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Pressure to Plan

Right now, it feels like I am drowning. 

Spiraling in a state of overwhelm, I don't know which direction is up. But I know for sure that I’m going down. Grief, anxiety, and fear leave me defeated daily. I am lost in the haze of not knowing where life may take me next…and that scares me. 

I’ve always needed to have a plan for things, like college, my next career moves, how I want to establish myself as an adult. Unfortunately, with a resume of exhausting customer service jobs, I fear my only purpose is to serve others and leave myself depleted. 

My heart jumps whenever I see an email notification pop up on my phone. Could this be an offer letter for my dream job—or any job at all? Face ID reveals that this email is yet another rejection letter. When will this cycle of not knowing be over?

The only way I can put this feeling into words is through the song, “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish. When the noise of social media gets too loud or I have gone down the rabbit hole of comparing my old self to my current self, this song is my solace. Since 2021, Billie Eilish’s music has been an escape for me. Her lyrics wrap me in a cocoon, blocking out the negative thoughts. While so many of her songs were relatable before, “What Was I Made For?” resonated with me on a different level. Finally, someone had put into words exactly what I was feeling for so many years: the confusing ache of not knowing your purpose and how to articulate that into words. 

In the song, Billie frequently says, “I don’t know how to feel.” 

I think Gen Z, myself included, cannot begin to grasp everything that is thrown at us—all of these things we never planned for. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, the degradation of women’s rights, and the exposure of corruption from trusted brand names. 

From kindergarten through college, we are told to act in certain ways to gain the approval of our peers, teachers, and parents. We followed the same schedule every day for sixteen years. We turned in assignments that were all indistinguishable from one another, just different levels of difficulty. We repeated the same cycle of making friends and losing them. We fell in love and out of it. Through all of this, we have the safety net of education to fall back on. If there was nothing constant in this life, at least we had schooling. But graduation, as liberating as it is, creates an independence that can be daunting. The questions from older generations get thrown at you as soon as you take off your cap and gown. “What do you want to do with your life? What career field do you want to go into? Kids? Marriage? Starting your own business?” If we don’t have the answers, as society has taught us, we are failures. The pressure to plan becomes unbearable. 

A new month is here, and I still don’t have a plan. No map to lead me to my dream career. No backup options, because Plan A still hasn’t come to fruition. Before disengaging from TikTok, I came across plenty of stories from 20-somethings feeling the same way. In the moment of watching these TikToks, I felt as if I had been inducted into a special club. This club is filled with people who have been laid off, fired, closed their businesses, lost followers, and much more. Yet after reflecting, I am still not convinced that this mystery of not knowing my next move is an acceptable part of being 26. 

I can’t help but ask myself, “What’s wrong with me?” 

The clock is ticking, and I’m hoping to have some sort of plan before I turn 30.

written by Courtney Lowry


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