Career Life

It’s a post-graduation identity crisis

“We loved your work last summer, and we could deal with an extra hand for the next couple of months. Would you be able to join our team of reporters in Brussels?”

This was the phone call of my dreams. My carefully thought-through reaction was a squeaky, “Yesyesyes, when can I start?” as I scribbled the cancellation for my room’s contract in London on paper.

But then there was a second call seven days later, a voicemail message full of bad news and so sorrys.

Picture me, two months before my graduation ceremony, with three suitcases filled with a few clothes and a few more kilos of self-doubt. Two other rejection letters had surfaced in my inbox days earlier.

For a while after that voicemail, everyone I talked with probably came away feeling deeply disturbed by the sheer gravity of my first world problems. But in all seriousness, I felt humiliated in a way that I had never experienced before.

What even happened?

Something didn’t work out which forced me to slightly adjust my future plans. That’s what a sensible person would think, anyway. But I saw this rejection as a personal insult on my identity, as something that disqualified me as a successful human being.

Maybe it’s because I’m in that season of life where the world is your oyster and nothing can hold you back because you’re in charge of your own destiny, and whoop, the best is yet to come. But then you wake up feeling a bit hungover from life because all of that just isn’t happening. The bills are piling up and the city that you used to love more than anything is turning into a labyrinth of exclusively successful suit-wearing monsters who just don’t care. And it’s all happening in slow motion, in front of your eyes.

In a culture of tireless CV optimization and 24/7 social media races for affirmation, nobody wants to fail. Nobody wants to admit that life is not a world of sugar canes, an eternal stroll through a rose garden in spring. Or a beautifully coherent story that sounds as if Nicholas Sparks had drafted it.

Even if our lives consisted of success instead of failure, or of failure that eventually leads to success (because we are awesome and didn’t let the bad guys get us down), I’m worried that God gets left out completely.

I bet He doesn’t look at us when we can’t find sleep at 2 a.m., thinking, “Man up, you whiny Generation Y kid!” He didn’t write, “Try again, fail better, bro!” into the book of Psalms. Instead, He encourages us to find our identity and confidence in Him alone, day in, day out.

I want an exciting roller-coaster life that differs from the ordinary and convenient. But “exciting” will inevitably hurt, and I want to be OK with that.

God has given me — a frustratingly ambitious and incredibly impatient mess of a girl — this life. So maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. Maybe it’s time to kick out my suitcases of self-doubt. And maybe it’s time to stop searching for my identity in job descriptions and a dazzling network, and find it in the One who has chosen and loved me from the very beginning.

Photo (Flickr CC) by cote.