Coming Back to Reality

So, the world’s come back to you in some way. Whether you’ve been travelling, living abroad, daydreaming, planning for the future, or you’ve just generally been away from where you’ve settled either figuratively (sitting in your head, wondering about what comes next) or literally (perhaps living and studying abroad as I have been this year), the time eventually comes for you to return and start making decisions about what comes next.

Maybe you’ve had something planned and you need to simply put those plans into action. Maybe you had something waiting for you and you just need to start. Maybe you have no idea what you’re doing whatsoever and yet the time has arrived and you can’t wait anymore, you simply have to do. It happens to all of us at one point or another. Perhaps you’ve just finished school and now there’s no adults guiding you in the right direction, it’s up to you to decide what comes next, or perhaps the end of the year’s coming up and you’ve decided, once January 1st hits, you’re going to make a change that’ll make you happier, or perhaps, like me, you’ve returned from a life-affirming jaunt that’s got you contemplating life and the future and you come back to… well… nothing really and it’s time to make something happen. There comes a point for all of us (sometimes multiple points throughout life) where something ends and you need to make something else begin. The hardest part can be making that beginning, knowing where to start, what to do. I wonder if it ever gets any easier.

I’d like to think I could sit here and offer advice, but I’ll be honest, I don’t know if anyone can offer all the right tools to make this a perfect transition for another. For my specific instance, I’ve returned from a trip aboard where I lived as an expat exploring an amazing part of the world, and now I’ve got to figure the rest of my life out. It’s daunting. It was daunting before my trip away. It was daunting as my time as an expat came to an end. It’s still daunting now. I gave myself a deadline, some time to adjust, and now the deadline is here and I’ve got to make some decisions.

Long-term, I know what I want, and I imagine it’s the same for a lot of people. You have goals, you know where you want to be, perhaps you even know sort of how to get there. The problem is getting there. Is it the first step that’s hard? Is it the middle bit that’s confusing? Maybe it’s the ending, you’ve got it all figured out right up until you finally get there. Usually, when we make goals or plans, we have steps in place but there’s murky bits in the middle. Some people decide they’ll figure it out when they get there. For others, that’s a frightening idea and if we don’t have every stepping stone in place, then we’re not going to make the first move. (That’s me, by the way. I don’t like the not knowing part. Even though I’ve certainly grown as a person during my time away from my true home, there are some parts of me that will never change, and being someone who needs to know everything always is just who I am as a person).

That’s another thing, right? Time away leads to growth, changes in a person, alterations in who you are and what you want and what you like and all these other things that make a person who they are. Then, when you return, you see that, whilst you’ve changed, nothing else really has. I have to be honest, it’s disorienting returning to the world. There’s been a few days, maybe even a few weeks where I sort of drifted through the world, wondering at how trivial things are and how strange the real world is. It can be bizarre to experience something amazing and life-changing and then return to a place where nothing has changed. To come back and realise you simply need to get on with life can almost be alienating. I had been so ready to come home, but once I returned and saw that everything here was as I had left it, it made me keen to go away again. And that’s nothing to do with the people here, the home I have, the family and friends I adore, it was all to do with me, how I felt changed and saw no change in the world. It’s disorienting when you need to come back to reality, whether that’s after living abroad, finishing a certain degree of education, or taking a good, long, hard look at what you want and deciding you need to make a change.

Time is the key factor. Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t take your time with, responsibilities return very quickly and you have to get back to reality in double-time to keep up with certain aspects of the world. That is, tragically, the way the world works and sometimes you don’t get all the time you need.

But where you can take time, you should. Some decisions simply shouldn’t be rushed. I’ve been readjusting to the world as slowly as I can manage whilst giving myself deadlines that give me some time before I make any big, lasting changes. When you’ve just finished schooling, whether that be GSCEs (or the equivalents across the globe) or your postgraduate degree, everyone takes the time they need to jump into what’s next. Some will go straight into work, others will meander. If you’ve been travelling, when you return to the place you think you’ll settle, it can take time to decide what’s next. If you’re working and decide you want something else, take the time you need to make decisions that may have a lasting effect. That’s not to say never be spontaneous, but sometimes, life decisions need time to stew.

I have been taking time, and the time I’ve needed is slowly coming to a close. I know what I want in the future, I know what kind of life I want to lead, but those are long-term goals. At this very moment, I’ve got to make decisions about the here and now. For my desired future, there’s still planning that needs to be done, lists I’ve got to check off, but these short-term goals, well, they’re approaching, and quickly too. I gave myself the time I knew would be necessary, and whilst delaying further might be more comfortable, there does come a point where you need to decide that you’ve given yourself enough time and now you need to get on with it. I’m certainly not a procrastinator, and whilst I would enjoy nothing more than setting out more of those stepping stones I know I’ll need for the future, I’ve got to get on with these short-term goals, and their time has arrived.

The future is a daunting concept, I think that’s what this all boils down to. Whenever you come to a crossroads or you come to a road you haven’t travelled down before where those around you are no longer guiding you and you have to do it alone, that’s what makes the future daunting. There are always people about for advice and guidance, that will always be true, but you reach a point where you have to make those big choices on your own, you don’t have teachers or parents or carers to make those decisions for you. That’s frightening because it means, from this point on, you’ve got to do it. It’s important to remember you don’t ever have to do these things without some help because no one goes through life entirely alone no matter what people might tell you, but you do need to make these decisions for yourself and, ultimately, by yourself, you can’t let others do these things for you.

Coming back to reality from wherever you’ve been requires a lot of perseverance, forethought, planning, decision-making. Those things aren’t easy. Sometimes you have some of the road mapped but maybe you don’t have all of it. Reality is daunting. I said earlier that I don’t think I’m quite able to offer advice because a lot of the path people walk is their own to walk, but I certainly have tips that help me when reality is approaching and I need to deal with it.

