I used to think that by the time I was 24 I’d be married with a baby. By the time I was 30 I would have had a few promotions at work, and I would have my youngest child. When I turned 35 I’d have traveled the world. 40 I’d be attending my son’s high school football game. I’d be stuffing the van and taking my kids to college by 45. 50 I’d become an empty nester. I’d buy a boat or an RV or something luxurious at 55 and call myself adventurous. 56, I’d welcome my first grandchild.
24 married with a baby. I’ve watched many people attain this life milestone that I wanted for myself for a long time. Some even before they have turned 24. I wanted to be a young parent because my parents were young parents. And now in their 40s, my parents are some of my favorite people to hang out with. Unfortunately, God has not made that part of my life at this time, in fact it looks like that particular dream is in the very distant future.
I think the way to be content with where your life is at is to do two things: ditch your milestone expectations and check your envy.
Ditch your milestone expectations. Let go of being locked into this ideal life that you imagined for yourself 10 years ago. It is okay if you are 24 and moving back in with your parents to save a little money. It’s also okay if you’re young and in love and talking marriage earlier than you thought you would be. Everyone’s life clocks are running at different speeds. You are not tied to what you envisioned for your life years ago.
Also it’s okay to change your mind about what you want. Go ahead. Change your mind. Then change your mind again. Make a decision because it feels like the right decision. But don’t make the decision rashly. Think on it. Clear your mind. Pray for clarity about the unknown, pray for strength in moments of fear. Believe that the universe is going to support you in your path. Believe that what is meant to be will be.
I don’t know if I really believe that time is on your side. Or maybe it could be if you lifted your expectations from it. But I think often it makes us believe we’re failing. Sometimes, when we’re under a spell of life comparison, time taunts us and laughs at us. Time has a power to shut down your self esteem, especially in a world where social media is king. That’s another ball game.
Social media has made milestones even more prominent. Many people use social media to announce milestones they have hit. You open Facebook and see a swarm of congratulatory comments on a friend’s post declaring she has been accepted into a medical program. You open Snapchat next and watch as a story of your friend who is traveling the world at just 20 years old unfolds. Then you open Instagram and see another sparkly engagement ring to which you roll your eyes and “double tap” giving it a half-hearted like.
What are you feeling when you’re seeing all these milestones or life adventures from your friends? Check your envy. You will notice yourself being considerably happier if you stop wishing you had that for yourself, and just know and accept where your life is right now. You will be so much happier if you stop wishing you had everything others did and recognize the many blessings you have yourself. Maybe someday you’ll fall in love. Maybe someday you’ll travel the world. Maybe someday you’ll advance your career. Hold on to a bit of hope and know that there is a path for you. It’s easier to just be happy for those who are following their paths and achieving their dreams, then to wish it was you doing it instead.
You may not be in a relationship right now. But you are enjoying single nights out. You may not have your dream job. But you are working toward getting there. You may not be living on your own. But you are saving money.
There is beauty in recognizing your blessings and privileges. It makes it a lot easier to not get overwhelmed by the green-eyed monster.
Lastly, stop answering the question “Where do you want to be in ten years?”
Because that question…the question that employers ask, that friends ask, that families ask, that significant others ask…that question just bounds you to expectations and societal norms. Your mind has been trained to think within the bounds that society has created for you. There’s no need to think that way.
I’m not telling you not to be a dreamer. Dream away. Make goals for yourself. But the goals don’t always need to be tied to time. I know they say life is short. But the more you fixate on that the faster it can slip away.
Charles Darwin didn’t publish his book The Origin of Species until he was 50. Julia Child didn’t publish her cookbook until she was 39. Alan Rickman didn’t star in his first film until he was 41.
Life is a continuation. A continuation of decisions, moments, relationships, inspirations, and emotions. Beautiful things can happen along the way at any time. You don’t have to check items off a list by a certain age. You don’t even have to have a list. Life has no requirements. Live it without expectations.