Changing Course in Life After 2021

Illustration by Piya Willwerth

As we travel deeper into the fall of 2021 and fumble towards normalcy, I've found through conversations with my friends — and looking within myself — that we're all in a pretty reflective mood. What have we learned during these past two years? What are the decisions that we've made, and what has happened because of them?

The thing with decisions — important ones — is that there are real consequences to them. There aren't many consequences to choosing to eat a slice of pizza over a grilled cheese sandwich. The nutritional value is about the same, and it's just food.

But what about relationships and friendships? What about jobs? What about moving across the country — or out of the country?

Here's a collection of headlines that I've seen around the Internet.

"People Aren't Meant to Talk This Much" - The Atlantic

"What Did COVID Do to Friendship?" - The New Yorker

"Is the Pandemic Rewiring Kids' Brains?" - The New Republic

"How to Rearrange Your Post-Pandemic ‘Friendscape’" - The New York Times

"These Millennials Are Dumping Their Jobs to Plot New Careers" - The Wall Street Journal

The New Yorker even has a whole section devoted to "life after the pandemic" called the Department of Returns.

As we collectively grapple with the aftermath of this major historical event, two main themes emerge in my social circles:

  1. I don't talk to some of my friends anymore
  2. I hate my job

I wrote about this a little, a few months ago, but I wanted to touch base with it again because while I think many of these reactions are predictable, it's still really fascinating to witness.

Here are some things I've learned.

  1. We have all been reminded that our time is precious.
  2. We think the world is going to burn, and nobody has much faith in the US government. In fact, there's a growing conviction that the two parties are just two arms of the same repulsive beast. And sure, you could have said that before, but there's a big difference between some people saying it, and a lot of people saying it.
  3. It really matters who you spend time with.
  4. My cat is the best, and has made a huge difference towards how grounded I've felt.

He sleep

But more importantly, perhaps, is the fact that as time moves forward, we are left with the ramifications of the decisions we made and the paths that we took during this period. If you take one path, you cannot take the other. It is a zero sum game, just like human attention. If you decide on one thing, you are also giving up something else. And for someone who may have been phoning it in for the past few years, it can seem earthshaking.

It took me much of this year to figure out exactly which creative fields I wanted to focus on. I could work on UX design, illustration, motion design (not just that — which kind?), creative writing, copywriting, web design, blogging ...

All of these were creative fields, but they weren't specific enough; I needed to narrow it down even further. I'll give you an example — motion design.

What's motion design?

Basically, motion design is the visual art of moving parts. It can range from a 3-second logo animation to a full-blown 3D animated commercial.

It's this:

Adam Tarr

But it's also this:

Amazon One

You see why this field is so cool? It is so cool. And there are similar ranges in the other fields. Copywriting — copywriting for who? Financial institutions, diet magazines, or science journals?

Do you see what I mean about choosing? You can start off by trying a little bit of everything — in fact, you should — but eventually, you're going to have to make a decision. You will have to go through a door, and that means skipping the other doors that were also open for you.

I think this is kind of where we are at right now. There's a palpable pang of the heart, a moment (or many moments) of panic; something like, as Neal Brennan said, senioritis.

Are you happy with the choices you have made? Do you think you've missed the boat? Are they just negative or intrusive thoughts, or do you think you've gone through the wrong door? Just remember that these are very common fears. Success is predictable!

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