Life usually has direction. We feel it every day, pulling us towards our goals and giving a sense of purpose to our daily activities. Whether you’re staying up at night to study for an exam, putting on your new dress before a friend’s party or having a late brunch on your day off work, you feel the direction you’re going in and it justifies what you’re doing, keeping you in constant, (mostly) sure motion.
Life can also have no direction whatsoever. Straying away from these purpose-filled paths we take are those people who feel directionless—lost. Like they’re sort of… drifting. Drifting up and down and backward and too far forward, waiting for life to pick back up and have a direction once more. Losing sight of what you want and where you want to be can happen at any age: a 46-year-old man going through a midlife crisis can feel lost after achieving all of his life’s goals; a high-school girl filling out college applications decides she doesn’t care because she can’t decide on her future.
When I was in college, I often heard people talk about how “lost” they felt after they’d graduated, and how it can take a long time to find a job or recognize what you want to do, even if you’ve successfully obtained a degree. I always thought I knew where I was going to end up after graduation, but now that I’ve finished and my life is not where I thought it would be, I realize that what those people were talking about was this exact feeling of directionless-ness. My recent days and months have felt elongated, and somewhat like they haven’t been spent living, but floating. Just bobbing around, writing here and there, looking for work.
These stages of drifting can be unnerving since we are so used to knowing what we’re doing and why, and sometimes, we don’t even notice that we’re in a period without direction until we look back after finding our way of it. I realized this while walking past a building downtown a few days ago. I saw my reflection on the glass and just thought, What the hell am I even doing? The thought of being unsure about my life scared me at first. I considered moving back home; I filled out at least 12 job applications and I cleaned my apartment like a crazy woman, all in hopes that I would find some feeling of purpose in those little things.
But rather than allowing this time of my life to shake and scare me, I decided that I would try to see this drifting state as an opportunity, because that’s what it really is: An opportunity to steer yourself away from the norm; to let yourself feel free, directionless and wild; to try new things you never thought you would; to move to a new city or continent; to change what you want to be when you grow up.
When you feel lost it doesn’t mean that you actually are, it’s just the resulting feelings that come from setting no absolute goal for yourself. When nothing is waiting for you at the end of the road, you don’t have to stay on the road. If you planned on one thing, do another. If you don’t want to get out of bed today and don’t have to, stay there. Take a job you never thought you’d have in a million years. Learn to speak a new language and move to a new country. Take a trip to a new country. Find new friends to be around.
Whatever it is you end up doing—or not doing– in directionless moments, make sure you stay positive. Drifting is an experience that you won’t always have, and it’s one you should make the most of, because in the end, you will find purpose and direction again. The directions you find might even bloom from the strange, new things you did when you had no idea where you were going to end up. The rush of normal, repetitive, daily life will hit you fast, and you’ll look back and see what a time of freedom you had.
Also by Marlee: 8 Easy Ways to Relieve Anxiety
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Photo: Marlee Septak