Everything is temporary. This isn't a particularly original thought, but it's a phenomenon that we as a species seem to often take for granted. Whether you're staring longingly at the calendar waiting for that vacation or praising the existence of presidential term limits, many of us spend a good deal of our lives waiting for the next thing. But what do you do when what's next might not seem so clear?
The thought feels more relevant than ever as the latest crop of collegiate graduations are pushed out into the real world, a prospect more terrifying than ever before. But for every student with that job lined up and ready to begin "adulting" there's dozens who feel confused and lost as they set for the unknown. And this uncertainty is not just confined to these first few days of post-grad life. Despite the illusion of stability, the outlook of anyone's life can change out of nowhere. Jobs end, leases expire, romances fade and sometimes without warning we have to start all over again.
I don't say these things to try and raise anxiety or send anybody into the fetal position, but because all too often we can try to suppress these entirely normal pains. In a world where so many people around us attempt to construct secure and certain external images, it's easier than ever to feel isolated as a result of these transitions. Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan's recent commencement address at UPenn speaks on the phenomenon, remarking on her own experiences as a "late bloomer" in comparison to the people around her when she was graduating from the same school. And while the subject may not be uncommon for these addresses (Will Ferrell's USC address offered a similar message with a more comedic bent) Egan's account of her youth captures the notion of struggle in ways more eloquent than I could likely hope for. In her experience, she cannot have nurtured her writing talents without this period of feeling uncertain and lost. This realm of mystery is where she found her voice and learned to embrace the journey rather than engage in self-pity for still being on it.
Growth requires work and despite the undeniable pleasures of easy-solutions descending from the heavens, the longer we hit snooze on going through these periods of uncertainty, the harder it can hit. That's not to say it's particularly pleasant at any age. Growth is work, but finding the people capable of understanding and supporting you will only serve you well as you shed the pain of negative influences. These are the people who will hold your hand as you trek through the chaos, but also will allow you to venture off and develop as an individual. Everything is temporary but by caring for yourself and finding people who will do the same, you may just be able to get where you're meant to, not just where you expected to.