The advice I wish I’d gotten when I graduated high school

(Kyle Parks / McDaniel Free Press).(Kyle Parks / McDaniel Free Press).

When I graduated high school, everything started to speed up quickly.

Senior week flew by. My eighteenth birthday: gone. That summer: gone. My first semester of college: gone.

You don’t realize it in the moment, but your life starts to fly by. I found myself faced with questions of “Where do you see yourself in five years” and “What do you want to do with your life?”

Woah.

Pump the breaks, guys, because I don’t even know what I want to do five minutes from now.

Just yesterday it felt like I was starting elementary school, and now my parents are kicking me out of the nest? I found myself constantly wondering why I had to have everything figured out by the time I graduated high school. Why was I locked into some “career path” at eighteen years old? Why, oh why, was I blacklisted for choosing “general studies” instead of choosing a set path?

I’m going to be 100 percent honest with you: I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I was still quoting Full House thinking it was cool at eighteen. I get it. College is a pathway to a career. High school is designed to prepare you for college and college is designed to prepare you for the real world, so it’s reasonable to say “Hey, time to get your butt in gear and figure out what you want to be.” But dude, that’s a big investment you’re asking me to make. I’m about to waste thousands of dollars on courses for a major, leading me to a potential career I might not even end up wanting. I thought buying a 5,000 pack of Silly Bandz when I was 12 was the worst financial decision I’d ever make, yet here we are.

What I’ve come to realize, in my 21 years of wisdom, is that figuring out what you’ll do in your life stems from figuring out who you are first.

Bear with me here, but these college years, hell, your entire 20s, are going to be about figuring out the type of person you want to be. It’s about building your brand from the logo to the jingle. It might start with figuring out a personal style, deciding what you want from a potential significant other, or how you want people to remember you after you’ve gone.

In figuring out who you are in this world, you’ll find your passion in what you hope to contribute to it. Whether that’s helping people, building a business, creating films or television shows for people to enjoy, whatever you feel most passionate about. Once you understand who you are and what you really want from the world, everything seems to fall in place about what you can do for it.

I’m not going to lie to you, you’ll probably find yourself changing your major, or school, digging yourself deeper in debt, before you figure out the direction the winds of life will blow you into.

The point I’m trying to reach is that these years are some of the weirdest years of your life. You leave the house at 18 after having no one teach you how to actually be a functioning adult, and you’re expected to figure it out. And you do, you learn as you go. It’s a process, and they don’t tell you how difficult of a process it is. There are countless nights of existential crisis, and everything feels like the end of the world. You’re figuring out who you are, what you want to be, what you want to do, and what you believe in this life. Everyone around you seems to have it together, but listen, we’re all in this together.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, nobody ever knows what they’re doing. Some are just amazing at faking it. What’s so important about this time in our lives is discovering ourselves, because you will find your passion. It’s your secret weapon and once you harness that power, you’ll be unstoppable. You’ll figure everything out, so my advice to you now as finals approach, take a deep breath.

No matter what happens, you’ll be okay.