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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lessons :: On Detours and Deadlines


I'm in a love-hate relationship with myself. I'm my best cheerleader, and at the same time, my biggest bully. The most common argument between these two sides of me is that I'm on a set schedule. I have a timeline laid out for my life and the clock is ticking. I put more and more pressure on myself, then become more and more discouraged as time begins to run out.

What is it that I'm aiming for? Where is the finish line? Well, this is what I've been planning on: that I will be settled before I am 30. I will have found my husband, soul mate, life partner; and I will have landed my dream job as a full-time professional blogger. I won't have to worry about getting hurt; I won't have to worry about making rent. I will be settled in my love life and career life. I will be calm, relaxed, and -- finally -- satisfied.

When I was younger, I thought that would happen by 25. Now that I'm 24, I've had to extend the deadline. Why did I expect so much? Well, I blame it -- in part -- to the adults around me. "You can be anything you want to be! You can do anything you want to! If you believe it, you can achieve it!" It was easy for my pre-teen self to believe that I would be a world-famous writer when I was told by parents, teachers and religious leaders that I could.

Perhaps they were right to encourage me. But they should have followed it up with telling me that it would be hard; that it could take years; that I would have to make sacrifices and mistakes and life changes along the way.

They should have also told me something that I'm still learning now: if you focus too much on the future, you won't enjoy the present. It is so easy for me to push myself to get to that finish line, but at the same time, I'm missing the scenery. I'm losing grip on gratitude. I'm forgetting to simply sit and smile and breathe.

But more important than all of this was an epiphany I had within the last month: in order to get to our destination, sometimes we need to take a detour. Sometimes we need to take a frightening, unknown road to get where we want to be. Sometimes we need to do things we don't like or want to, yet it's the only way to end up in the right place.

For so long, I have been stubborn. After nightmarish experiences at my first and only full-time job, I was determined not to work anywhere that was not affiliated with fashion or writing. If it did not directly coincide with my degree, my passions, my career goals -- I didn't even apply. I was worried that any other job would be a distraction from my craft, that it would take control of my time and I would no longer be able to put forth effort into my big dream.

I have been working as a part-time retail manager for six months now, and my money situation is dipping to emergency levels. My pride is now being pushed aside for necessity's sake. I had to let myself get to this point in order to learn and grow. I am ready to crank the engine back on and take the detour that I have been putting off.

My timeline is silly; there is only so much I can control in order to get what I want. But it's good to have goals, and I plan to stick to them. My route is different now, though... and I know that if I reach 30 and still don't have Mr. Right (or Mr. Right Career), I can always extend the deadline to 35. After all, it's my damn life.

35 comments:

  1. You're so right about sometimes having to take detours. And about timelines never working out the way we hope. I wanted to be embarking on my full time career by the time I was 31 and it turns I'll only just be graduating with my PhD when I'm 32 and it might take another few years to get a full time gig somewhere that's tenure track. And that means that all my other plans, like a house and maybe kids, all have to be postponed. But sometimes you've just got to live your life and except that it's messy and complicated and rarely conforms to expectations and that, in the end, maybe that's what makes it so great and exciting.

    xoxo ~ Courtney
    http://sartorialsidelines.com

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  2. steph,

    two things:

    for one, times have changed. our parents DID settle down by 24 and have it all figured out because they could. when they got out of college they were hired, the unemployment rate was low, and they moved up the chain. we are stuck, and it is thanks to our lovely economy.

    BUT

    my second point is that nobody really knows where they are going! even if you were married and settled and had lots of money, would you really be happy? happiness doesn't come from any of those things, they just help you get there. it comes from within. so every day, find what makes you happiest-- aside from love and money-- and indulge those things. whether it be cooking a new meal, or polishing your nails, or drinking a pumpkin spice latte. just do those things, and be satisfied with where you're at, because time is the most precious thing we have and if you sit around now wondering what is to come you are missing out on the wonderful things in your life now ;)

    sorry for such a long response! ive been thinking the same thoughts but in the opposite way because i feel like so many adults just dont get it and take so much for granted. so im happy i feel like i kind of get it ;)


    <3 steffy
    Steffys Pros and Cons

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  3. I can totally relate to what you're going through. When I was in my late teens I told myself that I needed to have my life and career "together" by 25 (i.e be an attorney, married, with at least one kid). Well I'm thirty and I have one of the three (husband). My life took a serious detour and though I dfdn't understand it at the time (and would get soo down on myself for being a "failure) I'm really grateful for it. I've started to come out on the other side of things and I wouldn't be as happy as I am now had I not gone through all those things!

