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.

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

Dear Starry-eyed College Me…

You probably just graduated high school, and congratulations. It’s not every year a student does it in three instead of four. I admire your deadpan focus and rock solid determination. It helped you get a long way.

I ought to warn you, though, that there is danger behind that foundation.

Some would say that setting your goals into the ground, kind of like a house, is a good practice. Most of the time it keeps you in check. But, after a few years since graduation, I’ve found that there’s a more world-agreeable practice. It’s hard to see it now, but reality is a biter. It likes to ignore you when necessary. Then it coaxes you with breadcrumbs, like you’re a pigeon. Then it shifts its foot, and because we’re all skittish pigeons we flap and flutter in hysterics.

Then we do it again.

This is how things are. Don’t waste your energy denying it; you’ll only wear yourself out. I’m not telling you to be a puppet in the system, though. Here’s what I’m saying: accept what works, but don’t forget what works better. Go with the flow; discover the checkpoints. Does that make sense?

As you enter into the “college stage,” here’s a few things that you must know:

Figure out what you want-learn how to get it! It looks like you have all the time in the world to dilly dally, but please, for the love of God, do your research.

Start saving…now! I can’t stress enough how much money will soon become one of your greatest obstacles. You’re gonna hate it. Prepare yourself. You know, there’s great resources out there for you. You just have to find them…

Get over yourself and meet people. It’s time to stop being an antisocial baby and learn the art of networking. Your future, your career, and yourself will thank you.

Understand your weaknesses; operate in your strengths. There’s a great deal of importance in both. If you’re good at something, then do it. If you’re weak in something, understand why and move on.

And when the stress and the anxiety and the frustration and the depressive thoughts come (because they will come), have a plan of attack ready. Right now. Are you ready?

 

Here’s another thing: start community college classes now. Don’t wait half a year like I did. And then, before you finish your Associate’s, prepare for which school you will go to for your Bachelor’s, because you’ll need a Bachelor’s. I know, you’re angry with the system. You want to go outside the beaten path. You want to achieve the same thing in a different way. Well, you will, don’t let go of that. But be ready…life isn’t kind to those who travel a different road. But remember what Robert Frost said?

“And I…I took the road less traveled by,
And it has made all the difference.”

For college students like me, Earnest can make a difference in one of the greatest known hardships amongst young adults: money. Especially the kind paid towards school.

2017, the year of…

2017, the year of…

Tomorrow is a new year, and it’s time for a new word. For 2017, it is the year of Endurance.

2017-the-year-of

Halfway through 2016, this could have honestly been my word instead of Independence. My mind was already shifting to this focus. This year I wasted a lot of time being disillusioned about my life; I fantasized way to much and ended up disappointing myself because, surprise! life isn’t a fantasy. My writer mind wishes it can create my own story just as easily as it creates others, but I’m not the only one who can throw curveballs into the fray. By October 2016, I figured out what word I needed to focus on next. It came like a clear beam of sunlight through the reddening autumn leaves.

Here’s why Endurance is my word for the year: I’m a wimp. I’m not saying that because I started hating on myself. I really am a wimp. Or, in nicer words, I don’t have as thick skin as I thought I did. I am a naturally emotional person who quits on things too soon because I didn’t get an instant “click” within the first few days. This bad trait has caused me to make several regretful decisions that I try to distract myself from to keep the shame level low. I don’t seem to have any endurance, for anything.

I think it was when I came across Hebrews 10:36 one September morning as I was on the bus that I decided on the word:

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

“Patient endurance” kept playing over and over in my head. It certainly was what I needed right now. The Bible has so many examples of people who endured through much suffering in order to finish and receive the reward: Joseph, Job, Elijah, Paul…not to mention Christ himself.

With a focus on Endurance, I want to develop every part of my endurance: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. I don’t want outside forces to determine my choices anymore. I don’t want to be such an easy quitter anymore. I don’t want to be controlled by flighty emotions that just end up driving myself and others crazy. I want to endure, especially during the hard parts. I want to get strong. I’m working out this year, and I mean my mental muscles.

year-words-so-far

past years’ words

Weekly Devotion: You can make plans, but…

Weekly Devotion: You can make plans, but…

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

-Proverbs 16:9 NLT

You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

-Proverbs 19:21 NLT

It’s almost humorous how nearly exact these two scriptures are, and they’re so close to each other in placement. In a nutshell, these simple yet profound proverbs say what we don’t really want to hear: you’re not in control.

