This time last year, I was obsessed with milestones. Or more like obsessed with the fact that I hadn’t hit enough of them. My Facebook feed was (and remains) packed with sparkly diamond rings, drooling babies, and my former classmates standing in front of their newly purchased homes. As in houses. That they bought. I clicked and liked and commented, while slowly sinking into a quicksand of sadness.
My achievements seemed dull in comparison to the huge life choices my “friends” were making. Unconsciously, I compared my life as it was to how it should be. I’m in my mid-twenties, I thought. I should have the career of Lena Dunham, the family of Angelina Jolie, and the engagement ring of Anna King (I went to elementary school with her; don’t worry about it).
In reality, I was a freelance writer, living paycheck to paycheck. The only diamonds I had were from Claire’s, and they turned my fingers green. And though I was dating an amazing human, we hadn’t moved in together or made any babies or thrown a giant party for all our friends and family. Did our relationship even count?
Even when I did accomplish something substantial, like earning my master’s degree or celebrating an anniversary with my boyfriend, I felt disappointed. Sure, maybe I hit a milestone, but it wasn’t THE milestone. I didn’t feel compelled to write a five-paragraph Facebook status about how I’ve never been happier (#bestdayofmylife). I didn’t feel any older or wiser or ~put together~ which is what I assumed would happen when I leveled up in life enough times.
Last year, when I turned 25, my birthday felt like a big ol’ failure truck, running me over Looney Toons style while I was trying to hard to cross the road to being a “successful” adult. Instead of focusing on how I’d survived another year, I drank three margaritas before dinner and fell asleep crying by 8p.m. If you are already beating yourself up for not being enough of an adult, let me tell you right now, giving yourself a hangover is the worst birthday present ever.
This year on my birthday, I made sure to eat a burrito before hanging out with my good friend tequila. Older? Check. Wiser? Check. Still spending too much time looking at Facebook posts that have nothing to do with me? Unfortunately, check.
But something has shifted. Yes, I still swipe through dozens of Pinterest-perfect photos of proposals and pregnancies (and gender-reveal parties, even though I think they are basic as hell), but now when I feel that familiar FOMO bubbling up, I ask myself: Is that what you want?
Unless the photo in question is of someone holding two cats and a bunny rabbit, the answer is almost always no. Sometimes, when it’s the eighth picture of a couple getting engaged on a hike, the answer is: not right now. (And most definitely not on a hike. Hikes are freaking sweaty.) Asking, “Is that what you want?” on a regular basis reminds me that I’m living my life, which is definitely the right life for me. There is nothing missing. I’m not “behind” just because my Facebook friends have mortgages and college funds for their kids. When I’m honest with myself, I know I’m not rich enough for a house, responsible enough for a kid, or secure enough for marriage. But I love my life — that should be enough.
I’ve realized that there is no such thing as a milestone. Life isn’t like grade school, where you get smarter in measurable increments. It’s not like a video game where, if you gather a certain amount of coins or win enough battles, you’re automatically stronger. And it’s certainly not about how many happy Facebook statuses you share.
Life isn’t made of milestones, but rather one big stone. And I think it’s safe to say it’s a rolling stone. A rolling stone, rife with metaphors. A metaphorical rolling stone that is sparkly. Because it’s a diamond. No, it’s better than a diamond. It’s more precious and beautiful.
And, man, when you let it, your life can shine.