    As always, best of luck to you! Just keep grindin girl! :)

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  4. Or maybe what you want will NEVER happen. Especially if what you want is someone else to be in your life. You can't control others, and you can't force someone to be your Mr. or Mrs. Right. I find it best to focus on myself and make whatever dreams I have that are only mine and involve only me come true. I can control that. Everything else, involving everyone else, is beyond my control.

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  5. This is beautiful...nothing more inspiring than hearing the naked truth. You have taken what so many people (including myself) are going through and put into words that most of us are at a lose for.

    One thing my mother always told me was that everything falls into place when you stop searching for it. The guy comes along when you don't need him, and aren't looking for him. The perfect job comes along when you stop trying to find it. And for the most part she is right. When you live for today, everything falls into place.

    It was good they encouraged you when you were younger. My parents were blunt and didn't. I was never really encourged..I was told what mistakes I made, and how the world really was, and that I couldn't make it in the world if I didn't fix it. I guess we both got the total oppisite, with no balance. You got too much encouragement, with no warnings about how long things would take and how many mistakes and all the heartbreak you would go through along the way. & I got no encouragement, just constint reminders of what I was doing wrong. I learned about all my faults,but have no clue what my good qualities are.

    I remember one time I got a 95% on a test that I studied my butt off for & instead of congratulations! You did such a great job, I got "What happened to the other five points."

    There has to be a balance of encouragement and the naked truth about what will happen. Although I don't think that will save us from the blows, no matter how many warnings we get. But at least we wont be blindsided.

    This is a scathingly beautiful post. You will find everything you are looking for and more when you least expect it. Enjoy today!

    xoxo
    -Steph

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  6. I am glad you have reached such a healthy point.

    BUT, I would like to add something. Even with a husband and a perfect job you will not be satisfied. We are wired to always want more and that is good thing (means we are always striving.

    That being said, it is perfectly fine to set goals. But to give yourself a break when you do not achieve them!

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  7. I'm in a similar situation. I am approaching 24 and thought by now that I would be happily in love and on my way to settling down. Instead, I am in love with my job and working my way through grad school. I love it, but some nights I am up with nightmares about dying alone!

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  8. this is a great post as i pretty much feel the same way. i've worked a lot of jobs that were simply jobs to me--not careers. and it's so annoying when you know you'll be amazing at a specific career but you just can't get it--or you can't get paid to do it.

    i do wish i knew what i know now back when i was younger. maybe i could have made different plans for myself or moved somewhere else or worked some place else...whatever.

    but i'm hoping to get what i really want in a career very soon. i'm 25 so i'm still holding on to having what i want before i turn 30. i guess we'll have to wait and see! but i totally get you. :)

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  9. so true. i dont think i ever had a long-term schedule like that for myself, but i find myself planning my weeks and months and not allowing any fun or dreaming, and when those things happen i get mad at myself. i have taken many detours from the courses i have planned for myself and each was a thrilling and insightful adventure. someday we wont be able to take detours, we will have children and property and will have to do what it takes to make it work. this is the time to make mistakes, be broke (it can sometimes be fun when your friends are in the same boat), and allow plenty of daydreaming.

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  10. My hairdresser once said something to me that i will never forget..."everyone is in a rush to go...no where"

    those who have "mastered" life seem to take it one day at a time...

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  11. I think we talked a little about this when we met. I didn't like turning 25 this year because I thought about the things I haven't done yet (and being half of 50!) but lately I've been trying to think differently. I'm still young and have a long road ahead of me filled with amazing things, I'm sure! Beautiful post, Stephanie!

