The past six months have not been easy for me besides the obvious. Even if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic, I think I still would’ve had a rough start to 2020. Why? Because things aren’t going according to plan.
I made a plan early on for how my life would go.
Generally, I was going to go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, and retire. Specifically, I was going to go to college for four years to get my bachelor’s degree, then to medical school for four years, then to get a forensic pathology specification in another two years, and then I would get my first real, big girl job. Yes, I made this plan at 16. Yes, I thought it was totally okay to be in school till I was 29, not getting a good-paying job till I was in my 30’s.
This plan lasted until about sophomore year of college, when I was drowning in biology and chemistry labs and realizing that school actually sucks. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year that I decided on forensic science, which meant grad school. So I adapted the plan, knowing that I wouldn’t be too far off course.
That change and the small bit of disappointment was easy to accept, as I still had a viable plan – one that I was even more excited about.
For the past two years the plan has been to complete grad school and get a job within the federal government doing forensic or crime scene work. I figured that they make enough TV shows about it, so there MUST be a bunch of jobs available. Well the past six months to a year has proven otherwise. There are barely any jobs to apply for, and the ones that are available I’m either overqualified due to my education or under qualified due to my lack of work experience.
I’ve spent so much time crying, literally sobbing, over how I feel like I’ve lost control of my life. How I feel like I’ve failed because I didn’t have a job to start in May, or June, or July. I thought I had failed myself, my family, and anyone who was expecting more from me. I felt an overwhelming sense of panic to complete the next step in life so soon because it was what was expected of me. It was what I expected of myself. It was what I had planned for.
The problem is that I didn’t allow time in my plan for a couple months of floating in between. I wasn’t one of those people that go unemployed after graduation I told myself. I wasn’t going to be one of those people that would get rejected from employers. I just wasn’t one of the unlucky ones.
So why am I forcing you to sit through my pity party? Because there is a lesson to be learned here, and I’m going to attempt to teach it while I’m still learning it myself.
And that lesson is that you’re not behind in life.
Some times we stop to take a look around at where we are in life. We make note of our age and what all we have done or what material items we’ve accumulated in the X amount of years that we’ve been on this Earth. Once we’ve taken stock, we are either content or begin to panic. The panic sets in when we feel as though we haven’t done enough or don’t have enough. It comes when we compare what we have and have done to what we don’t have or haven’t done yet. Or worse, it comes when we compare ourselves to others.
I’m guilty of the Instagram comparison game. I see these gorgeous girls working their dream job, traveling to new cities every weekend, wearing Gucci and Armani, drinking $1,000 champagne in their mimosas on a rooftop bar, AND I’M JEALOUS. I want that for myself, and to be honest, I thought I would be doing those things by now. But the comparison that gets me more? It is when a friend from college starts their dream job, or a sorority sister gets married, or a friend buys a house. HELL, even when someone gets a new dog, I feel it. It’s not necessarily jealousy, as I am happy for them and understand how hard they’ve worked or why they deserve this. It is rather the pressure, the worry, the fear that I am not working hard enough or doing enough to be on the same level as my peers. I worry that I’m behind and need to stress to catch up.
This is something that I am continuously working on. It’s honestly an everyday process. By the time you’re listening to this episode, I’m sure I’ve had at least two more meltdowns. This is why I’m recording this episode, not just for y’all but for myself to come back to any time I feel behind in life. I will repeat the next part of this podcast over and over until I’m calm again, reminded of the badass woman that I am who has already accomplished so much and will continue to kick ass for the rest of my life.
things to remind ourselves when we feel behind in life:
First, time is just a social construct that we uphold ourselves to. And the life events that we think must happen at specific times or in a specific order? To that I say HOGWASH! There’s no timetable that we all must follow. There are 7 billion people in the world and there is no possible way for us all to do the exact same things in the exact same order. Where I grew up, women were brought up to believe that we had to be married by 23 with a baby on the way by 25 or else we were going to grow old and die alone. No lie. The minute we graduated high school, we were expected to juggle a college education or a job with finding and locking down a man in time before our ovaries shriveled up. Granted, as this timetable was pushed upon me, I wasn’t subscribing to it, but I still felt that pressure just like a lot of my friends. I even remember one friend breaking down near her 23rd birthday because she thought she was going to die alone AT TWENTY-THREE!
Second, lets think about the plans themselves. How did I believe that the first plan that I made for myself at 16 would hold up to the test of time? How did I believe I would adhere to the strict plan I made again in 2018? If the craziness of 2020 can teach us again is that creating a perfect plan is impossible. You see, the plans that I made and the path that I set for myself didn’t allow for any deviation. They didn’t allow for any straying from the golden brick road. So whenever a hiccup came along, I was sent into a panic of being behind, going down a spiral of nervousness that I will never complete my task of living the life that I want because I deviated ever so slightly from the plan. I’ve learned now that I must be more lenient with my planning. At the very least, I must make backup plans (which usually satisfies my Type A personality).
Ask yourself these questions:
What life event am I late for?
What exactly made me late and was the cause out of my control?
Was this feeling of lateness brought on by seeing someone else’s success?
Is this feeling of being behind based upon how far I feel others around me are in their plans?
Being able to rationalize in this way will quell that irrational panic of being behind that you’re feeling. I learned to do this after Jon finding me on my closet floor crying too many times – and he would ask me these things to kind of talk me down. It was great for me to rationalize it all out.