present moment. I’ll begin acknowledging where I’m glorifying tired, and not glorifying balance. I’ll forgive myself for falling short of these goals many times (as I’m sure I will!)
Most of all, I’ll keep learning Korean.