When I was nine, a girl who babysat me was twenty three years old. That sounded positively ancient to me at the time, and I had assumed that she had to be so wise in the ways of the world. So I found myself disappointed when she answered a majority of my questions about being a grown up with “I don’t know.”
Just recently I met a friend’s six-year-old who was completely astounded that I wasn’t married with several children because as she put it, “Aren’t you old though? You must be at least twenty right?” It’s funny how many of us grow up believing that people should have accomplished certain things by a certain time or had specific experiences by a certain age. I know I did!
It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I realized that there IS no timeline to adhere to, and life is exactly what we make it when we make it. But if you’re like me, you’ve had moments where you felt behind the curve and as if you need to catch up with everyone else. Maybe it’s a comparison to your friends, maybe it’s just the expectations you’ve placed on yourself to be exactly somewhere by a specific age and fear that you’ll feel like a failure if you don’t. I really think this kind of mindset is detrimental to our personal well being, but if you’ve ever felt this way, know that you’re not alone and I guarantee we’ve all experienced some of the following together.
Your employment goals seem out of sync
It took me six months longer after college graduation than everyone else I knew, to find a job. That six months might as well have been a decade for how frustrated I felt listening to my friends discuss hellish commutes, new bosses, decorating a cubicle and how much vacation time they were offered right off the bat. In my head I compared my GPA to theirs, my grades and extracurriculars and wondered what I had done wrong to not have immediately landed a job like they did. But then the craziest thing happened. I found a job that I really liked. Getting something first doesn’t necessarily mean best, but it took me time to figure that out.
Maybe you still don’t know what your dream job is
I was always fascinated by the friends in college who openly discussed how they’d mapped out their lives for post-college life. Without hesitation they’d list by which age they’d have been promoted to their ultimate goal professional position and even with which company it would be. It didn’t concern me then because I knew I was more of a fly by the seat of my pants kind of gal. But after graduation, even while I liked my first job I wasn’t exactly sure what I would LOVE to be doing. Fast forward to turning thirty when I would figure it out and start pursuing it. There is no deadline for figuring out what you want to do that feeds your soul while paying your rent.
You didn’t have a significant romance until your 20s, or maybe you still haven’t
When I was 23 I fell in love for the first time. This seemed incredibly late to me even marked by friends commenting, “finally! It’s about time!” Know the song “You Can’t Hurry Love”? Learn it and live it. You might fall in love for the first time when you’re 16. Or 19. Or 27. Or 38. It’s your life, your heart and you’ll share it when you’re ready.
You’re still discovering new likes and dislikes on a daily basis
Sometimes when you’re used to doing something repetitively, or accepting it as a necessary part of your job you forget to ask yourself if you even enjoy it. Remember in “Runaway Bride” when Richard Gere accuses Julia Roberts of not even knowing what kind of eggs she likes? I spent years working in marketing and sales in various ways and enjoyed the creative aspect behind campaigns and end results of a lot of what I did, but one day someone asked me “do you like sales?” And “No” came out of my mouth instantaneously. It also wasn’t until my late twenties that I decided that I liked to play tennis. Or that I love planning parties for other people, not myself. When you’re still surprising yourself with what you’re figuring out, and evolving as a person, you’re still on the path to deciding what you want and where you want to be and that’s okay.
You feel that at your age you’re still at too much of an entry level in your profession
In my late twenties I started all over in a completely unfamiliar industry than the one I had spent almost seven years in and I accepted that meant sliding back down to the bottom of the totem pole. Being comfortable with it personally is what helped when my peers or anyone older remarked that I seemed to have a lot of “experience” to be working in what they felt was a low level position. But there were times in my previous job that I would wonder why I hadn’t yet been promoted or invited to a specific conference like others with similar roles in the company. Or I would see friends taking on what seemed like mid level positions at their jobs while I was still fighting to be seen as more than the kid hired right out of college. If you’re not being appreciated or respected for your work, you can search for another job. Or you can appeal to your boss for more responsibility if it’s available. But you don’t ever need to apologize or feel that your job title isn’t impressive enough. That’s nonsense, don’t buy into it.
You’re not entirely sure what kind of relationship you want to have
I’m surrounded by friends who are married and having babies and I’m thrilled for them. I’m not positive that I want that for myself, but in the whirlwind of everyone else doing it, I had moments where I felt that maybe that’s what I should want. And what I should be doing. Some friends stressed about not being engaged by the age of thirty and then not having their first child by thirty two the latest and how it all needed to fit I to a neat little plan they’d had since they were little. Like falling in love, the kind of long term relationship you want to be in is a big decision and you need to know yourself the best before you invite someone else to be your partner. There’s no rush for this to happen. George Clooney just got married after swearing it off for half his life y’all.
You have experienced feeling like you must be the last person ever to do anything
Figure out your major. Get married. Find a job. Kiss someone. Have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Experience something exciting. Lose your virginity. Get a promotion. Live in a great apartment. Travel somewhere cool. Score your dream job. Build a decent savings account. Buy a house. Discover the perfect hairstyle that’s a mixture of sexy/cute yet easy to manage. Whatever it is that you’re feeling, I have felt it and trust me when I say to stop watching the clock and holding yourself hostage to a timeline. Think about how boring life would be if we all did everything the same and at the exact same time!
I realize that often it’s the traditional-sometimes archaic-societial standards that instill these feelings in us, or cause others to comment on the manner in which we are living. But
we owe it to ourselves to live our own best life without apology, at our own personal speed.
And if you need some further confidence when you’re feeling like you haven’t figured it out or achieved all that you want yet? Consider the success that came after the age of thirty for Martha Stewart, Vera Wang, Julia Child, J.K. Rowling, Louisa May Alcott and countless others. Pretty inspiring list to stay true to yourself.
[Image via Universal]