Let's just air my laundry now: I'm an overthinker. That fact makes retrospectating (sounds like a potential verb and makes the activity seem more sportive, so we'll take it!) all the more fun because I can take all of my seemingly divergent experiences and fit them into a pretty straightforward process like ducks in a row, waddling adorably to an end goal.
But hold on a second. I definitely didn't know that our team would invent Tradyo when I decided to apply for the Next 36. In fact, around that time, I thought I'd probably go to business school after I'd gained enough work experience. I won't rule out an MBA in my future but the point is, I'll be doing a Master's in urban regeneration next year instead - and I'm the same person with the same feelings and goals that I had a year and a half ago. Maybe all of my vastly different opportunities and choices weren't serendipitous pieces that magically fit together to form my current outlook. Maybe that's just how it works; you start doing one thing and it leads to another and there you have it - life. For me, it's an important consideration because it takes a ton of pressure off knowing that there are myriad directions that can all be the "right" direction. What is more essential to my sanity than making the "right" decisions, is to make sure that I embark down each road with optimism, eagerness to learn, and a commitment to personal authenticity.
My Facebook newsfeed has been overtaken by a cascade of graduation photos and I've had a higher than usual number of tense conversations about what's next in life for recent grads. I know better than to offer advice, but I hope that by sharing this relevant and recent experience, I can bring you peace of mind while you are sifting through much more qualified advice (such as the book, Making Good. You'll like it).
I was thoroughly frustrated and confused for most of last year while I tried to figure out my next steps. I knew what I cared about but I didn't know the best way to act on that, or how to make ends meet doing so. This feeling will likely chase me after grad school but I feel more prepared to deal with it now. I really don't need to get into my story of working through the pits because your pits will likely be different, but I do want you to know that it did suck and it did get better, so if you are feeling sucky, have hope.
Most important is the part where I knew what I cared about. As a result, I've been able to do this fun retrospectating thing and see how a veritable tickle-trunk of disparate life experiences have brought me to a an understanding of what I love doing, what I'm good at, and how satisfying contribution can take different forms. That discovery is a huge relief because it assures me that as long as I'm being my authentic self and keep my heart focused on contributing to what I care about, it seems that no matter what job I'm doing, it becomes another duck in the row, another step closer to achieving long-term goals. I'm not about to extrapolate my life lessons on everybody and call it a truth, but this may have some applicability to your life. If it does, then your way forward is hypothetically a lot less stressful.
So flip through your life thus far and ask, "Whooptydoo, but what does it all mean, Basil?" If you can enumerate what you have learned in each of your past experiences, and how they have prepared you to be just the right person for your next endeavour, doesn't that make the post-graduation leap a lot less terrifying?
When the hyperventilation sets in at night and you wonder "What am I doing with my life? %*Narf!$." I find it's helpful to take a deep breath and remind yourself: "The same thing I do every night, Pinky, try to [insert what you really want to contribute to the world here]." Same you, same goals, evolving job descriptions, right? Play on, you rockstar.