There are two types of people in this world:
1. Those who wait for their dreams to fall into their laps and sit around waiting for opportunities to present themselves.
2. Those who know nothing falls into anyone's lap, and if you want something to be different or better in your life, you have to go out and work for it yourself.
I used to be the first type. I just expected my life to unfold in a relatively nice way—I'd get a job, have some fun friends, date nice people—and hopefully all the things I imagined for myself growing up would work out for me. Around college, I learned life doesn't exactly work like that. Life is a series of waves knocking you on your ass at the beach, challenging you to get up and fight for what you really want. These waves come in varying sizes: some lap pleasantly at your ankles, but some knock you down so hard you lose your bikini top in the process. The good thing about life, though, as opposed to, well, the ocean, is you can control it a lot more than you think.
A therapist I saw toward the end of my time in college made me realize this. I had just gotten out of the Worst Relationship Ever and went to see her because I couldn't believe I put up with so much of one dude's shit for so long. I lost my life, my friends, and my sense of identity along with that terrible relationship. But I wanted a lot: I wanted a career in media, I wanted friends who shared my values, and eventually I wanted to date guys who weren't just Not Awful, but actually Great People. My therapist informed me that I could have all these things: I would just have to work for them.
If you want friends, you have to go out and make them. If you want a job in a competitive field where jobs aren't even listed because so many people want them, you have to go out and ask people. And if you want to meet great guys, you have to be open-minded about them and invite all kinds into your life. All of this takes work. It takes effort to go places to meet new people, or to hit up a friend of a friend and invite her out for brunch. It takes real work to change a long-held attitude about dating to try to let guys who aren't douchestastic far enough into your circle of fabulousness that they actually get to know you.
And searching for a job is a full-time job. So if you're working or in school, and you're worried about your career, make peace with losing a little sleep, go home on weeknights instead of going out drinking, and do a few extra hours of work to make sure you're discovering opportunities and getting cover letters to the right people.
All of this is hard. I know it, because I've done it. Since breaking up with the douchey college boyfriend, I put in a lot of work to understand why I dated such a loser in the first place and how to avoid all such losers moving forward. I took chances on things and people I would have otherwise dismissed. I now have a wonderful husband and a large group of amazing friends who will be there for me whenever I need them and don't just want to drink all the time.
I was brutally persistent in pursuing work opportunities, begged for work, and am now an editor at Cosmopolitan.com, the hardest but most fun job I've ever had. I took every scrap of spare time I could find on the side over the past couple of years to write a book that's coming out next year. And the best thing about all of it is that, when I look around at my life, I don't feel just feel glad that I fulfilled my childhood aspirations, I feel incredibly content knowing that I built all of it. Every good thing in my life is a result of hard work that I did.
If there's something about your life you want to change, don't just sit on your ass. Get off your butt and work for it. YouTube "Work Bitch" if that's what you need to get going (it helps me when I need a little motivation). Because at the end of the day, do you want to be at the end of Britney's leash getting whipped?
Hell no. If anyone's going to whip anything, it's you. And the thing you're going to whip is all the bullshit life throws at you.
Bring it on, 2015. Bring it on.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.