Dear person who is graduating and leaving school this month,

Dear person who is finishing a season of their life,

Dear excited, confused, overwhelmed, desperate, euphoric, happy person,

Dear person who has no clue what the next best step is,

this time last year, I was you. And as you can see, I still exist. I survived. I know it might be hard to imagine what the fuck you’re going to do with your life and where the hell you’re going to end up. But trust me: you’re going to do something and you are going to be somewhere.

Today I still feel like I am in your shoes. But I feel confident to give you (and me) a blueprint of what’s going to happen and what you have to do today in order to figure out what your next best step is. I’m going to give you the most practical and no bullshit real life advice you’re ever going to get.

So first and foremost, do whatever scares the shit out of you. Ever heard the beautiful phrase “just follow your passion/intuition”? It’s even more important than beautiful and essentially means: find out what excites you and pursue the one idea that scares you so much you would rather hysterically laugh about it. Do what might seem risky, unknown or bigger than you, despite other people’s opinion or expectations. Do what in your gut feels true for you. Pursue the very idea that is roaming in the back of your mind but that you can’t shut up. Because it never will shut up. And the pain of regret is bigger than the discomfort of leaving your comfort zone.

The thing is you have to pursue it now. It’s your obligation. Your only obligation. Now is your time to start taking action because no teacher will continue to kick your ass to get you through the year. Now is the time to get far away from your comfort zone.

Now is your time to fail. You don’t have to be successful at whatever you’re doing in the next 12 months, or 24, or 36. It’s not the time to “get things right” or to move into a safe zone – remember: you’ve been in the safe zone since you were born! This time, every year people are excited about leaving school and all they do is escape into a new system that they possibly hate. No safe zone for you, my friend! Go for the uncomfortable, scary, unsafe, risky route. It’s your time to try, fail and try again (maybe something different).

Thankfully, you don’t have to choose your one and only career path in this moment. But whatever you chose to pursue for now, think about the impact you want to have in the future and what you want your day to day life to look like. Don’t think about the dollars that job promises or how well the markets looks. Don’t think about what others think sounds cool or what might look good on your resumé. Ask yourself what it is that excites you. Envision how and with what kind of people you want to spend the vast majority of your time with in the future. That’s your next best step for deciding on your next job, field, study, university or business. Make that decision for yourself, your future, your energy, your time, your interests and your passions and not for external factors like people or money.

Because remember: Happiness always starts with you. Not your pay check, social approval, Instagram following or tinder matches.

I promise you that you can achieve anything you set your mind too. And if, in a few years you think back to this letter and think “bullshit, what a lie that was”, then either you still have to patiently wait for your breakthrough moment and continue to hustle or you need to step up your game and ask yourself if you’re really putting in 10X more effort than everyone else.

Failing at something and trying something else, taking a gap year to travel or to volunteer, pursuing what excites you, getting out of your comfort zone, trying out different study programmes, launching a business, moving abroad, working for a while … whatever is in the back of your mind – if you follow all the principles that I have told you about, I promise you that you will not “waste” time. You will experience life. You will learn about life. You will learn about people. You will learn about yourself.

In the months and years to follow, you’re going to experience pain and uncertainty like never before. But you’re also going to experience pride, joy and accomplishment like never before. Allow yourself to feel your emotions. Acknowledge them, soak them in and then take that energy and create something great out of it.

And the last message I have for you, before you leave that old safe zone. Before you leave that season behind you and brace for a new one, whether it will be a good or a bad one: love with all you have, don’t be too harsh on yourself but always search for new ways to grow, evolve and learn. Have a little fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You’re young. Live.

Carmen