I am proud of myself.
Would saying this statement make you feel uncomfortable?
For a really long time it did for me. But, after taking some time to reflect on the last twelve months of my life I can 100% unequivocally say that I am. I feel like statements such as “I am proud” make us uncomfortable and squeamish because self love and appreciating your achievements is usually one of the hardest things we can do as humans. We are quick to deflect compliments instead of accepting them and alternatively squish our achievements for fear of coming across as arrogant. Often, celebrating yourself is quick to be labelled as indulgent rather than empowering.
So where am I going with this? Well, I feel like I speak for most of us when I say “adult life” just creeps up on you and one day you’re just expected to know how to pay bills, handle Medicare, change a tyre and do your taxes (still don’t) and until you’re like woah woah woah I didn’t sign up for this.
Your early 20’s are for starting your “adult life”, right? This is supposed to be an exciting time but honestly I’ve found it can often come with a lot of anxiety as you (and I) try and figure out;
- who you are alone
- who are you in platonic and romantic relationships
- what you value
- who you want to be in the future
- what you want to do.
Overwhelming much?! And on top of this we’re also supposed to learn how to iron (gross) and come to terms with the fact that no matter how much we want it to be chocolate bars aren’t a suitable replacement for dinner.
And I know I’m not alone when I say it seems like everyday your Instagram or Facebook feed is full of people buying houses, getting engaged, married or a dog and “progressing” in their very fancy adult lives right? Meanwhile you’re sitting at home in the same pair of pants you’ve been wearing for two days straight eating mac and cheese trying to ignore the fact you just flooded the bathroom – I did all of these things this week.
And I really want to stress that I’m NOT having a dig at these people who are at these stages of their lives. I am always blown away by people’s achievements like this and understand that there are sacrifices made by all (behind the scenes) like obviously this is AMAZING for those people able to achieve these hectic and huge milestones – especially at such a young age. And they should be proud to share these achievements with their social media audiences, family and friends. But I also find a lot of my friends/or people I’ve met feel left behind when they aren’t hitting these milestones and like they’re behind in life or doing it wrong.
I guess the purpose of this blog is just to reassure you all after some amazing life advice I got from some friends recently just to do life it your own pace – and also don’t freak out if what you want to do isn’t what everyone else is doing! Especially pursue these aspirations if what you’re doing isn’t what everyone else is doing!
Personally: I don’t want to live with regrets.
We put pressure on ourselves to keep up with what we see around us. Obviously we wanna project our best lives, the highlight reel, but nobody sees the not so good parts that might be going on behind the scenes and this can for sure be toxic.
So, what the f%^@ am I doing with my life?!
If you’re like me you’re basically asking yourself this on a daily basis. What .The. Fuck. Am. I dOiNg. with. My life.
This is usually followed by heaps of internalised stress that gets repressed until you find yourself four quizzes deep on Buzzfeed trying to distract yourself by discovering what type of hot chip you are (regular fries in case you wanted to know) or what Kardashian you’re most like (Kourtney).
After quite a while of stressing about this question, like I’m talking months and months – I found it comforting to know that LITERALLY everyone, okay maybe 99% of people and friends that I know also have little to no clue about how to life either. And so I guess I take comfort in the fact that no one really knows what they’re doing and we are literally all going through the same journey together but have reached different stages.
Words of Wisdom (from other people also thinking WTF?!)
So knowing that people all seem to feel these same feels, I asked my friends to share some nuggets of wisdom – these people helped me so much during shitty times and so I felt it was only fair these gals and guys share their very clever brains with you all.
I asked them all the following questions:
1. Do you ever feel pressured by the things you see people achieving on social media/people you know etc and get stressed you’re not “keeping up” in life?
2. Do you often find yourself thinking “wtf am i doing with my life?” and if so what usually triggers these thoughts?
3. What’s something you don’t want to regret in 20 years? OR more specifically like what’s something that always nags at you that you know if you didn’t pursue you’d regret it in 20 years?
“I guess I get triggered more when they’re doing something I would consider to be on my ‘bucket list’”
“I don’t feel pressured but I do look to these people for inspiration. Seeing people in my field with the same skill sets and abilities as me, and which are achieving great things is more of a drive for me to keep up and proof that it is possible. But, I do not feel pressured by them.”