As the ultimate planner of the century, this is hard to take. I feel like sometimes I live by planning things out perfectly. I may not be the greatest executioner, but I can plan like a champion. To read, and thus believe, that despite me making all the plans for every aspect of my life God’s intentions will override me…it doesn’t come easy. Since I was very young I have struggled with the problem of living in the future. A majority of people seem to find the past hard to get over, but not me. I, unfortunately, twitch and worry and agonize over the future, both near and distant. I cannot tell what is worse.

When I say that some may think, “but what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we live for the future after all?” No, honestly we should really live for the present. And my problem isn’t living for the future. I’m living in the future. Thus the present slips by me and I fail to cherish it for what it’s worth and enjoy the moment. Always my mind is five minutes ahead of me, constantly planning, constantly considering, constantly analyzing. Constantly worrying.

These scriptures are not telling us to ignore the importance of being prepared and ready for the future. Planning itself is not an evil thing. They communicate that despite our plans, however good they are, what God has planned for us will ultimately override our own and make them void. That can either drive us mad and send us into a endless tunnel of frustration and disappointment, or, if we operate in trust, flexibility, and open-mindedness, it can bring us peace when we realize that we need not stress over stuff.

These scriptures are asking us to accept this truth. Attempting to take sole control of your life will just leave you miserable because you’ll be working against God.

Make your plans. Set some goals. For goodness sake have some dreams. BUT! Do not put your plans on a pedestal and become unhealthily attached to them, because they may very likely change, or not even happen. Be ready to give them up for God’s purpose. Your life will always be the better for it.

12 Reasons why Life is Good (even if doesn’t seem so)

12 Reasons why Life is Good (even if doesn’t seem so)

Life is never perfect. It’s never always great either. Perhaps hardly good, at least in your opinion. Here’s one good thing about life: you’re entitled to that opinion. If you say life isn’t good, well alright then. If you say so. But perhaps I can slightly change your opinion…

  1. You’re reading this. You know what that means? You have a computer, you have internet, you have the money to have the computer and internet, and you have the time to spend on the internet. Isn’t that good?
  2. You’ve got a friend here. Hello, that’s me. Maybe I don’t know you personally, but I can be a friend if you’d like.
  3. A sunrise and sunset is never not beautiful. Isn’t it extraordinary how we can see these things hundreds of times but still be in awe?
  4. Books. Unless you’re not the reading type, then…
  5. Stories that help us escape. If that means a book or a TV show or a movie franchise or a video game, then there you go. It’s something that lets you escape the world for just a little while.
  6. Music that makes us dance and sing. Music soothes the savage beast.
  7. The oncoming of Fall. We all know what that means: pumpkin spice lattes, scarves and boots, fuzzy socks in the house, the exscuse to have a warm fire on, snowy photoshoots, days off due to weather, etc.
  8. Those days off. Whether it is weather-induced or not. Don’t waste them!
  9. The opportunities are there. Can you see them? You have to go looking. You might think there’s nothing left for you, but have you even tried?
  10. Guilty pleasures. You know what it is.
  11. Coffee and tea. And if you don’t drink either…well, you probably have an alternative (although I hope it’s not soda…).
  12. This too shall pass. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” Nothing will be forever, and that’s what makes life good.
Some things require you to be a nuisance

Some things require you to be a nuisance

During my first experience of getting a job, I learned something pretty quickly: sometimes, you have be a little bit annoying.

It was necessary for me to make calls and follow up with people and be just a little bit pushy. And that was against my nature. I concluded that if I wanted a job, I had to develop some persistence.

There are many, many things in life that you will never get unless you determine to put in a little work of persistence and push. And, sometimes, you might just have to be a bit of a nuisance. But practice with tact. Everyone knows its healthy to be assertive but not aggressive. If you prepare yourself now to be okay with it, then it will become less and less difficult when it’s necessary. I still have to push myself to push, but with each occasion I have found it easier and less self deprecating. I don’t feel like I’m a horrible person when I persist. Not anymore. I feel like a more confident person, in fact.