A few days ago, my friend/roommate and I were relaxing at a socialed distance outside trying to take a moment and be in fresh air. We were having good conversation such as Summer plans, career goals, and the reasonable possibility of an AI revolution in the 5–200 years (yes, I’m well aware we’re nerds). We eventually reached a topic where my friend needed to explain something using an analogy to which he promptly said, “You know that good feeling when you’re taking shots?” At my lack of response he added, “Oh yeah, I forgot you don’t like shots,” then did a double-take before saying, “Did you just skip all the college years of your life?”
It was a harmless comment, and I wasn’t offended by it, but it did stick with me for other reasons. I began thinking about the expectations that are placed upon us at varying ages. From the time we’re born until 18, we’re a child. The only expectation is for us to attend school and not get in trouble. If we’re truly exceptional perhaps we pick up a talent, a sport, or another hobby that makes us more “marketable” for the next stage of our life.
From 18–24, the expectation shifts that we should be accepting more responsibility, becoming an individual, and attaining some sort of higher education or a career experience equivalent.
By the time we reach 30, we should have life figured out, are doing well in our respective fields, and have potentially started a family in the form of a serious relationship, marriage, or even kids (if you’re speedy quick).
But have we ever stopped to ask ourselves why this is? Yes, we are part of a system that values production and achievement above all else which means that efficiency [in life] is worthwhile, but I challenge this conception. Surely there are more options than these?
I began reflecting on my own life. From the time I was a kid, I was always “mature” for my age. I wanted to participate with the adults so I talked like them, learned as much as I could, and tried to conduct myself in similar manners. You might relate with me — you might absolutely have had the opposite experience. That’s okay. Because what I’m trying to convey here is that it doesn’t matter. Every path past, present, and future is perfectly fine.
You see, the problem at the core of this conversation is not the expectations themselves, but rather the judgement by those who deviate from “the norm” for even a moment. If you take a year off from college, you’re viewed as behind. If you’re still shots and partying at 35, people want you to grow up. Why? Because you’re different. Everyone is so caught up with comparisons that no one truly takes the time to reflect and realize that it truly doesn’t matter.
If you’re reading this, I am probably preaching to the choir. Even so, I think it is a good reminder that life is not a factory producing carbon copies of the same “normal” plastic people. We are each an individual with our own stories, pacings in life, and personalities. If you deviate, you don’t need to feel guilty. If you do stick to the typical plan, you don’t need to feel pressured to “act out.”
Everyone is allowed to take whatever time they need to do life. Let’s stop judging others and comparing ourselves to one another to focus on the joys that are present within our own lives. The quarantine is as good of a time to start as any.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You and is republished here with permission from the author.
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