Who are you? What do you want? What age do you want kids? What is your career path? When do you want to get married? What is your passion? How much money do you want to make? What are you looking for in a life partner? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
These are the questions we’re expected to have answers to at the age of 21. Yet here I am almost 24 and can’t fully answer any one of these questions. Each day I learn something new about myself and the things I want out of life. The life I planned for myself at 21 is far from the life I am living now. I have never felt more lost in life than I do right now. But, I’d rather be lost now than 15 years from now with a career I can’t wait to retire from in a loveless marriage I feel trapped in. That right there is my biggest fear. To look back on my life wishing I had done things differently.
Nowadays, going to college leaves you with at least 10 years of debt (and that’s being generous). Oh, but did I mention that was only for the undergraduate degree. Now, if you want to be competitive, you have to go to grad school. So let’s just say you’re at $40,000 in debt. Oh yeah… that job you want so badly also requires 2 years of experience which you don’t have, so put that dream on hold for a little while longer. And what happens if you finally get the job of your dreams only to realize it’s not everything you thought it would be? Because the truth is you never really know until you’re waking up 5 days a week to go do that job. But, here’s the catch… you’re going to need to know that at 21. Piece of cake, right?
Society teaches us that a career, life long marriage, and a big houseful of kids is success. But what if that’s not it at all? What if success is happiness? Is the lawyer who makes $115,000 a year successful? Or is he/she burnt out due to stress and long days at the age of 45? Is the couple who has been married for 25 years successful? Or are they now strangers sleeping in different rooms? Are the parents of 2 beautiful and healthy teenage kids successful? Or are they dreaming of the days their kids are grown, so they can have their lives back? If success is happiness, how many people can actually say they are successful?
So here I am. 23. $27,000 in debt with a degree I’m not using. As single as single gets. Living with my dad. Jealous yet?
Now, now. Before you feel too sorry for me let me explain something. Yes, all those things above are true, but it’s not all bad. For starters, not going to grad school right out of college has allowed me to reevaluate what I want out of life. My dream was to be a sport psychologist for a professional sports team. To be honest, it still is my dream. And maybe one day I’ll go back to school and finish what I started, but that time is not now. I have many passions, from writing a book to helping cancer patients. Yes. I have many passions and a lifetime to pursue them. I’m single. Like ‘sit in bed, cry watching The Notebook while eating Ben and Jerry’s’ single. But I’m also ‘not losing sleep over a boy who is secretly cheating on me for 3 months’ single. So I’ll take it! Honestly, being 23 and never having been in a relationship has been one of the best decisions I have made. Now, if I had met someone amazing and worthy of changing my relationship status that would have been great too, but that just wasn’t the case for me. Instead, I have used the time to grow as a person and learn about what I do and do not want in a partner. (But that’s a blog for another day). Now last but not least, I know you all must be so envious that I still live with my dad. It’s not what you think though. I’m saving up $15-20,000 to move to L.A. with in May. If I was staying in KC I would have moved out by now, but that was never my intension when I moved here a year ago. I’ve always wanted to move out of the Midwest. My dream is New York, but that’s not in the cards right now, so L.A. it is!
See, right now I don’t want to put my life on hold for the next 4-8 years to become a sport psychologist. Right now I want to leave home and learn through experiences not textbooks. I want to pack up my life and for the first time not have it all planned out. I want to get into photography and make random friends at the beach. I want to learn what it means to be truly independent and reinvent myself. I want to be challenged in every way possible so that I can one day know I can do anything I set my mind to.
Society has embedded in us the idea that we have to follow a specific timetable and if we don’t follow that timetable, we are doing things wrong. But it is beyond naive to think life is that simple. Because the truth is, life is messy and unpredictable. You’ll never have enough time and you’ll never have all the answers and that’s okay. Because just when you find the answer to 1 question, 5 more will pop up in its place. So if you’re feeling as lost as I am, know you are not alone. Go against the current that is society pushing you to conform and swim into the unknown that is life.