Just a few short months ago, when someone would ask me how I felt about my upcoming college graduation, I would say, without hesitation, “It feels like I’m standing at the edge of a cliff and about to jump.” This was met with many a reaction, usually somewhere between laughter and terror. If it were someone older than me (an “adult,” if you will), the response was always one of hope. Lots of “don’t worry about it!” and “you’re young! You’re in no rush!” However, if it were someone close to my age, I’d be met with hollow relatability. “Ha! Too real!” they’d laugh, eyes flickering away, smile quickly fading. Where did I fall in the middle of all this? Definitely with the latter.
Logically I knew I’d be alright. I knew I could always move back home and that I’d eventually get a job, but what is it about the unknown that makes us basically turn into a pile of mush? This period in-between phases of your life, whether it be an academic graduation or a big career shakeup, feels like you’re “buffering.” You know, like when a download almost finished? A picture is loading? The little rainbow wheel on your computer shows up? (Just the sight of that makes me antsy, but that’s another story.) To put it bluntly, this feeling isn’t great, you’re essentially just sitting and waiting—but we all have to go through it at one point or another, right?
Your “buffering period” doesn’t have to be as scary as it feels, especially when armed with the proper advice. When I was going through it, I wish I had some guidance on how to navigate it properly. Even though I knew every single person who graduated was about to enter some sort of “buffering period,” it was hard not to feel completely alone in this next step in my life. So in hopes of helping out someone who is going through the same thing I did (or could be about to), I asked our readers if they had ever experienced their own “buffering period” in search of the advice and encouragement I wish I had in June of 2018. Four brave women stepped up, and here’s what they told me.
Find Substance in People’s Stories
After graduating high school, Kenya T. took a year off. “I was not prepared for college as well as my other friends, and when I graduated, I had neither of my parents in my life. I was really lost on a lot of things.” The LA-native was focused on keeping herself afloat financially and figuring out her next move. She admits that she, “battled with the feeling that time waits for no one and [that] I was falling behind.” Although she can still feel this way at times even now, she quickly realized that “everyone has their own timeline and everything [that’s] worth it takes a lot of behind the scenes work.” So that’s exactly what she did. Kenya knew she wanted to go to college, but didn’t know what she wanted to study just yet (can absolutely relate). During this year, she said, ” I would always speak to anyone who intrigued me about their process of finding their way into a passion or career, even if it was something I would never see myself doing.” This helped her find direction and motivation and allowed her to learn about her interests even more than she would have if she didn’t ask questions. “You’d be so surprised how much you can learn about which steps to take or not to take just by asking people about their process.”
You know that saying “trust the process?” Well, now you can actually find out what that process actually is.
Try Things You’re Not Sure About
Which actually leads us perfectly into Kenya’s next piece of killer advice: try everything! “You’d be surprised what you might find that interest you just by putting yourself out there,” says Kenya. When the time came to finally enroll in college, she still wasn’t completely sure what she wanted to major in even though she had a better idea after her year off. She thought she was interested in philosophy, so it seemed only natural to explore that field, but after one semester she knew philosophy was not her calling. She laughs at it now, saying, “I realized, ‘Wow this is not for me at all.'” However, that didn’t discourage her from trying something else—and this time it worked. “I decided to take a “History of Genocide” class and it literally changed my life. It showed me that being able to travel would be ideal in a career, but figuring out how to make myself useful to third world countries … would do more than just satisfy me.” For Kenya, as long as she was exploring, learning, and growing there was no time wasted while she was “buffering.” “Were those [first] classes necessary for me to take or did they make a light go off in my head? No, but the process taught me something about myself and kept me feeling like I was progressing… I [kept] changing my surroundings until I found something clicked for me.”
Own Your Truth
Ferwa K. had been working in the events industry for years, both nationally and internationally, before she realized it just wasn’t fulfilling her anymore. “In New York City, everything is so fast-paced,” started Ferwa, “and the turn around became very factory-like.” At the same time as these negative sentiments started to creep up on her, so did a different type of feeling. The real reason she had to go became more and more apparent: it was time for her to pursue a different goal. Ferwa always dreamed of starting her own lifestyle blog, and with the support of her husband (as well as some motivational speakers she found on Instagram) she transitioned out of her job and, well, into her buffering period. Even though she was pursuing her passion, she couldn’t help but be bogged down with guilt, worry, and oh-so-many questions. “When people I met for the first time during this period asked me what I do for work, I would give them a beat-around-the-bush answer or embellish the truth,” says Ferwa, then adding, “I had the typical guilt syndrome of ‘not being busy.’”
Ferwa was stuck. “Everybody says failure is a great teacher and something to embrace but I am still scared to fail, I don’t want to fail and then be successful,” she says. “I just want to be successful – it’s too scary…” (Wow. That one hit hard.) It took some serious soul-searching, and ultimately, some time with herself, to get over this roadblock. “I realized that those low moments helped me focus in on myself and learn more about myself, which just motivated me more. I learned to own my truth, to realize that I made a smart decision about what I wanted and that I could say that out loud. If people didn’t understand then, eventually, they would or they wouldn’t, but that I couldn’t shy away from it.”
