In our society, there are certain expectations that feel obligatory to fulfil. There are milestones in life that we must achieve, by a certain age, to be deemed to be adulting effectively. Degrees, marriage, kids, mortgages, they’re all on the imaginary list.
Throughout our lives it seems, we are measured against a certain rubric, the results of which apparently denote success in some way. It begins as babies and toddlers; we are bragged about or worried about depending on when we learn to do certain things. Learn to walk long before your baby friends and you’re a genius.
Take a while to find your feet however, maybe there’s something to be concerned about. Then school starts and you are perpetually compared in your ability to read, write, socialise, communicate with adults, against your classmates, but also against all other children in other schools in the area and in the country. You are pressured to be the best, and not just at the things you are good at, you are expected to become great at the things you aren’t good at, no matter how futile a task it may be.
If this all ended when we left school it would be great! We could continue the rest of our lives just moving through the world as and when it felt right. But it doesn’t stop. Your friends begin to get married, have babies, get mortgages, get stable grown-up jobs and then promotions. It constantly feels as if there is some level of competition between yourself and your peers, it never ends.
Admittedly, this could simply be the way my competitive little brain is viewing the world, and perhaps you are reading this and wondering what it is I am going on about. If that is the case, I envy you, and can you please teach me how to chill out a bit more? Thanks.
This has become somewhat more of a pressing issue in my mind lately. I have friends who are getting married left, right and centre. I have more friends with children than without at this point. And there is a small part of me that wonders why I’m not also doing all of those things? Why aren’t I getting married? Why aren’t we talking about children? And then I remember…
I’m not sure I want those things from my life, and even if I did, I don’t want them right now. There are different things that I want. I want to travel more, I want to emigrate, I want to go on impulsive road trips and midnight walks, I want to experience as many different cultures as I can, and I want to meet everyone! Those are my priorities.
The struggle I have is surely an internal one, and almost positively entirely made up. I have the goody-goody in my head who kowtowed to the rules of school life, who absorbed every ounce of competitive grading, and always assumed that I would follow a normal, 9-5 kind of life. She sits there, in her corner, constantly worrying that we have never held a 9-5 job, that the only properly adult thing we have ever done is move out, that we aren’t doing enough to be a proper adult.
The goody-goody, however, has a roommate in my head. The girl dressed as a garden fairy, surrounded by colour, and rainbows, and flowers. She is full of excitement, wonderment, and an insatiable zest for life. Over the years she has grown, she got brighter, louder, and bursts with colour. She is now the dominant force.
The girl who was once so focused on getting all A-C grades now lusts for a life full of adventure, colour, sound, and who wants to run, screaming, from the prospect of working in a dreary, poorly ventilated office. The balance of old expectations and new ambitions and goals is not an easy one, but something the goody-goody and the garden fairy can agree on, is that it will be worth it in the end.