Finding Your Place In The World

I have quite a few internet ‘friends’ who are younger than me. We bonded over shared interests, usually football, I enjoy talking to people who are as passionate about the things I like as I am.

At times I feel like a big sister to the young people who are looking for something on the internet they don’t find in their lives.

I see kids looking up to people and changing their views to align themselves and the way they constantly look for certain people’s validation of everything.

I sometimes wonder if the people they seek validation from realise the impact they have on those kids lives. I watch the way they are lost when that person isn’t online, waiting to get their approval or find out their opinion on something like a dog pining for its master. As an observer it is interesting to watch.

Every now and then I see people struggling and I try to help. See I was once where they are. I remember how hard it was to find my place in the world.

All the stress of school life, picking your subjects and studying for exams and the weight of expectation on your shoulders from the people around you. The expectation of needing to get certain results or your whole life map will change without getting into the right course at the right University.

You get into University or College and then the fun starts. You move out of home and spend your time partying, ‘hooking up’ and occasionally remembering to attend lectures and learn something. Then the course winds up and the work gets harder and you’re torn between partying and studying and the pressure of not wanting to fail and let people down.

You get through all that and go from the comfort of education to being in the big wide world with not much in the way of a safety net or stop-gap.

All of a sudden the full weight of expectation falls on your shoulders. Everyone seems to want something from you. They put their expectation on you and they don’t always ask you what you want. You want to take a break and let the change sink in but you can’t.

You have to find a job. But its hard to find a job with little or no experience. When you do find a job you get a hard shock about the real world and what going to work is all about. You can’t believe that will be your life for the next 60 years and start to see why your parents were so stressed all the time.

Your safety bubble bursts. You’re thrown into adulthood and desperate to go back to the freedom of childhood where you didn’t have the worries and the stress. But you can’t go back. You spent your childhood desperate to be an adult and spend a part of your adulthood longing for your childhood innocence.

I got my first job when I was 12, I worked in newsagent until I started my GCSE’s, stopped for 2 years and then left school and went to work in Tesco while I went to college. I had no interest in University and at the time it wasn’t as necessary to have a degree as it is now, you were just expected to have some further education.

My parents believed that to move on in life you needed to learn what it was like to go to work. I got pocket-money only if I did chores. I didn’t automatically get brought everything I wanted, I had to earn it. I saved for months to get a leather jacket and I still have it now. The first thing I ever earned and paid for purely off my own back. Almost everything I own was earned through my own hard work.

Nothing I’ve ever done was or will ever be good enough for my Dad because I didn’t follow the path he wanted me to. Because from day 1 I was born an individual and I’ve always walked my own path. It’s one of the reasons I find it hard to trust people because I know I can rely on myself, I forget to let other people in.

My Dad looks at me and the people he works with who earn vastly more than me and sees me as the better option. ‘All the skills you waste, all the things you can do and the knowledge you have, you should be earning big money by now.’ I’m tired of hearing it.

I’ve always had people lean on me to make things better. People come to me with their problems and ask me to make them better. If I can’t help I feel like I failed them.

It’s strange when the person who asks for your help is someone you will never meet, a name on the screen who you interact with purely in text messages. But I will always try to help if I can.

I always try to offer support to people, because I know how easy it is to bottle things up and how damaging that is in the long run. But I don’t always get it right. I don’t have all the answers.

See the more of life you see the more experience you have to draw on. You can help pass that on to people who are just starting out and help them avoid some of the painful lessons you went through or you can sit back and let it happen.

That’s not to say you can stop people from making mistakes. You can only try to advise and answer their questions and give them a different perspective but people have to learn from their own mistakes.

I’ve worked with lots of different types of people. I’ve learned a lot from some of them good and bad. I’ve worked with a lot of people younger than me who had massive chips on their shoulders over being at work. Intelligent people I saw vast potential in who wasted it by being arrogant, lazy and blaming everyone else for their sloppy work when things inevitably went wrong. I’ve always tried to help people see their potential and maximize it, some people have even listened to my advice!

I’ve watched the negative impact of work related stress change my Dad over the years. I would hate to see that happen to anyone else. So I always advise people to learn how to manage their stress in a way that helps them. Find that as soon as you can because stress eats away at who you are if you don’t control it.

Personally I put on my headphones, max out the sound and silently scream out the lyrics to songs I like. Either that or I have a good cry, never underestimate the power of a good cry, always makes me feel better. A walk in the fresh air or exercise works just as well.