Build Self-Care Routines
After this realization, Ferwa felt motivated to use her time wisely. While she was building her blog and her brand, she began doing the things she had always wanted to do, from spending time with family to—and you probably could have guessed this one—self-care. “Back when I was working non-stop, I didn’t necessarily have the flexibility to pay attention to my fitness goals, self-care goals, spiritual goals, family goals, and home goals individually. I always took the shortcuts.” Making these parts of her life a priority when she had the time to, and turning them into a habit, was key to sustaining them when her life began to gradually pick up speed once again. You should use all the skills you learn in your buffering period to craft a better future, not just the ones that are directly related to your career path. Your well-being is as much of a priority as your job, even though the j-o-b (or lack thereof) can feel like it takes the top spot. If you’re still feeling stressed and guilty for prioritizing yourself when you “should” be working (we get it, it happens), keep this in mind: you cannot pour water from an empty glass. If there’s anything we can all agree with, it’s that.
Stop and Reflect
You could say that Zulay S. was forced into her buffering period. “After being in retail for seven years, it was announced that my store would be closing,” says Zulay. “I had reached the point where I had decided it may be time to call it quits … so once I heard the news, my decision was solid: once the store closed, I would not be going back to retail.” On the heels of the completion of the Digital Marketing Certificate program she had been working on prior to the store’s closing, Zulay quit the jobs she thought would be able to fulfill her in the meantime and let herself breathe. Transitioning from a career in retail to a career in digital marketing was not easy, but she wouldn’t have been able to make that happen had she not taken time to stop and reflect on what she truly wanted. “I went from job to job to job, so after I quit I allowed myself to take some much-needed time to focus on my health and finding myself again,” she explains. “If you don’t know or understand what your needs or desires are, it’s going to be difficult to fulfill them,” she says. Her advice for doing this correctly? “Sit in front of a mirror, lay in bed, hang out Shavasana on your mat, whichever works for you, [just] find a position that you feel comfortable in. Ask yourself ‘what do you want?’ ‘Do you like how you’re maneuvering through this period?’ ‘Do you need help to find your way/have you asked for help?’ I found that taking the time to take myself out of the darkness helped me to understand what my true needs were. [It’s] okay to not have it all figured out.” Mic. Drop.
Remember, It’s Just a Moment
And if that wasn’t enough guidance, Zulay isn’t finished yet. “My other key advice is to remember that this is just a moment; not the rest of your days. It’s not the end of the world, it’s just a crappy moment that just so happened to throw you for a loop.” This mindset is so important when going through, and ultimately getting out of, something as uncertain as a buffering period. I mean, it’s called a buffering period for a reason, right? It’s not meant to be forever, although it can definitely feel that way. The confusion and ambiguity of it all can be overwhelming to say the least, especially if you’re someone who is always used to being in control or having a clear path ahead of you at all times (seriously, @ me, once again). If you’re having trouble keeping perspective, Zulay recommends doing exactly what she did. “Talking to myself (we all do it, let’s be real) and writing to myself was incredibly cathartic and reassured me that this is only temporary.” We love more excuses to journal furiously, but we can talk to ourselves unabashedly now, too? Yup, sounds great. Count us in.
Let Yourself Be Inspired
And finally, when Varsha I. graduated from college and left the “go, go, go,” of life as a student in the city to go back to her home in the suburbs, that feeling felt more “slow, slow, slow” if you get what we mean. “[It] switched to ‘sinking in quicksand,’ or at least it felt like that,” explains Varsha. That feeling didn’t stem from the slow-paced environment alone though, it was increased tenfold by the grueling job application process she was enduring as well. After just three months of job hunting, Varsha says that “I couldn’t move forward because the rejections kept pouring more than the interview offers, and it seemed like I had nowhere to go but to stand still in life.”It began to take a real toll on her self-esteem and her ambition. “As a creative, this sucked,” she admits. “I felt useless in my skills, my craft … I knew I was qualified, but nothing was changing career-wise, much less having [a career] to even begin with.”
She decided enough was enough. “There was one day where I sat down with myself because I hated that feeling and I knew I wasn’t useless,” she says. “I decided to pour my energy into being productive in other, more unconventional ways.” It took her a while to get the momentum back after feeling stuck for so long, but after she did, her energy was boundless. “Once I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, I started finding new outlets of inspiration, says Varsha, citing Instagram as her go-to source for creative stimulus. Her biggest takeaway from this experience was the importance of “creating a time and space for myself to create and be inspired by others and take care of (cultivate, really) my creative energy.” Doing this, she says, “reinvigorates a sense of hope that is constantly pushing me out of the quicksand.” Cultivating practices, mental or physical, that renew hope in yourself and your abilities? Hate to say it but: goals.
Oh, and if you’re wondering about what happened to me after the summer of 2018, have no fear. After a string of emails, a couple phone calls, and a bit of luck, I ended up somewhere really great, surrounded by people who genuinely make me happy to wake up and go to work in the morning. It’s called The Chill Times. Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Looks like the bottom of the cliff wasn’t so scary after all.
Feature image via Stocksy