In the age of social media, it’s far too easy to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. It makes it effortless to trace the steps of others in the hopes of achieving the same success. I’m here to say, that’s not how it works.
Life is a series of twists and turns, of ups and downs. We don’t all move the same, so all our paths are different and difficult in their own way.
We often get stuck in the mindset that we have to conform to society’s timeline, and we forget that we don’t actually exist in a straight line. The world claims that to be an acceptable member of society you need to have a specific track record. The major stops on the road to success are listed in a time order and if you do it any other way, or not at all, somehow, you’re wrong.
Go from high school to college have several internships while you’re there along with a paying job. After graduating, get a job while getting your masters, then engaged, then married. Kids who play t-ball, ballet, or soccer. Grandkids. It’s so hard to time these things just right, and that’s because society is just setting you up for failure. How do you know you will fall in love enough to get married in your twenties? What if you don’t want kids? Can you go back to school as a working mom?
The short answer is, life isn’t a strategized race to an end point. The long answer is that people have probably whispered to their friends about how you must have made a bad choice along the way to be moving this slow on the timeline, or not be on the right track at all. The truth is, if we all do it the same, our success loses its value. If we are all equally successful in the same way, we are all equally boring.
Some people could benefit from a gap year between high school and college, you don’t have to have it all planned out at eighteen. Almost everyone I know is in massive debt and half of them have no idea what they want their life to look like. Some of us are just in college because our whole childhood we were taught that this is where we we are supposed to be at this point in our lives. They said that if we didn’t do it now we would never get it done, as if it was a life requirement. You cannot pass go and collect two-hundred if you don’t pick a university right now!
The world is down our throats about our future, our plans. How do we respond when we hardly have a clue?
I know people who went to trade school, had kids, and own a home now. They didn’t get stuck in a rut because someone told them they’d never amount to anything without a college degree. Other people went on to have pet kids that they send to doggie day care while they go to community college and save up. Some moved across the country and interned for amazing companies or hiked mountains for a few months. Some are couch surfing while they figure it all out.
The truth is, we have time. Everyone thinks by twenty-one that you should have already made huge successful steps toward a future that you have made up your mind on. You don’t. As people, we are in a constant state of change and growth. What is right for one person at this time could be catastrophic for another.
What I’m getting at is that it’s okay if your life doesn’t look like everyone else’s, now or ever. We are all learning and deciding for ourselves what sparks our joy.
So, when you’re deciding on life’s next steps, small or large, don’t use the map. Pick a path that looks interesting to you, or don’t follow a path at all. Your existence should be completely unique and built by no one but you.
Choose your own battles, climb your own mountains, and of course…pick your own sunflowers.