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  12. I guess I am the old horse in the race here but let me tell you: the husband, career and kids don't make you "relaxed" > they add joy but with that joy come many other worries and issues to deal with. Since I am way past 30 and "old" in the blogging world many of the posts I read are written by those of you single and in your 20's. I sometimes wish for the freedom to worry only about myself and not have so many others looking to me for solutions, rides, income, discipline and so on. Enjoy the place you are in right now and take advantage of being young with the whole world laid out before you. You can accomplish your goals. It will definitely be difficult. When you are most happy with you and love life, that will draw like a magnet that certain someone just right for you.
    Love to you Steph! Keep being beautiful, smart you!

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  13. That's just how I felt when I was your age. And look at me now...40, two children, happily married, with a great blog and a (for now) prospering career. It never works out how it you think it will. "Just keep swimming" as Dory said. Don't forget about what you want, and in the meantime enjoy the things you're doing to get by.

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  14. @Courtney: It's always nice to know that others are struggling with the same concept of balancing satisfaction and dissatisfaction. I give you HUGE credit for taking the time to get a PhD and finish schooling full-out. That takes tons of effort and dedication! You should definitely be proud of yourself for all that you've accomplished, even though it didn't pan out the way you thought. :)

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  15. @Steffy: Thanks so much for your words of wisdom. You are an infectiously positive person and I know that's why us readers love your blog. I consider you a friend, though we haven't had too many one-on-one conversations. :) You're such a sweetie and always willing to lend a hand! I absolutely agree -- it's not the surroundings that make us happy, it's us. I'm good at that when I make the effort!

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  16. @MJ: That's absolutely right. Sometimes we don't understand what's happening at the time, but in the end it makes us who we are! There have definitely been some challenges where, afterward, I realized how good they turned out to be.

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  17. @Fenn: That's a good point -- it might never happen. The truth is, we have very little control over anything, not just in our big dreams for love but in our career dreams as well! I could be the best candidate for a promotion at my job, but perhaps I'm not picked and it has nothing to do with my actions. Even if I'm my own boss with an independent company, I can't force my target audience to like my stuff! I think that we can give fate a nudge sometimes, but nothing is ever completely certain. That's why it's so important to be grateful for what we already have, right? :)

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  18. @Steph: I am sure that your parents, just like my parents, thought that they were raising you the best way possible. And it's good to be critical and disciplinary, but -- like you said -- there needs to be a balance. I'm grateful for how my parents raised me, but I do believe that I was spoiled with compliments and my huge ego is a result of that. :)

    But anyway, I love you as much as an internet buddy can, and I'm so happy we became bloggy friends. You've been so supportive of me from day one, and I can only hope to do the same for you!

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  19. @Alexis: You're right. I'm trying to cut myself some slack and be patient! ;)

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  20. @Manhattanette, Cheryl, Gabrielle: It's great to know I'm not alone. We can't change the past, and there's only so much we can control about our future... sometimes we need to keep ourselves grounded in the present and smile at what's in front of us right now. :) Keep me posted on your big plans!

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  21. @Jenmarie: I'm glad you're changing your thought pattern to a more positive one. So am I :)

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  22. @Yvonne: And the award for 'comment that made me want to cry' goes to... you! Seriously, you are so sweet and supportive. And you are right, I don't have a demanding job or a man I'm tied down to... I should enjoy this freedom while it lasts!

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  23. @Heather: "Don't forget about what you want, and in the meantime enjoy the things you're doing to get by." This is such a healthy way of thinking! Thanks for the encouragement. ♥

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  24. I have to admit I am a goal person. I like setting goals in my life, but my love life (and getting married, having kids etc) it's the only thing I never planned and never will, because I understood early on that it's not easy finding Mr. Right, and then other issues might arise (money, having a job etc).
    My friends are starting to getting married now that are 29 and I guess most people in my country get married way past 25, so don't worry!!
    Finding a dream job is catchy issue and probably the most difficult to tackle but I wish you every luck. My job is definitely not my dream one, but some aspects of it are really satisfying, I have friendly colleagues, so I don't complain.
    I have one advice for you: ditch the timelines and just live! I wish you lots of love and I believe you have the guts to achieve great things!
    Anna

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  25. Yes! I try to make myself happy with whatever happens, even if it is definitely not what I wanted to happen.

