Today I am in my quarter life. My years in university were spent wondering why I’d chosen my incredibly niche course, too scared to shift to the major I discovered far too late I wanted to pursue. There were boys—and A Boy—in college, but none of them were my boyfriends. I did spend some time in law school after I quit my first job teaching, but I was asked to leave at the end of the year when it was determined that I couldn’t keep up with the rigor. Just this month, I resigned from my second job—anxiety, finally diagnosed only because I finally mustered up an insane amount of courage to see a doctor.
I tell you all of this not because I want any sort of sympathy but because if you’re a teenager and you’re on the cusp of adulthood, making all sorts of plans and expecting your life to work out exactly the way you want it to the first time, you need to remember one very important thing: shit happens, even to adults.
Sometimes when we’re young, we tend to look at the older people in our lives and think that they’ve got everything figured out or that their lives, while not exactly perfect yet, soon will be. These days, the anxiety to achieve certain things by a certain age gets worse because it’s so easy to feel pressured by the need to live up to our friends’ Instagram feeds. Except social media is largely about curation—keeping all the good stuff in while keeping everything less than that out. I know a lot of people my age who have achieved exactly what they wanted, whether it’s in their careers or in their personal lives, and that’s fine. There are also people much younger than I am who are giving their own TEDx talks, being celebrated as persons of note in their respective industries, and that’s fine as well.
But I also know a lot of people my age who feel as though they need to recalibrate every so often, either because what they think they wanted didn’t really work out, or because they discover that they’ve changed and that what they originally wanted is totally different from what they want now—and that’s fine too!
We need to get rid of the idea that achievements like finding the right job and being in a relationship have due dates. It’s great if you’ve managed to reach your goals early, but it doesn’t make you any less of a person if you’re still looking for the next step. People’s interests, goals, and priorities can change over the years and what matters more than anything is being brave enough to keep grinding even when everything isn’t as perfect as you wish it could be.
In the 1994 movie Reality Bites, fresh grad and valedictorian Leilana Pierce, fresh from being disappointed by both her job as a production assistant and her network executive boyfriend muses, “I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.” And in a moment that I hold close to my heart, her friend (and eventual love interest, but ssh!), guitarist Troy Dyer says, “Honey, all you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.” And if you don’t know who that is yet, believe me when I say that you have time to figure that out.
*cover photo source