I love learning words from other languages that perfectly describe a feeling for which English has no equivalent word. Last week I came across a new one and it slapped me right across the face. Torschlusspanik. This German word describes the fear that time is running out. It’s the panic you get when you think that you haven’t done enough with your life, and that if you don’t act soon then you might miss out on more opportunities as time passes. It literally translates as ‘gate shutting panic’.
Well, if I haven’t been unknowingly existing in a state of torschlusspanik for years now. Specifically, I’ve spent nearly every day since my mid-twenties overcome by the panic that I’m running out of time. As if there is some universal deadline to ‘find yourself’ and I’ve been hurtling towards it, still very much lost.
It goes without saying that the age of 30 comes with societal expectation that one should be a proper grown up, which translates as: be successfully scaling your chosen career ladder, be married to your soulmate, maybe have a kid or two, and definitely own property.
It’s the career bit that has been my particular sticking point. I prioritised partying whilst I was at university and others were networking. Then I prioritised travelling after university when others were diligently hopping on the early rungs of the career ladder. Then the years passed, and those rungs remained illusive to me. I was filled with a sick dread, clutched with anxiety, drowning in fear.
“It’s too late!!”
“How come everyone else seems to know what they want to be when they grow up when I have absolutely no clue?”
“If I don’t know by now, then I’ll never know. There’s no hope for me!”
Oh yeah, the torschlusspanik was real.
I actually ended up deleting my LinkedIn profile the week before my 30th birthday because it was so triggering to see people I went to school with achieving things in their career when I felt like I had barely taken two steps forward since then,.
Since becoming aware that this is both a stressful and wasteful way to live a life, I now actively trying to talk myself down off the torschlusspanik ledge. Let me tell ya, it’s been such a relief to start to let go of this feeling. I made the snap decision one day that I would no longer allow myself to wallow in career-related anxiety after an ex-boyfriend insinuated that it might be *a tad dull*. I just said ‘no more’ and I actually listened to myself. If I feel any familiar fears about running out of time starting to creep in, I try to remind myself of the following:
A) I own property and that is mine, all mine (well, also partly the bank’s). Does that feel like failing? No, no it does not.
B) I travelled to 50 countries over the course of my 20s. I have been places and seen things that most people can only dream of. Would I swap those experiences to be slightly ahead in my career and working flat out week after week? Absolutely not. (But I also have to remind myself that I don’t have to visit all the places right now. Stop rushing. There is time.)
C) Retirement age in the UK is currently 67 and will probably be 107 by the time I get there. That’s a hell of a lot of time left to spend at work. I am not running out of time. There is so. much. time. left.
And the absurd thing about all of this is that some of those people that were triggering to me on LinkedIn would probably be looking at my life on Instagram with envy and remorse that they hadn’t travelled enough or bought a property and that they were running out time. Everyone’s torschlusspanik looks a little different.
What shape does your torschlusspanik take? I’d love to hear from you about your experience with this. And if you’re needing a hand letting go of it, I’d recommend writing a Reality Check-list like mine above. I hope it helps!
Check out 7 tips to stop comparing yourself to others.
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