Ever since I turned 20 there are few things I’ve been hearing from the older adults in my life. When are you graduating? Did you apply to grad school yet? What do you want to do with your life? Medicine or Engineering? You’re living alone now. Have you learned to cook? You’ve put on some weight. You’re a girl. You shouldn’t be out that late. Did you hear about so and so? She’s marrying a doctor. My aunt’s brother’s wife’s friend has a son. He’s an engineer. You should talk to him. And my personal favorite, you should think about making a profile on shaadi.com. (There is nothing wrong with shaadi.com, I’m just not interested)
From the time you’re born, you’re raised to be your very best self. Sometimes that message gets lost and rather than doing your best, you’re expected to be the best. Ever. The emphasis goes from be better than you were, to be better…than that kid over there. You’re enrolled in every possible extra curricular activity from dance to debate. You spend every waking moment studying harder, running faster, and jumping higher.
Up until I was in high school the questions were about what college and major I was choosing. I was instructed to not look at boys and just focus on my schoolwork. But in just a few years I’m expected to have every detail of my future planned! And it doesn’t stop there. Once you work your absolute best and have graduated with that hard-earned degree and just take one step into the real world, you’re flooded with even more questions. When are you getting married? When you’re married, when are you having kids? When are you having your second kid? You should buy a house. You should think about signing up for a life insurance policy. Have you started planning for your retirement? And before you know it you’re 5 years from retirement and you don’t even remember how you got there.
For some people it works. And that’s great! You had a plan and you stuck with it. More power to you! But what if I don’t have a plan? Or maybe my plan didn’t work out like I had intended.
I mean is it okay that I’m not Yoda and don’t have all the answers to everything right now? Is it okay that I’m struggling to find my place in the world and trying to figure out myself before I invite someone else to join my mess? Is it okay I didn’t take the conventional route when it came to a career but nonetheless, love what I’m doing? Is it okay that I don’t compare myself to those around me and am doing what works for me?
I think Rachel said it best in the first episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S when she said, “Its like all my life I’ve been told. You’re a shoe! You’re a shoe! You’re a shoe! You’re a shoe! But what if I don’t want to be a shoe? What if I want to be a purse or a hat?”
And while conventional has worked for many, I’m comfortable with taking the path less traveled. I don’t think maturity comes with age. I think it comes from your experiences and you’re molded by your failures and successes.
We sometimes get so caught up in trying to fit this role that someone else has created for us, that we tend to loose ourselves in the process. We get so lost in trying to be better than the person next to us, that we forget to become the best version of ourselves. We are groomed to believe that beating our opponent will bring us success, and ultimately happiness.
But I say forget that! You have the power to dictate your own happiness by making your own choices and being the person that YOU want to be.
So who cares if you don’t have all the answers yet? Just go out there and be a purse, hat, or even a belt buckle if that’s what you want! And if you ever feel like you’re losing your way, as I sometimes do, just remember the wise words of the best non-teacher I’ve ever had…
“Believe in yourselves. Dream. Try. Do good. I love you all. Class dismissed.”
–George Feeny, Boy Meets World
*Today’s blog was brought to you by feeling Lost and Confused a partner of the Life of a Grad Student Foundation. Its easy to feel lost and confused when you’re a grad student =)