“Three things really made me stop feeling that way, and now the only social media I use (Instagram) has affected me super positively in the last year.
*Thing 1:* I only use Facebook as a replacement for MSN… I never look at the feed. I don’t like how much FB is geared around giving people a space to have a whinge about something or posting something inaccurate that you’d assume is true. I use Instagram/Reddit as a replacement and only follow things that serve me (insta: healthy recipes & cute makeup/outfit ideas, askscience.reddit.com etc).
*Thing 2:* Related: reading tons. There’s a Winston Churchill quote that sticks with me: “The farther back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” It’s fucking true. I read for probably 3-4 hrs a night on weeknights. Reading classics and nonfiction make you zoom out and realise you don’t need a plan to keep up with, and you can pre-empt the future better so you feel like a badass when you know how to do deal with shit in your life.
*Thing 3:* Having someone in your life that makes you feel like a kid. For me it’s my boyfriend but it could be anyone. Having someone who makes you feel like the best day of your year so far is when you decided to stay in bed while it storms and have cookies for breakfast makes you appreciate the present.
*2.* See #1: Not really any more. I’ve been listening to the A16Z podcast and of all the interesting and successful people they talk to, most of them didn’t progress through a traditional ‘career’. They did a bunch of different shit that all weaved into this myriad of useful weird skills. The CEO at my last job had worked as an NBN engineer, design studio lead and a host for MTV. I find comfort in that. It means any adventure in life serves you well.
*3.* Travelling to lots of countries. Sounds pretty obvious but my current pattern is save up and do one big trip a year… when you do the maths that’s not much! I’ll always call Australia home in the long run but there’s so many places to visit!”
“I make myself think, okay well what are my goals and where am I and what am I doing to achieve that? You can only really compare yourself to your old self not people around you for so many reasons, you don’t know full context, it’s not a race, and also you may have different goals in the first place anyway.”
For me I want to make sure I pursue the things that mean the most to me – career wise – writing (obvs)- but also my personal relationships and making sure in 5-10-25 years that I look back on my “adult” years without regret that I didn’t give things my all because I was 1. Worried about others feelings/thoughts more than my own 2. Scared!
Basically what I’m trying to say is don’t get caught up in what you might think is expected of you – there’s literally so much opportunity out there if you’re brave enough to grab at it.
Change is really uncomfortable but amazing
And speaking from my own experience, making a big change to your life is hardly ever easy, because growing can be painful. For me, the first six months of moving to Sydney was really bloody tough. I never really felt settled which meant I was flying home a lot (which was costly both financially and emotionally every time I came back) and was going through a huge period of change with my personal relationships, losing people and gaining people into my life. I was stressed out. I even went to some counselling which helped my realise and realign with my true gut wants and needs from my life which was brutal emotionally but 100% worth it.
Moving to a new city away from family and friends and starting down a new career path I’d not really imagined for myself really left me shaky for the first twelve months of being away. I was questioning if I’d even made the right choice but then little by little the pieces began to fall into place and now I do not regret a thing. Luckily for me this has a lot to do with the incredible and amazing people that I’ve met in Sydney that I get to call my friends.
Without the support of my friends up here I don’t know if I would have gone through this period of growth in the same way. These relationships have allowed me to develop new parts of myself and if anything have made me aspire to be a better human. Seeing how others deal with times of hardship or crisis and how open they are to helping others during times of need made me want to be a better friend to others. Honestly it also just served as a reminder that people are there for you if you want them to be AND that you’re not alone in whatever you’re going through. There’s a fair chance those around you have either gone through a similar period of stress and finding out different aspects of themselves or more likely still gone through the exact same experience.
And I can attest that being brave enough to do what you want to do, while it may seem impossible and hard, it’s going to be worth it because it aligns with your own core values, right? And you can only live trying to make yourself happy first. Like when the plane goes down and they say put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others I feel like that’s a good analogy for learning how to life as an adult in relationships, I was so used to giving away my oxygen first that I was plummeting to certain death (or at least a little emotional breakdown – okay a big one). So now I’m taking time to chill out and look after me, hooray.
Growth isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s really freakin’ tough and I’m no expert and I’m not trying to be either, just sharing some thoughts with y’all. It’s also never too late to make a change to your life if you’re unhappy and feel like you’re going through the motions!
“For what it’s worth… it’s never too late, or in my case too early, to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you’ve never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald