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My Life is Evolving, and I’m Terrified
Thriving in the face of new beginnings
This newsletter features weekly musings about life, career, identity, and behaviour by a questioning African centennial. To get it in your inbox every week, subscribe here ⬇️
This week, I’m going to write to you like I’m writing to my therapist. Think of this as an open journal entry that I hope you find helpful.
I’m at a point in my life where so much is changing. As is often the case with such transitional periods, there’s a lot of stress and anxiety.
I left my job at Facebook two weeks ago to start my master’s degree at Tsinghua University. As a 23-year-old who had gotten used to enjoying a generous paycheck at the end of each month, leaving my first full-time job to plunge into the uncertainty of the job market all over again wasn’t as easy a decision as I’d thought.
On my last day at work, when it finally hit me that I was leaving the comfort of stability to jump headfirst into the unknown, I broke down. I cried during my final meeting with my manager, and pretty much the rest of the day.
I cried because a beautiful journey was coming to an end and because I didn’t know what the next journey would be. Uncertainty is scary for me. When I’m scared, like really scared, it’s not unusual for me to cry.
Putting out this tweet also didn’t make things any easier:
As if I wasn’t already questioning myself enough, I got messages from people asking about why the hell I’d pick a master’s program over my job at Facebook.
One of them said, unsolicitedly of course, that people do their master’s to get a job at companies like Facebook. But here I was, leaving the company to pursue something I didn’t even need. Another one asked whether the ‘real’ reason I was leaving Facebook so early was that my full-time job was actually an internship. The effrontery!
After a while, I just stopped responding. It wasn’t worth it anymore.
Leaving my job means that I’d have to start all over again to recruit for full-time positions. Faced with uncertainty about where I’ll be working (in terms of industry, company, and role) after I graduate from my master’s next summer is another thing that’s currently adding to my stress.
As if all of that wasn’t stressful enough, a few days ago, I moved countries for the 8th time in five years. I left London for Accra, to base myself in a country that, as a result of its parliamentary consideration of an anti-gay bill, is currently at a tipping point in its treatment of LGBTQ+ people like me.
Having lived through a similar situation in Nigeria in 2014, I know what to expect should such a bill actually successfully pass—a prolonged, extensive, and violent witch hunt of LGBTQ+ people and their allies. It’s not pretty. That is very frightening.
This is a huge shift from my life in London over the past year. There, I didn’t have to worry about wearing a bright pride-themed sweater out in public or get scared that my neighbours were going to file a police report because they suspect that I’m organising an LGBTQ+ gathering in my apartment. But now, I have to think about all of that.
A lot is shifting, and a lot is unpredictable. I don’t do well with unpredictability, so I’m at a point where I’m struggling.
To manage my anxiety at this time, I’m planning to be doing a lot of three things:
Cutting myself more slack - My friends have helped me realise that, sometimes, I’m a bit too hard on myself. By diminishing the strength of who I am and everything I’m capable of, I end up putting more pressure on myself than I should. Consequently, giving myself a lot more stress than is necessary and causing myself needless harm.
Maintaining my mental and psychological balance - I recently got started on therapy, and that has been helping me a lot to manage my anxiety during all of this. But the challenge is that it’s just once a week. My daily mechanism is my Headspace app. Daily meditation has been doing a lot to keep me sane and stable.
Speaking to my mentors more frequently - Most time, the things we deal with aren’t exactly unique. Someone somewhere has most likely gone through the same things before. In my case, it’s my mentors. Talking to them helps me realise how commonplace my experiences are, which is crucial cos it prevents me from feeling like I’m out of my mind.
Doing all of this doesn’t mean that I’ll no longer be afraid. Far from it. It just means that I’ll be better equipped to work through my fears and thrive in the face of all the new beginnings and uncertainties that I’m confronted with at the moment.
Do you have other mechanisms you use to cope with periods that make you scared, stressed, anxious, or a combination of the three?
Please share with me.