I was wearing a white dress, a white cap and gown, and walking down a cement hill leading onto the track on a rainy evening with 300 of my classmates. We walked out to a song that wasn’t Pomp and Circumstance (because my school couldn’t get it right), holding index cards with our name written out phonetically on it so the Principal would announce it correctly as we walked across the stage.
It was a day I had been waiting for since my Freshman year, because to me, graduating from High School meant officially entering Adulthood – moving out of my mother’s house and living on campus, meeting new friends, joining sororities and student organizations, scheduling my own classes, going to parties, not having a curfew, and living the independent lifestyle I had been craving since I walked into high-school.
And then it happened.
Fast Forward: Late January, 2011.
I logged into Facebook and saw an invitation to my 10 Year High School reunion.
< insert emotional breakdown here >
“Holy shit,” I thought to myself,“Where the hell did those ten years go? And how do I get them back?!”
After graduation I had a plan: graduate from college, graduate from law school, work for the Federal Government, travel the world, and get married by the age of 30.
Clearly that was my imaginary plan, because my actual plan consisted of: graduating from college, losing my mother, moving to Philadelphia and drinking my body weight in vodka, sabotaging friendships, getting my heart broken, spiraling into depression three times, and getting bitch-slapped with a Quarterlife Crisis.
We spend our whole lives worrying about the future. Planning for it. Trying to predict it. As if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and our wildest hopes. But one thing is certain – when it finally reveals itself, the future is never the way we imagined it. At least it wasn’t for me.
I thought by now I would have my shit together. Ten years is plenty of time to get through law school and become a Special Agent for the F.B.I., or finish culinary school and open up my own restaurant. Yet here I am at 27, single, childless, unemployed and freaking out because my classmates have gotten married, had babies, traveled, and lived these rock-star lives and I feel like I’ve failed miserably.
I’m not saying I need a relationship or a child or a fancy-schmancy ‘Corporate Executive’ title to validate my accomplishments since high school, but I just want to feel like I’ve done something with my life these last ten years that doesn’t involve empty bottles of alcohol, depression, and broken hearts.
Why are we so quick to notice our failures instead of our achievements?
“Look, I did what I was supposed to do – graduated, got a job, and married before I was 30, and now look at me. Look how well that turned out. Would you really be happier if you lived the life you planned, rather than the life you’re living now?”
My friend, a successful business man in his late thirties with an MBA, who is currently going through a divorce. After having a conversation about high school reunions, I got to thinking:
Why do we insist on growing up so quickly and having our lives all figured out by the time we’re 30? And for those of us who don’t have it figured out right now, why do we feel like we’ve failed?
Truth is, I don’t think I would be happier had my life gone according to plan. I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and I know there’s a reason why I lost my parents and battled cancer at such a young age. I also believe that this Quarterlife Crisis hit at a time when I really needed to figure myself out. Even if I don’t have all of the answers yet, perhaps I’m one step closer to finding them.
I can’t help but wonder – of my high school classmates who are married, have children, and have fancy schmancy jobs, how many of them are authentically happy?
Maybe I’ll find out at my reunion.