Throughout my college career - especially during my senior year - I was constantly plagued by this underlying feeling that I wasn't doing enough. Even though I maintained a decently high GPA and got good grades, I always put myself down and compared myself to other students who seemed to have their entire future put together.
This feeling was heightened as graduation grew closer and as I began hearing more and more of my peers announce that they had secured a job for immediately after graduation. Either that or they had been accepted to prestigious fellowships, internships or academic programs. I didn't have any of that, though.
My degree became virtually meaningless to me, and severe anxiety about my future professional and academic career consumed my mind for a while. I was constantly thinking things like, "That person knows exactly what they want to do with their career. Why don't I?" and "That person already has a job lined up for after graduation with their dream company...why can't I find a job too?" It stressed me out to the point of sickness - for the entire month before graduation and for several more after, I found myself always nauseous, and I couldn't sleep for more than three to four hours a night.
That kind of insecurity and anxiety is one that I think many millennials and young adults can relate to, unfortunately. In today's world, having a college degree or a trade certification isn't enough - it's barely worth celebrating. This is plainly understood when looking at the media, which pumps out endless stories about young people graduating with record amounts of degrees or honors, becoming the CEO of their own company, earning a million-dollar salary, rising to the top of their respective industries in a few short months, etc....the list goes on and on. It's even clearer to see when professors, counselors at school and even friends and family bombard you with questions about your "plans for the future" or about what you'll do after graduation - and any answer that's a little bit fuzzy or that includes the words "I don't know yet" or "I'm still figuring it out" causes a wave of disappointment and pity to wash over their faces as they condescendingly say things like "Oh, well...good luck!"
All the time I spent hating myself and thinking I was stupid, useless to society, a failure, etc. eventually led me to ask: "Why?" Why are young people expected to know what they want to do with their lives down to a T? Why do we only celebrate extreme (and rarely achieved) levels of success? Why is it not okay to be unsure about your goals for the future? I'm only 21 years old. I still have the majority of my life ahead of me, yet I'm supposed to already have my entire life planned out?
It's absolutely ridiculous. Life, as most of us understand, is not easy to predict. No matter what your dreams or goals are at any given point in life, things can happen, plans can change and life can just take a complete 180 on everything you thought you wanted to do. And that's okay - it's expected, even.
Young adults need to be taught that it's completely fine to not have every aspect of their life figured out yet. Without that pressure, they would have significantly lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression and would feel so much more freedom to explore their interests and goals because they sincerely love them, not because they are expected to.
I've slowly come to realize that sentiment, even though I still struggle with stress and anxious thoughts about the future from time to time - everyone does. I feel so much happier and more hopeful about life now that I have stopped relying on others' expectations and have ceased comparing myself to other young adults. I'm not petrified over the fact that I don't have a solid plan ahead of me because I know I'll figure it out along the way.
So, to other young adults, college students/soon-to-be graduates, millennials and basically the entire world: it's great to have goals, but give yourself a break once in a while. Let go of ideas about what life is "supposed" to be, based on what the media shows us or what society thinks it should be, and just celebrate yourself right now. Focus on doing your best in the present, and life will figure itself out eventually. There's nothing you "should" have accomplished already, and there's no place in life you already "should" be - you're doing exactly what you need to do and are exactly where you need to be. Be proud of that.