Finding your place in the world is hard. Understanding what you want from life is hard. No one has the answers. What you want today you might not want tomorrow. The career you thought you wanted might turn out to be as dull and boring as everyone elses.

You know what, we all experimented with where we ended up. We all did shit jobs we hated and tried something new. It’s life.

I’ll let you into a secret. No one, no matter what their job likes every aspect of it. You wont always like the people you work with, the tasks you do but you will learn to make the best of it.

My advice, do the bits you hate first, get them over with and then focus on the parts you enjoy and are good at. Never stop trying to learn new things. Life moves fast nowadays and there is always something new out there so never stop learning. You never know when a new skill you learn may come in handy, it may even help you land a promotion one day.

Once you go into the big wide world you will see there maybe times you are doing the work of people more qualified and higher paid than you and they won’t even thank you for it but they will probably take all the credit for it.

There maybe times when everyone else goes home and you are left working alone because they gave you their work so late and it needed finishing you had no choice but to stay and get it done. This will give you the rage, to get your own back I suggest messing with their desk in a subtle way, nothing malicious but it will help you feel better.

I worked with a guy who was meticulous about how his desk was set up, he had OCD. So when he left me working late after he went home I would just rearrange his desk for him.

Emptying someone’s stapler of staples every night is extremely annoying/ satisfying (depending on whether its your stapler) as is adjusting the height of people’s chairs, changing the backdrops on computer screens and hiding coffee mugs. Ahh how I miss office high jinx.

Learn to partake in office banter because it will make the day go a lot faster. You will spend a lot of time with the people you work with, so try to find common ground with them. But don’t let banter become personal and insulting as that will lead you to getting into serious trouble.

I’ve been lucky to work in a variety of offices and jobs. I always had extra pressure put on me because I’m a sponge, I absorb it and get the job done. People know they can rely on me to stay till the job is finished.

Did I ever feel appreciated for my efforts? Sometimes but mostly not.

Would I advise taking on that much pressure and workload? Depends on who you are. But know that if you start being the office lackey it will always be expected of you. Same with working overtime and staying late, especially if its unpaid, if you start down that route it will always be expected of you.

If you can’t take that pressure then learn to say no. Even if that means saying no to your boss. But only if it is for the right reason and not just because you can’t be bothered. Don’t just say no, explain why you can’t take on the extra pressure.

It is better to tell someone you can’t get a job done than let them down. There is no shame in asking for help if you need it rather than struggling or making an unnecessary mistake.

If someone asks you to do a job they will not always provide you with all the information required to do that job. That is not an excuse for you to just ignore it. Especially when it is your boss that has given you the job in the first place. Saying ‘If he wanted me to do it he should have given me all the information’ is not an excuse for laziness. If he had all the information he would probably have done it himself.

The world does not owe you a living. You have your place in the world and it expects you to fulfill that role whatever that maybe. If you don’t work hard and put in the effort required to fulfill your role you will never achieve the success you think you are owed.

Bosses have a knack of noticing when you are 5 minutes late for work in the morning but forgetting you worked overtime every night for the last two weeks to help out. There has to be some give and take between a boss and your charge. But not to the point where people take the piss!

I’ve dealt with employment and payroll issues, people liked me doing it because they knew I was equally harsh and fair with everyone. No one would get away with taking the piss on my watch.

So yes finding your place in the world is hard but when you find it your life will change completely. I’m still not sure I found my place, whenever I think I have someone or something comes along and pulls the rug out from under me, everything comes crashing down around me and I have to start again.

Ask questions of people who have been where you are, it will help you figure out what you want or maybe what you want to avoid.

Take chances when you are young and try different careers until you find the right fit for you. If you collect skills like I have, it is easier to integrate into different markets and industries rather than solely focusing on a particular skill set.

If you are struggling with anything talk to someone. Whether it is something at work, work related stress or just feeling like your trapped in a job you hate with no way out there is someone who can help and who will listen, you just need to look for them.

It is never too late to make a career change, although the longer you leave it the harder it will get. Life is too short to be doing a job you hate. You give so much of your life and yourself to work that you need to get a bit of enjoyment out of it at least. Work to live not live to work.

Don’t be afraid to keep trying, one day you’ll find your place in the world and you wont ever want to leave it. You might not find it today or tomorrow but it’s out there waiting for you, so keep looking until you make it. You will only regret the chances you didn’t take.

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