Lost Is Exactly Where I Need to Be
By: Sydney Weiss Illustration: Lorraine Sorlet
When you’re in your 20’s there’s this insane pressure to do it all, be it all, and have it all. I’m still trying to figure out where that pressure comes from. Does it come from our parents? Does it come from society? Does it come from comparing ourselves to our peers? Wherever it comes from, it’s driving me crazy.
In the last year, I’ve felt more lost than I have in my entire life. Everyone around me seems to be starting their lives, and I can’t help but feel like I haven’t yet. I’m 27 years-old, a new lawyer, and the host of Seek The Joy Podcast. This podcast and our growing community inspires me and has brought me so much joy, it’s often hard for me to put it into words. It might sound like I have it all together, but I don’t.. trust me.
Two months before I graduated from law school, I developed shingles. I was overworked, stressed, burned out, and a nervous wreck. I walked across the graduation stage in May 2016 ready, or so I thought, to start the 10-week journey studying for the California bar exam. The entire experience was intense, painful, terrifying, and panic-inducing. I was studying for 14 hours a day and scared to leave the house. I was a total recluse!
If I thought I was burned out in May, I was completely depleted in August and by September I had appendicitis- I was so fatigued I could barely walk a block. It shouldn’t be a surprise that I didn’t pass my bar exam, but it was to me. I was mean to myself, angry, unkind, embarrassed, and ashamed. Why? Because I felt like I failed to keep up the image that I was smart, that I had it all together, that I was invincible. I was worried about what other people would think.
I chose not to sit for the February 2017 bar exam. For the first time in my life, I made the decision to take care of myself. In 2016, I had shingles, appendicitis, countless sinus infections, my gut health was so bad I was on the verge of losing another organ and developing ulcers, and I was perpetually exhausted because of adrenal fatigue.
I was determined that 2017 wouldn’t have the same storyline.
Instead of sitting for the February bar exam, I started a part-time research position with a former professor and took on two internships. I worked closely with my doctor and started healing my adrenal fatigue, gut, and balancing my hormones. I’m still a work in progress and my health is still not 100%, but one year later I am so much better, and I am so much more myself.
It wasn’t until March 2017 that I started openly telling people that I didn’t pass the bar. It took me a while to fully accept and acknowledge that I had no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed. It took me even longer to really accept my journey, honor it, and understand that my path might be different but that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for me. In many ways, I still felt the pressure to have it all together, especially when I would compare myself to my peers who were starting their lives in a way that I envied. Still, I worked constantly to take the pressure off, and little by little I did.
When I started studying for the July 2017 bar exam, I knew I had to take a different approach. I made balance a priority and structured downtime into my studying schedule. I listened to my body and I stopped studying when I was too tired. I should also mention that there was an electrical fire in my apartment two weeks before I started studying, so this meant that I spent the entire 10-week studying period sleeping on my parent’s couch, studying at my grandma’s apartment, and at my mom’s office.
I was completely out of my element, and it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me because sleeping on my parent’s couch forced me to interrupt my routine. It prevented me from falling back into old patterns that interfered with my health the first time I studied for the bar. It gave me perspective, and I’m convinced it’s part of the reason why I passed.
In California, you have to wait 4 months before you find out if you passed the bar. Truthfully, this time around I wasn’t sure what to do next. I felt the pressure of having it all together, of having it all right now, creep back in. Comparison has never been my friend, and I’m confident it’s never been yours either. But for the first time in my life, I had been gifted, by circumstance, the opportunity to make space for myself. I started to listen to myself more. I stopped comparing and I started brainstorming. What did I love? What did I want to do? Who did I want to be? Out of uncertainty came Seek The Joy Podcast. Inspired by my journey struggling to find joy and love myself unconditionally, I wanted to create a space to share, connect, uplift, inspire, learn, empower, and grow. In the last 5 months, I’ve fallen in love with sharing stories and connecting with this courageous, brave, and vulnerable community we’re building together.
When I found out I passed the bar, I wish I could say that pressure that I’ve been describing went away. Amidst the celebrations, it only got stronger. My dream since I was a little girl was to be a lawyer, and I still want to pursue a career that allows me to use the education I worked so hard for. The truth is though, I have no idea what I’m actually going to do next. For me, uncertainty brings a lot of discomfort, fear, and resistance. I’m beginning to realize that maybe not knowing is okay. Maybe it’s about honoring this space, and this transition, and getting quiet enough to let my next steps unfold on their own. Maybe this space of limbo and unease is exactly where I need to be.
I started off this piece by saying I’ve never felt more lost in my entire life. That’s still true, but my perspective has changed. What if I’m not lost? What if the derailments, and the struggle, and the intense learning are all just part of the plan? The pressure to do it all, to be it all, and to have it all will only drive us crazy if we let it. The opportunity to compare ourselves will always be there. What if instead of comparing ourselves to our peers, we chose to compare ourselves to who we used to be? What if we chose to celebrate how much we’ve grown, the connections we’ve made, the conversations we’ve had, and how far we’ve pushed ourselves outside of our comfort zones?
Celebrate and be proud of how far you’ve come. Know that just because your journey is different, doesn’t mean that it’s wrong. Our 20’s are a confusing time, and through the confusion and discomfort I’ve learned more about myself than I ever thought possible and I think that’s something to celebrate.