When I was in college, I wanted to be a physician. I thought that I would be married by 22, so that my husband can take care of the household finances while I make $0 completing medical school and residency. I thought I would have a kid soon after medical school when life is less stressful. I even bought a new car in college and financed it so that it is paid off by the time I was married so as not to burden my future husband. This is what I honestly thought.
Never mind that I knew deep down I did not want kids – and only planned it because it’s been what’s expected of me growing up female. Never mind that I did not believe in marriage as I grew up very familiar with divorce – and rapidly shedding all religious ties. Never mind that I did not want to give up my entire 20s to work in a field where I quickly lost passion – due to the “kill the symptom, not the source” of healthcare.
I planned my life as such because it was what society, family, and school said was the right way to live my life.
I was 24 credits short of graduating when I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore. Of course, at that time, my major was set in stone – and I didn’t have the luxury to swap. So I graduated and dabbled in healthcare, accounting, insurance, and education to figure out what I want to be “when I grow up”. In this sense, I am still very much in the beginning stages of my career.
At 24, I had the wherewithal to realize that maybe I should figure out what the hell I want out of life and work towards it. But – people don’t mature at the same level. What I learned at 24 might not have hit someone else until mid-30s. Or 40s. Or 19.
How many people out there still feel worthless because they haven’t hit the arbitrary goals created in their teens? How many have conceded by marrying someone they feel deep down is not the one because they just want to be married already – so they can show others and themselves of their “achievement”? How many have stayed in a job they are not fully invested in because they think they are past the age to start in a new industry or go to school? How many had kids before they found themselves and/or figure out why they want to have kids? Even worse, how many have set their lives in stone because they made a decision they were not ready to make to begin with? I know of countless people that can no longer afford school to change industries, can no longer follow their dreams because of a child, and/or feel stuck in an empty marriage due to uninformed decisions?
We compare ourselves to the version of life that society said we should have at (insert age here). It takes a deliberate act to stop listening to society’s expectations.
Does anyone really sit and think why we follow these expectations?
- Having kids early is because the average life expectancy back then was much, much lower.
- Buying a house early is because you had the aforementioned kids early - and no one really moved around back then.
- Having a career path set in stone is because the dream is to find a cushion job to stay until retirement - since you didn’t move and had a family to feed.
- Getting married young was a thing because you had to find a partner to take care of your kid in the home you never leave while maintaining the same job until you die.
This is what our life goals are based on? A backwards life where women couldn’t earn enough to take care of themselves + the reason to have a job is survival, not fulfillment.
Is this real life?