It’s Temporary.

No matter what you’re going through now, it is temporary. You might be dealing with things that cause you inordinate stress and you can’t see a way out, but there will always be ways out, there will always be opportunities that arise that can allow you to move along.

I remember being in school and listening to people say, when you’re stressed, you need to alleviate that stress, take control. At school, that’s not quite possible. You’re of an age where you have to listen to those around you, there are commitments you have to adhere to, and whilst adulthood comes with its own responsibilities, childhood and teenager-hood certainly come with an education system that is full of perils, giving you stress you can’t always escape from.

So I know it’s tough if you’re in school, but it is temporary. Whether you’re excited to move onto higher education or excited to move out of education entirely, it will come to an end and other paths will open. There is absolutely nothing permanent about anyone’s circumstances, and whilst certain aspects may last longer than others, knowing there is an end in sight if you are looking for an end can help you get through the present when you’re looking forward to the future.

Change is Always Possible.

Similar to what I said above, given what you’re going through now is temporary, that means change is coming, change you can enact yourself. Again, at school, there is less you can do and you simply have to get through it and look forward to the future, finding other ways to make the present bearable, but once you reach adulthood, you are responsible for your life, for your decisions, for your present and future.

If you’re unhappy, you have to make the change. It can be frightening, sometimes coasting is comfortable, routine is, ultimately, what most people crave, but if you need to make a change, it is possible. Sometimes there are other steps necessary to make large and lasting changes, but it’s never an impossible task to alter your circumstances. You can get help too, advice, guidance, other people are always about to ask, and you can make the changes you need to in order to make your life what you want it to be, in order to shape the reality you want to live. Like I said above, no one’s circumstances are permanent and part of that is because you can be the one to make the changes you need to live the life you want.

You’re More Capable Than You Realise.

Sometimes, making those changes that are possible seem impossible. As humans, we can often fill ourselves with self-doubt, we do not always believe in our own capability. Our life is ours to live, and you’ve been doing it all this time, so allow yourself to continue doing it. There are a lot of circumstances out there that we can’t control, but there is also lots that we can, and choosing paths for our happiness is one of them. We can choose careers, education, hobbies, who we spend time with. We have so much more capability than we believe, and realising that can really help you make the changes you need for the life you want.

I was once told by a teacher that it was the fools in life who had inherited all the confidence, and, tragically, it’s rather true. Fools don’t think about the future, fools don’t worry about perception, fools go through life with confidence because they don’t feel any need to be self-conscious, they don’t think as much as other people do. I certainly don’t want any fools out there to be insulted by this, I simply want everyone else to see that this confidence that certain people live with is something we can all have; confidence gives you power, and it’s a power most don’t realise they can have access to.

I’m not advocating for anyone to become a fool, but maybe there is something about this confidence fool’s have that we could all use. It is important to think, and sometimes there is reason to be concerned about perception, and thinking about the future is no negative thing, but we should have belief that we know what we’re doing and what we want. Reality sometimes springs up on us and we might think we don’t know what we’re doing, but we do, and we should believe that we can carve the future we want, because we can. Don’t let the fools in life be the only ones with the confidence to navigate through the hurdles life throws at us. Fools don’t think about their own capability, they don’t need to, they don’t fill themselves with self-doubt, so why should anyone else? If a fool’s capable, then so are you.

You’ve Done it Before, You Can Do It Again.

You may not always realise it, but there is no doubt that you have made decisions like these in your past. They might not always be as large as deciding which university to go to or what career to change into it, but we make decisions all the time. Yes, sometimes that means deciding on what to have for dinner or which route home we’re going to take, but life is filled with decisions, and these little ones we’ve made should be the proof that we can make bigger decisions too.

Sometimes we’ve made decisions that don’t lead the way we want, things don’t always work out the way we expected them to. When we’re trying to decide on something as enormous as education, career change, moving away from home, we see decisions we made in the past and how they worked out differently and that impacts our belief in our ability to make the right decisions, but it shouldn’t.

Not everything works out. That is because, as people, we were not given the gift of foresight. But even when things don’t work out, it shouldn’t knock our confidence in our capability, it should reassure us that, in the past, we’ve made those decisions, we had that power to alter our circumstances in some way. You did it once, you can do it again. We should not be beaten down by the past, but invigorated by it. Some decisions are larger than others, but don’t let that scare you, let it motivate you.

Ultimately, You Have the Power.

Your life is your own. You’re the one who controls it, who makes decisions, you’re the one who knows what you want most. Other people can offer guidance, other people can show us the path they walked down, but you need to make decisions for yourself, for your own happiness, and that means you have the power. You are the only one who can decide what is best for you, and that gives you the power you need to deal with reality.

Sometimes even that power is daunting, to know that you are the one who controls your life is frightening. Being told what to do and what is best can offer an enormous amount of comfort, so looking to others can be what many covet. But when you reach adulthood, whilst there are people who can tell you what to do, that doesn’t always mean they know what’s best. Ultimately, only you know that, you know what you want, you know what would make you happiest. Other people are there for help and that’s great, but you have the power for your own life and you should definitely use it. Don’t ever live for anybody else. Sure, sometimes you have dependents who may require you to alter some of the life you lead, but where you can live for yourself, make sure you do. Your happiness is yours to create and you should always remember that.

With all that in mind, if you’re someone who is coming back to reality and facing the real world in some way or another, I know you can forge the path you need to. You don’t have to do it by yourself, but make sure you do it for yourself, even if it’s frightening. Why don’t we do it together?

Robyn x

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