It happened this weekend.
Someone asked me some of the questions that I hate more than anything in the world. Even more than sushi and awkward first dates–*and that’s a lot, by the way*.
“So…you’re a writer, but not a reporter? Didn’t you go to school for broadcasting?”
“Have you published all those novels you write yet?”
“Is there a reason you write on a blog? Does it further your career?”
“Are you working toward a promotion?”
Yeah. It happened. Wham, bam, all at once. And I bet you a dollar (because that’s all I’m willing to bet at this stage in my life) that you’ve had the same thing happen to you in some way or another and it made you feel like a deadbeat slob. At least it did for me.
(I thought me eating an entire tub of ice-cream was fitting for my whole deadbeat comment)
Now, let me paint a picture of where this happened. A whole bunch of us–family and some friends–were gathered at my parent’s house this weekend and some of us hadn’t seen one another in a while. And if we had, we hadn’t had the time in a while to sit down and go over the many events of our lives. So this was the perfect setting to talk about everything. There was plenty of time. Yay..
More often than not it’s no problem talking about my life and I’m excited to tell people about what I’m doing. I’m excited about the awesome place I work and who I’m married to and my little apartment with a blue wall and two bunny cages. Life, to me, is an adventure every single day and exactly what I want. But every now and then someone (usually with very good intentions) stumbles across my path and reminds me that there are a million things I STILL haven’t done. A million things I thought I would have done by now, too. And it’s easy to slip into the “Wow, I’m 23 and really haven’t checked off those goals that I wrote down when I was 12.”
The good-intentioned person who asked all those questions and twisted their face in an odd, “Oh, okay. That’s nice” kind of an expression probably didn’t know that he/she stirred up all of these insecurities in me, and I’m sure they’ve already forgotten about the exchange. I mean, my insecurities are my fault and no one else’s. But this made me think of everyone else in my age group who might be battling the same kind of thing. Every generation has bigger obligations on their shoulders. Their parents want them to do better, just like their parents wanted THEM to do better. And on one hand, it’s a good thing to have goals and expectations and shoot high. But on the other hand, if we focus so much on what we haven’t done yet, we forget that it’s all about the process, and it turns destructive.
And even more than that, we can forget that our happiness in life shouldn’t be valued on how much of our checklist we’ve checked off.
“Are you going to get your master’s?”
“Are you married yet? Well, do you want to be?”
“When are you going to buy a house instead of rent an apartment?”
“Do you have health insurance yet?”
“Are you using what you went to school for at your job?”
Questions. Questions. Questions. And sometimes, they fill our heads because of our own voices and not even the voices of others. Some people think that my generation is one to feel special, entitled, and self-righteous. That can be true with some people. But I also think there’s a side of my generation that feels hard-pressed to meet a status quo and to compete to be known and recognized and to contribute in some amazing, never-before-heard-of way–because that’s who we’re SUPPOSED to be for the world, right?
I look on my social media feeds and I see people in my generation who are all over the map. Some are holding newborns in their profile pictures and some are holding trophies. Some are starting companies and others are unemployed and looking to get back into school. Some are buying wedding dresses and others are designing them. I don’t know what kind of questions all these people face. I don’t know what kind of questions they may even ask themselves. But they usually spell out success to me. Most of them are doing what makes them happy or what will lead them to happiness eventually.
So what if that new stay-at-home mom on my Facebook page once told me in high school that she’d be a pediatrician by 25? Maybe her dreams changed.
So what if that kid who wanted to be an engineer decided that he’s happiest when he paints? He might get a lower salary, but his spirits are higher, I can bet on it.
You see, Twenty-something, you and I have a journey that’s all our own. And we’re not called to fit a mold that other people–or even our younger selves–created. We’re supposed to gain success that ultimately brings happiness, even if that means our dreams change or the dreams we’re still pursuing are a little bit slower in the making. Life is meant to be lived one day at a time and goals are to be achieved one step at a time.
Yeah, I’m a writer and not a TV reporter right now. I happen to love my job and besides, I have to write because writing is like breathing to me.
Yeah, I blog. And it helps me more than anyone probably.
No, I don’t have kids. But I’m an aunt–to 22 little kids. And it’s the best thing in the world.
Yeah, my health insurance sucks. And so does 95% of the country’s right now.
Yeah, I’m in a one-bedroom apartment and none of my novels have been published. Yet. But I still write novels. Every gosh darn day.
I’m successful because I’m happy.
So, to the Twenty-Something who’s reading this–are you not exactly where you thought you’d be by now? Well, good. That means that this whole journey thing is working for both of us just like it should.
Move forward. Find joy on the path, not just at the path’s end. And you’ll always be exactly where you should be.
I’d bet my “twenty-something” salary on that one.