The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

The Falsehood of Being “Behind”

I once stumbled across a post that I saved and shared on social media because it spoke so personally to me:

“Just because you took longer than others, doesn’t mean you failed. Remember that.”

I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from, but I would wholeheartedly give credit to its origin. This was one of those quotes that struck so deep it was like a punch in the stomach. A punch that I very much needed. From high school, I did not do things like my smart, overachieving, well-to-do group of friends. I graduated a year early, took college classes during the summer, did not participate in National Honor Society or other honorable student organizations, went to community college instead of a four-year university directly after graduating, and so forth. Certain motivations like avoiding unbearable student tuition debts as much as possible made me choose this kind of path, as well as circumstances like breaking my back which led me to start online classes out of sheer boredom. There’s also the factor of spending most of my time doing internships practically every semester for the past four years. Needless to say, I have done things a little differently from my peers; from most people my age, I think.

From the moment I graduated high school I have struggled with doubt, regret, jealousy, comparison, shame. I just turned 22, and many other 22-year-olds I know are nearly finished with their Bachelor’s, whereas I am just now, not even yet, on my way towards that same goal. Yes, I have made progress with an Associate’s that gets me a little ahead of the four years, with doing internships that have proven valuable experience and connection. It’s still hard not to think about how I will likely be 25 or 26 when I do get that Bachelor’s, as apposed to old friends already having it before their 21st birthday.

Everyone in my life who is in the loop of my life has repeatedly told me, “Why do you think this? You are only such-and-such years old! You’re still young! You are doing fine! Chill out!” And I imagine those who are older than me are probably rolling their eyes in their mind as they say this. If I step out of my body and rationally observe myself, I have the exact same reaction. Why, indeed? I really do need to chill out.

It all boiled down to personal expectations. I live in this subconscious mindset of age-induced deadlines, of assumed projected standards from others, of living up to a subjective definition of success, according to society.

This idea is “being behind” as if life is some kind of race to compete in is totally, completely, stupidly false. I know this. Doesn’t mean I’ve successfully overcome it, but I’m working on that.

Why is it false?

There are different paths to the same goal.

Your path is different from your peers.

Age is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with achieving dreams.

Your age does not define you or your level of success.

“Success” is a vague term that can have a million definitions according to the individual.

Doing things for the sake of accomplishing certain societal standards is a major waste of energy and passion.

More often than not, the expectations you imagine are from outside pressures are actually your own placed upon yourself.

There is no designated deadline based on timeline, age, or order of goals that says “you failed.”

Accomplishment differs between careers. What makes someone a doctor will be a very different list of goals from what makes someone a filmmaker or an entrepreneur or a childcare provider.

Value of time and energy also differs between careers. It may be more worth it for a musician to spend their time networking while an aspiring vet will spend their time in school.

5 Things I’ve Overcome and Am Overcoming

5 Things I’ve Overcome and Am Overcoming

Through each year there will always be at least one or two things that we fight passionately, usually in our minds and emotions. They often leave us weary and hopeless. But here’s something to note of a battle: it’s never over after one fight. Victory comes from a collections of small wins, which we accumulate over a long…period…of…time.

I have more battles than just these five, but these are some that I’ve been fighting for a long time and have made small but significant progress in.

  1. Social ineptness. Okay, I’m not inept in social settings, but for a long time I believed myself to be, and still I struggle with feeling comfortable and confident in the public eye. But taking on people-oriented roles like retail jobs have helped me develop far. I used to be that kid who literally hid behind her mother’s legs. One thing I can still work on is eye contact (it makes me nervous; I habitually look around the room during conversation), but each day I get a little closer to my goal.
  2. Anxiety. I don’t think I’m too intense to be labeled a “worrier,” but I definitely have my moments. I can easily get anxious about situations, especially the ones in which I know nothing and feel completely useless. Once upon a time it even opened the door to having some nasty anxiety attacks that went on for months. But I moved on from those, and I’m still moving on from anxiety all together.
  3. A passive voice. This is a reference to my writing (of course I had to include one writing item). It still comes up, but with the help of dedicated editing and rewriting I have not only fixed the mistakes I’ve already made, but I’ve gotten better at recognizing that sneaky passive voice when it comes up in the moment.
  4. Self-imposed standards (based on comparison). Since high school I’ve had a bad habit of comparing my progress with my peers and family members, thinking that because they achieved a specific thing at such and such time, then I should have also achieved it at that same time. This has led to becoming my greatest enemy when it comes to standards and expectations. It’s a subconscious urge that I have to fight, but reminding myself that our pathways are extremely different, and we can achieve the same goal in very different ways, usually helps me get back in focus.
  5. Not valuing the small victories. I know I can give myself more credit than I do. I seem to subconsciously put numeric values on achievements, which doesn’t allow me to enjoy the small ones and reward myself. It may be cheesy, but saying that “it’s the small victories that count” is all too true. Bigger victories are only accomplished through smaller ones, after all.

 

What battles have you overcome or are currently overcoming? Sometimes sharing them can help motivate us to fight on.