This past August 1st was my half-birthday, and for whatever compelling reason, I felt the need to tell people. I was met with “half birthdays are a thing?” and “happy half birthday” laced with the undertone of exactly why are you telling me this? Yes, my half-birthday is a thing, and I’m telling you about it because in exactly six months from August 1, 2016, I will turn the ripe old age of twenty-five. Which at that point, will only be another 5 years till 30. And after that, I might as well just be dead. Kidding, (kind of.) To anyone older than me, twenty-five is not “old.” To a 12-year-old, you expect to have your whole life figured out, a fiance, and a 2-year-old golden retriever named Buddy who repeatedly tries to escape from your white picket fence by age twenty-five. Which means in what would be now five months time, yikes, I will officially be qualified to have a quarter life crisis.
Let’s see if this scenario happens to sound familiar: You log on to Facebook and someone is engaged. Pregnant. Buying a house. Made partner at their law firm. Adopted a dog. Just got back from Thailand helping underprivileged children for 6 months. Discovered fitness and lost 30 lbs. Married in the countryside at a vineyard. Working for MTV. Just moved to the big city. Which then begs the question, what am I doing?
Comparison is the death of joy.
– Mark Twain
So what are you doing? You. You’re doing you. No, not in the Drake “Over” kind of way, but in the way that you’re doing the best you can with the information you have at this very moment in time. For some, it doesn’t make sense financially to backpack through Europe at twenty-three. Or ever. And that’s okay.
Success isn’t linear.
And it means something different to everyone.
We hear this all the time. And yet for whatever reason, we rarely give ourselves the leeway to let it actually apply to us. And why would we? We live in a comparison culture of highlighting our best moments on Instagram for our peers but saving the Snapchat with the double chin for our closest friends. We forget that everyone has, more often than not, an abundance of double chin moments as compared to their sparkling wine glass photo against the scenic beach background of The Hampton’s ones. Let’s be real, the effort put into getting those angles just right for your Insta worthy moment probably produced a double chin on its own, but, I digress.
It was banged into my head from the second I crossed the stage of my college graduation that I had to get a job, a real job, nonetheless, and have everything figured out as soon as I could. You know what that mentality lead me to? A lot of unhappiness. You expect that once you put in the work, you’ll be rewarded with a career that fulfills you, or one that you think will at the time. Do you know how many articles and podcasts I’ve come across in this week alone of people who left their law degrees behind in pursuit of teaching yoga? Powerful men and women who woke up and realized their six figure job was only feeding their wallets, and decided it was time to feed their souls?
Leaving a six figure job to sing “Kumbaya” in the mountains certainly doesn’t reflect the lineality we equate with modern success in this culture. But if that happens to be what you need to feel whole, then you are perfectly aligned with yourself, which is infinitely more important.
So maybe you’re reading this right now from your office job that’s soul crushing, but practical. Maybe you’re an A+ student and you realized despite the effort you put into your Bachelors, Masters, or PhD, you want a life of something other than what you’ve achieved academically. Or maybe you’re exactly where you want to be right now, but come to find in a few years that your work no longer helps you grow and you’re paralyzed at the thought of moving on from something you put so much of yourself into. Either way, remember that we’re not always meant to go up. The periods of uncertainty, the lulls, the worries, the anxious endings and the endless questioning of ourselves is what eventually leads us to exponential growth. A smooth sea never made for an experienced sailor.
Feeding into the phenomenon of only publicizing your highlight reel is a disservice to all the very authentic moments that make you, you. The lows are just as, if not more, important than the highs in this great voyage we call life.
In five months time if I haven’t achieved anything Facebook worthy, I’ll take solace in the fact that I’m always working to strengthen my sense of worthiness from within. Mine, yours, and everyone’s journeys are incomparable to anyone elses. I invite you to take solace in the fact that you’ll grow while figuring yours out along the way. And in the fact that Buddy the golden retriever probably hasn’t even been born yet, and when he is, will gladly chew up your white picket fence when the time is just right.
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust our sails.