Fighting the Empty Next Stage Slump
So I finished university, what next?
As you may have seen from my Instagram, I have been fighting a slump of sorts since returning to England. Prior visits generally consisted of squeezing in as many coffees and dinners with friends as I could in the invariable week or two I was around before jetting off on my new adventure. Although I've barely been home a week yet it has been a much slower time this time around. Perhaps it's because I know that this is a more permanent arrangement – I'm here until I find a job to move to – or maybe it's because a longer course and a gap year has put my friends ahead of me in life stages. After all the only people I really now in Cheltenham now are all related to me. Either way I want to talk about the empty next stage, the one that comes before you know what you're really doing and brings with it time and a whole lot of uncertainty.
The changes are hard to accept. I find it difficult to complete tasks with the same efficiency I used to skilfully manage day after day, and motivation to do things is at an all time low. I've had all the time in world to write a blogpost and yet this is the first one I've put up since arriving back. I sleep and sleep and yet I'm still so tired. It's frustrating, and I want to understand why.
I wonder if this stage was inevitable. After all the last four years were a whirlwind of activity and adventure, and it had to end at some point. This crash is probably part of the process of moving on after such an intense time. In many ways I feel lucky: I've had such incredible life experiences, I have some fun travel plans coming up, and being home could be a whole lot worse. I actually love spending time with my family and I am afforded the kind of independence that means I don't feel trapped, just a touch out of place.
But how to fight the loneliness and frustration that comes with this next empty step?
Make a plan.
It will surprise no one that I am a bit of a control freak, and at the moment control feels a little out of my reach. This isn't actually true, applying for jobs, after all, is entirely up to me, and yet it feels like that is the case. Making a plan of what I'm doing with my time and a list of what I want to achieve has been the start of moving forward with this next stage. It makes me feel like I know what I'm doing, even if I only know what I'm doing for the next week.
Do what you've always wanted to, but never had the time.
I have long dreamt of learning Spanish, and I'm finally getting around to going on that Guatemalan language program that I've been talking about forever. I appreciate this requires the kind of money that isn't always easy to come by but your newfound activity doesn't have to be expensive. Maybe it was writing a book, and now you can set yourself in a coffee shop and crack on with writing. Maybe it's taking up a new hobby. Whatever it is, don't see this time as empty. Use it!
Schedule in fun stuff.
Most of my friends are now spread across the world, but this is a good opportunity to reconnect with friends closer to home that I have lost touch with. They may not live in Cheltenham, but I'm planning trips to see the ones I can and I'm so excited to catch up. Some I haven't seen in years, but today I'm taking a short trip to Birmingham to see one of them and I'm thrilled that he's still a part of my life.
Incorporate what you can from your old life.
What did you love doing there that you can recreate here? It will be no surprise to anyone that I have found a touch rugby team in Cheltenham, because I didn't want to lose that part of my life. Similarly I have photos and ornaments from Abu Dhabi dotted around my room. Things feel different here, but I have to adapt to it and it helps having reminders of my old life in my temporary new one.
These tips might be very specific to the situation I find myself in, but I hope anyone who is in my shoes finds them helpful. I don't hate my life here, but it's both old and new and weird and I'm trying to work through this strange situation. If you are too, let me know what helps you. Maybe we can all learn from each other.