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  26. Awww thanks! You are the an amazing person & I do believe everything will fall into place for you :D

    And you are right! I'm glad my parents were blunt with me. I just wished there was a balance, because I was so scared of the future for so long.

    If I have kids, I'll be sure to give them the perfect balance hehe

    Happy blogging hon!
    Ciao
    -Steph

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  27. I'm sorry- had to read this after I saw your most recent post. Keep your head up and don't ever compare yourself to anyone else. Your hard work will bring good luck. ;) x's and o's

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  28. I really loved this post! Only because I've been there at one point in my life too...I always thought that by a certain age you should have bought a house, got married, had at least one kid, secure career, blah blah blah... Now that i've left my 20's I've kinda stopped caring/comparing so much as to what other people/friends are doing in their life. It's wasted energy. Besides the grass is always greener.

    Life never goes the way you want it to. Don't let comparison steal your joy.
    I love these quotes - 'Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional'.
    - Unknown
    'We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us" - Joseph Campbell

    Somehow I get the feeling you're gonna be just fine girl!

    x.o.x.o

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  29. Beautiful girl, when you LIVE your life, you grow as a person and you cultivate richness of the soul. That is what being open to new things is all about! :) It would indeed be a shame to only stay on the path instead exploring all the lovely trails that shoot off the sides. Never compare your life, it will make you bitter and hard. Since I learned that lesson, every day is amazing. Live your full potential, even if it may not be what you thought it was.
    Love to you
    Jude

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  30. I love your attitude so much. I've basically given up entirely on the plans I had set for myself when I was younger, so I admire you so much for sticking with yours and pushing ahead!

    I really believe you'll get everything you want, because you work so hard and care so much about achieving your dreams. You deserve it! <3

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  31. This is Mama loudmouth and I will do what I have always done and tell my daughter what an amazing, gorgeous young woman she is and how incredibly proud of her I am! So sorry that I continue to smother you with nothing but compliments LOL. Can't help myself. I guess I figured you'd have lots of grown up time someday to deal with real life. But now that you are there, I think you are passing through your grown up stages with exquisite grace. (There I go again.) I just want to correct the comment on how things were when Dad and I got married. It was 1982. If you do your research, the economy was bad at that time, jobs were slim, a lot of people our age were moving to Texas for work, the automakers were struggling and interest rates were very high. But expectations were much lower. When we got married, Dad made 6 bucks an hour and I was in grad school. We bought a home for a $25,000 mortgage in Detroit. A small house. We did not wear designer clothes and ate most of our meals at home. Since then the economy improved and people expect to have a lot more before they are willing to marry. Weddings themselves were not very expensive back then and expectations were lower with that as well. I think the young people think they have to have it all together first before they marry, and it is holding them back. I think it is a mistake. Don't postpone love for money. As long as you both are willing to work, you will find a way to make ends meet. I actually just started my dream career recently and you know how old I am. ;-). Someone once said to me, you CAN have it all, you just can't always have it all at one time. That's all folks!! Write on Stephanie!!

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  32. such a great post, love your writing.

    :)

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  33. I hear you, Stephanie. It's so easy to put ridiculous amounts of pressure on ourselves to achieve huge goals but a certain point in time. I do this a lot and also compare myself to what I perceive to be success in others and feel frustrated that my goals still haven't been realised. I'm slowly learning to take life as it comes and to allow my goals to be flexible. As I grow and change over time, my goals grow and change too and that's okay!

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  34. I had the same revelation as you at the same age. At 24 I recognised I needed to live. I have plans, of course, but I stopped tying them to a timeline.

    It doesn't work. It just makes ill from stress.

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  35. There are absolutely no words for how much I enjoyed reading this, it was like taking a peek into my own head. You're right, nobody tells you that part and one can almost go into a mental break down when your realise it, that you sometimes have no choice but to do things that might not just make you uncomfortable but that you may very well hate!

    It's a really hard life lesson...

    And the deadlines can be so scary...especially when we have set the, for ourselves and are extremely and passionately driven ...

    But you said it right, it's our damn lives and it ain't over till we give up. :p

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