In August of 1915 my great grandmother was turning 27. She was married, living on a farm in Kansas, and had somewhere around four children (she would go on to have thirteen children when all was said and done). In October of 2015, one hundred years later, I am truing 27. Sometimes I think about my great grandmother’s life, how one hundred years and two month separate us. What kind of thoughts was she having on her birthday in 1915? Was she fulfilled with life? Was she happy? Did she wish she had done things differently—perhaps ended up somewhere else, with someone else? I think of her often, living a parallel life to my own one hundred years apart. And I’m thinking of her this week, as I turn 27 and examine my life so far.
There is a myth in our culture that once we hit the age of 25 we are going to know how our lives will unfold. We will have met “the one” and we will be planning our weddings while trying hard to balance our amazing careers in the professional field of our dreams. By the time we hit 30 we should be settled in to our long term careers, have at least one child, and be well on our way to saving big for our features. Maybe some of us will even buy a house.
I do not know anyone who fits this description. Or if I do know them, I must not know them very well. It has been my experience that the more I get to know someone the more I realize, like me, they do not have their shit together. The more their perfect life, does not seem that perfect.
But somehow we are all still striving for this myth of perfection. This myth that says by the time we are 25 we had better settle down and get to work on life. Sometimes I wish that myth were true. Sometimes I wish that I were settled and ready for the next stage in my life. But the reality is I am closer to 30 now than I am to 20 and I still feel lost. Not lost in the same way I did when I was 20. I have more self-confidence, I understand more about the world, and I do not let people push me around anymore. But I am still lost. There are nights my partner and I lay in bed and talk about the future and then stop because we just cannot bring it into focus. What is going to happen to us next year? In ten years? What are we going to do with the rest of our lives? The thoughts of the future get overwhelming and so we have to remind each other that we do not need to think that far ahead. We do not need to have it all figured out.
Neither my partner nor I have jobs that we love. In fact, I am piecing together jobs as I go. Somehow after graduate school I became a freelance event planner and social media consultant. That sounds fancy, but in reality I sit in front of my computer all day making spreadsheets and searching for Facebook content. This is not what I thought I would be doing with my life. But it is paying my bills. It is allowing me to buy groceries and have a little extra money to spend on adventures with friends.
Sometimes I am really hard on myself about not being the kind of 27 I thought I would be at 20. Sometimes I cry and get angry and wonder when my life is really going to start. When am I going to stop struggling to feel like I am doing everything right? I know the answer to that: never. I am never going to feel like I have it all together. I am never going to feel good enough. I am always going to look at other people and think that they have their life way more together than I do. I am always going to wondering if I should have gotten married an had four children by the age of 27. But maybe my great grandmother wondered too. Maybe she wondered if she had made the wrong choice, if there was something better. As humans, I think we are wired to wonder if we could have done it better.
So, here is a little advice to myself on my 27th birthday:
Self, stop beating yourself up about not being the person society thinks you should be. You are doing pretty damn well. You are somehow holding down fours jobs and have not imploded. You have a steady, stable, healthy, relationship and you have friends who love you. Plus you have already started making your dream come true by creating this blog. Life moves in weird directions, and takes us on unexpected journeys, and you do not have to do anything according to anyone’s book but your own. 27 is not old maid statues, no matter how much you joke about it. You are doing fine, you are loved, you are important.
I cannot be the only 27 year old who feels this way. In fact I know I am not. So to you, who feel the same way I do, I am going to say something cliché: stop worrying about what your future holds, start looking around right now, and see how lucky you are to live the life that you are living. Start looking at the small things. Start noticing your loved ones more. Stop taking lovers for granted. Start reaching out and connecting instead of always having your head down trying to make your goals into a reality. The goals will come, but if we do not live our lives what will it matter if we achieve our goals? I am going to leave you here with a quote from Mary Oliver because I think her words say what I am trying to say best.
Sometimes, I need
Only to stand
Where I am
To be blessed.
So go, look around you right now. See the ordinary everyday wonder of the life you are living. Its better than trying to live like everyone else wants you to live.
-Julia Nusbaum, Creator