I saved this blog post as an empty draft almost a year ago, after I got accepted as a part-time supervisor at the library I currently work at. I never got around to writing it, yet the things I wanted to talk about are still as poignant a year later, so here we go.
I really struggle with the mindsets surrounding the “real world” (or the adult world) and how major milestones in life are treated as deadlines you are meant to meet (usually by your early 20s). If you fail to do this, then you obviously aren’t successful. Take jobs, for example. Because apparently, if you don’t work a job from 8-5 Monday through Friday–and if you don’t hate it–you don’t actually have a “real job.” At least, that was the response I initially got from some after they learned I worked nights. And when I told them that I actually enjoyed my job…
It really makes no sense to me and made me question what qualifies as a “real” job. An adult job. A job where others respect you because of said job. Whose parameters am I failing because my hours are 6pm-12am (and if I go full-time, hopefully, 3pm-12am)? How am I lacking because I ended up getting a second job? Why is my job scoffed at because I have time to get on social media, write, read or blog during my shifts, after my other tasks are completed?
And who on Earth said that you had to be miserable at work in order to “make it”?
And that’s just one example of how I’m sometimes considered “doing it wrong” in the adult world. There are so many others. Some conversations I’ve been having with friends lately reveals just how much pressure we all feel to make it–actually, to have already “made it”, because none of us feel like we’re at where we are supposed to be. We all feel behind. You see, we should all have the traditional 8-5 job, married, 2.5 kids, house with a white picket fence. That’s success. We range throughout our 20s, age wise, yet all of us feel, to various degrees, that we aren’t where we are “supposed” to be. Career wise. Relationship wise. Family wise. Writing wise. Financially. Emotionally. Physically. Because of this, we all feel like we’ve failed, somehow. That we’re not doing it right. And it’s stressful. Ridiculously stressful.
All of this angst and pressure we feel, this disappointment in ourselves, it makes me wonder not only where it comes from, but why we feel this way in the first place. Whose standards are we unconsciously–and at the same time, with very acute awareness–are we comparing ourselves to and finding ourselves lacking? Who decided that there was a “right” way to live life, some way that the rest of us must subscribe to and mimic in order to full accomplished and successful?
That mindset has gotta go, friends.
Life is hard enough as it is without putting unnecessary added pressure to hit all of these expectations or markers by some made up deadline and then base your worth and success off of how many checks you can cross off that list. Hell, when I was in high school, my vision of success was by the time I was 24, I’d have a degree, a full-time job, a husband and a home we shared. By the time I was 28, we’d be talking about starting a family and I’d definitely be published by the time I was 30.
I have no idea where half of those ages came from. I do know that I picked most of them not because I thought I’d actually do any of those things by that time, but because I assumed that was when I should have done those things by. Worse, as these things haven’t happened, I still catch myself adapting my deadlines to match how my life has panned out, trying to figure out my new “supposed to”. Now, in the back of my head, I actually think, since I missed my “deadline”, I’ll never get married. So I’m teeter-tottering between what age I should start applying to adopt (because even if I never get to experience love, I’ll be damned if I never get to be a mother). Is 30 too early? 35 too late? Should I buy my own house and live alone, or live in apartments forever? Should I get a dog now or wait a few years? Published at 40 or never?
Yet who says because I missed the deadlines of when these things were “supposed” to happen, according to my brain, that they will never happen? Or that I failed? Or that my entire life should already be figured out in the first place (or ever)? Or that I can’t continue to work on what I want to accomplish, no matter what age I am or how different my version of success looks like compared to society’s?
Who says I’m still not successful and adulting well even if my life isn’t a cookie cutter of what society says it should be?
I think we need to work on more forgiving mindsets in terms of what a successful life “in the real world” looks like. There is no one path to success. There are no deadlines, no timeline you are expected to meet. Just because you haven’t reached X point in your career, said “I do,” had X amount of kids or not accomplished any other major milestones by certain points or ages in your life doesn’t mean those milestones are now unreachable for you. Nor does it mean that your life is not on the right course for you. And I think it is important to remember that; that each person’s life has a different timeline where milestones fall.
Personally, for me, my life in “the real world” is working 55 hours a week at two jobs, continuing to work on improving my fitness and my writing, being complicatedly single, living in my own apartment, paying all my own bills, trying to work in traveling internationally once a year and genuinely being happy 95% of the time. My career is still questionable. My love life isn’t where I want it. Starting a family is not in my near future. I’m financially struggling. I’m in debt for the next 10 years. And I’m 24 years old. Not already 24, not only 24–those words insinuate that I’m either missing something or moving too quickly in life. No. I’m 24 years old and my life is being shaped by the choices I make and the effort I put in, alongside the mentality I maintain. I’m immersed in the real world as I know it. And where I am at is perfectly okay.