Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

Everything my ‘lost year’ has taught me

Since graduating, the period typically referred to as the ‘lost year,’ I have learnt a number of life lessons. It’s easy to talk about these lessons and ignore or condense the processes and experiences that led me to them. It would be disingenuous of me to say that these lessons did not come with some difficulty, stress, and worrying. Truth be told, for the last year and a half, I’ve found myself asking many questions, often receiving no definitive answers. 

However, with challenges, comes learning. I’ve learnt a lot about life, and a great deal about myself as a person. I’ve done more soul searching than ever before, and been forced into thinking about my character, beliefs, values and interests. With all this said, I’ve decided to write this article to talk about some of the observations I have made, and the realisations I have come to.

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

So, what has my lost year taught me?

Not all jobs will be perfect

Somewhere along the way, I realised I had internalised the opinion that I must find a fulfilling, “high profile” career, or else I had somehow failed in life.  Society is riddled with cliche life advice and Hollywood movies depicting characters in less-than-tedious jobs. Pinterest quotes, social media influencers, all preaching the message that “you’ll never have to do a day of work if you find a job you love”. But, the reality isn’t always as simple as this.  

Of course, there is absolutely no harm in striving towards a job you enjoy. That makes logical sense after all. But, in the last year, I’ve realised that not every job we find ourselves in is perfect, or by any means, our ‘dream’ job. Not every job is going to provide you with a sense of meaning and fulfilment beyond the simple process of earning money. Some jobs really will be just that– a way to supplement your spending.

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

But, my lost year taught me that it’s important we remind ourselves we are still worthy human beings, even if we aren’t in a job we love. It’s ok to have jobs that are fulfilling only one function. Or be in jobs that are simply a stepping stone to something better. Since graduating I’ve had jobs that are by no means perfect. But, with each one, I’ve accumulated experience. With that, I’ve gained a better understanding of what I do and don’t want from a future job. And that is worth more than any pay check. 

Daily reality should always be prioritised over salary

With that said, it’s important to not become so fixated with a salary, that you end up in a spiritually draining job. Of course, all jobs will have good and bad days. With any job, they’ll be days when you don’t want to wake up and go to work. But, if you are feeling miserable every day, then it could be worth re-evaluating your situation. No salary is worth sacrificing your mental health for.

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

No one is going to come knocking at your door 

Whilst at school and at university, I had a constant network of teachers marking my attendance, career staff organising networking events, and deadlines motivating me to produce work. But, when university is over, you are the master of your own existence. No one is going to come looking for you to organise your life and make sure you’re doing things properly. After graduating, I quickly realised that if I didn’t get up and motivate myself each day, then no one else was going to do it for me. If I didn’t reach out to people, then I would remain exactly where I was.

So, set yourself those deadlines and explore your thoughts and passions. Most importantly, reach out to people. No one is a mind reader, but you’ll be surprised how willing people are to help if you just ask. 

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

You’ll have to make difficult decisions

My first difficult decision:  After months of applying to jobs, I received two offers on the same day. Now of course, this was a nice situation to be in, but difficult nonetheless. There is no formula for how to make these decisions. In this particular situation, having a more definitive understanding of what I wanted from a job would have been invaluable. In this instance, I didn’t have this understanding, which resulted in me making a rushed, uninformed decision. 

Now, if I ever find myself in this (lucky) situation again, I will make a better choice. I understand what I’m looking for in a job, and I also know that it’s important to ask as much about the job in an interview as you can. Whilst as graduates we can all admit we have up-sold our experience on CV’s, employers are just as guilty of exaggerating what is involved in a job. Fancy job titles and endless lists of job criteria’s and duties can easily lead to feelings of disappointment when the job doesn’t turn out to be what it said on the packet. 

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

Not everyone gets their sense of purpose from a job 

Whilst it may be the case for some people, I’ve come to realise that a job isn’t my whole life. My lost year taught me that my purpose comes from my relationships with family and friends, and the hobbies I do outside of my work such as travelling and blogging. Maybe this will change at some point, who knows. But for now, It’s been important for me to remind myself that jobs are not everything. It’s perfectly ok for my happiness to come from places and people outside of the workplace. 

Building expertise doesn’t happen overnight

Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

This is my final lesson, and its an important one. When I decided that I liked the idea of a career in content writing- I felt a sense of relief. For someone who has continually fluctuated between career ideas, I finally felt like I’d cracked it.  However, this feeling was quickly replaced by a sense of desperation and craving, because, rather naively, I wanted to become a content writer overnight. We are, afterall, a society of immediate gratification. Complete essays, and we quickly receive feedback and a mark. We Order a take away, and within half an hour it’s on our plates. 

But, since graduating, I’ve realised that things take time. Real life requires patience, because we don’t know when we’ll achieve our goal. Often it might not be for many months, even years.  As difficult as this can be to accept, I have learnt the invaluable life skills of patience and perseverance. Indeed, real gratitude comes from things that we have to work for. Taking short cuts may get you somewhere, but not there. So, what has my lost year taught me? It’s better to take your time and do things properly, because the rewards are sure to be worth it. 

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Everything my 'lost year' has taught me

Frances Hannon

Graduate Writer. Frances graduated from the University of Nottingham English School and now writes a weekly blog about life after University.