What to do when your peers are succeeding and moving forward with their lives and you’ve not budged one centimetre. Many university students have finished their degrees over lockdown and feel like they’ve not really graduated, and the class of 2020 have just started. We’ve all been consuming a lot more social media, and seeing how others have been having cute at home graduations.
I graduated back in 2017, and I had a degree related role within my university. I had a few opportunities to work on independent films, at the same time as working on a zero hour contract. I then was made redundant in April 2019. I had been applying for jobs and attending job interviews in that last year, as I wanted something more stable with a permanent salary. With no other job prospects I turned to agency work for the hospitality industry, I truly felt like a failure. Hopping on social media and seeing my fellow graduates walking straight into amazing roles, and there I was washing up pots and pans and smelling like gone off yoghurt. I did not post anything on my social media about what was happening, and what I was going through. I only wrote a post this year on my personal blog about working in a supermarket. I thought that I had to keep up this illusion that I was still getting film jobs, and try to give off the impression that I was successful.
Even though in that past year I had far more film and television credits than the year before, I still felt like I had failed because I didn’t have regular work, or a full time position in my field. I could see my peers posting behind the scenes photos and videos of the shoot they were working on. Wishing that could be me. Why was my phone not blowing up with shoots? I learned a little too late that most of these shoots everyone was boasting about were for free. They weren’t getting paid for their time. I didn’t have to be envious. I am so grateful for the experiences I’ve had so far. I’ve worked with some truly amazing and talented people. Having to go back and work in hospitality and the retail sector made me more humble. It made me appreciate what I have. I started to switch off comparing my (lack of) success to my peers and colleagues, and instead compare my own success. At the end of each year I’ve started a tradition of sharing some of my best bits on my personal Facebook account. These will usually include trips away, fun days out and any film and television work. When it comes to this reflection I can see if I feel like I’ve succeeded in getting more film credits. If not, then that’s something to work on for the next year, or find out the reason why there’s been a lack of film work.
I’ve come to accept that my film career might not be going anywhere, or every now and then I might work on a short film. However, it doesn't stop me comparing myself with friends who’ve moved out, got their own places and are moving forward in that aspect of their lives. There was a time when I’d see those pictures of couples standing outside their new house, standing proud and I’d get so upset and annoyed. I would then try and do the maths of how they could afford a deposit depending on their jobs and if they went to university. Sure, some people must be really good savers and have been squirrelling for years, but some people also get a lot of help from their family.
When I was about sixteen, I would always imagine what life would be like for twenty-five-year-old me. I thought that within a decade I’d have a decent career, a house, be married and thinking about having children. I think she’d burst into tears if she saw me now; with diddly squat to show for my life. Life has changed so much, and I think I definitely had an outdated view of the world. Now that I’m “grown-up” I see the world a lot differently, I’m taking each month as it comes and opening my mind to the fact that I might not check all the boxes off of traditional “life goals”. As long as I can be healthy and happy at the end of the day, that’s what matters. Not wasting my time and energy looking at everyone’s “perfect” lives.
Stop looking back at the past, it will not help you move forward. If you keep looking sideways at your peers, you will lose sight of your goal. Keep your head forward, envision your goal and start running towards it.
How can you move forward and feel successful?
You need to stop taking things for face value, there’s so much more going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about. Keep scrolling past things that can trigger you, mute those you follow that make you feel envious. Maybe take a moment to address why you are feeling this way.
Create your own plan and hold yourself accountable. Write down what you want to achieve each year, and try and create a five or ten-year plan. What do you want to be doing by the end of it?
There’s a stigma and judgement around keeping a diary, but I honestly think they are one of the best tools to see how far you’ve come. You can easily look back and past-you will tell you how you felt. We rely so much on Facebook memories and Timehop as “diaries” but it’s not the same. What we post online is part of our online persona. Diaries are where we get real with ourselves.
Everyone’s path is different, you might not have found the correct turning yet. We all have different backgrounds and experiences, so no two paths are exactly the same. Put one foot in front of the other to get moving, and you might find a surprise.
Remember, you're running your own race.