To all those who didn’t go straight to university after high school, who still don’t know what job they want to do even after getting that degree, who are not married before 30, who are old enough but still don’t own a house or a car, who are single with a baby, who are 40-something without a baby.
I know how you feel. Society treats you like something is wrong with you, like you have a disease they don’t want to catch, like everything else you have achieved so far has to hide and quiet down because you obviously did not do it right. You missed the plot. They remind you every day that you are lacking, that despite the loud of your journey and despite the fierce of your pursuit, you have wasted your being.
You are without a job. You make less than the average income. You are single. You are childless. You are divorced. You are 20. 30. 40. You are a woman. Tik tock. You come with a time machine. These are words we continue to hear no matter where we go. Heavy words that leave you with questions you never thought you needed to ask because while you are bypassing one timeline after the other, you watch everyone around you catch up like they’re sliding on ice. And you wonder where it all went wrong, because in your moment of doubt, you believe that it clearly has.
The society that raised you strictly to rise up to their list of expectations now looks at you as a story of gaps and missed opportunities because perhaps there is a choice you missed or another purpose you have prioritized. They tell you they know better, and while doing so, they mock the stillness and the contentment they think you pretend to have. It is all temporary, they say with a secret chuckle. One day you will look back and regret the choices you have wrongly favored. And when something goes wrong and you break down a little bit, they like to point to the flaws of the life you have chosen.
It is that easy, they say; there is a timeline of checklists and checklists for choices. Easy. All you have to do is follow, even if you can’t trust it. Even if it’s an inconvenience. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if you do it with less than your full heart. You leave your heart out of it. The heart is a myth.
As humans, we are programmed to seek satisfaction; no matter how single-minded or liberated we have tried to be, we want people to applaud us and congratulate us and tell us how amazing we are, and we want the picture we want for ourselves to be just as approved. We are terrified of different. Terrified of slipping. We don’t want to be judged, because we have had our share of mishaps and judgements already in our little more than a controversial journey so far, and it is time we prove that we have also made it. That our journey did not deserve the scrutiny because it caught up just like everyone else. And with that, we can quietly blend in.
But what no one realizes is that you can go back to university anytime — you can even go back 10 years later and do that something you never thought you would. You can give up the job you hate and do something temporary until you find the job that drives you to want to be better every day. You don’t realize that you can still fall in love after 35, and you can be a parent after 50, and you can start your career after 40. And if doesn’t, or you don’t want to, it really is okay.
Society is the uninvited guest who wants to count our steps on a track. It sits on the bleachers and watches from a distance, and if you turn around or slow down or stop for a breath, it boos you so loud it is all you hear. It doesn’t care if you just want to stroll, or if you’re injured and need a break, or you want to jump on a different field, all it sees is the finish line that you have missed. And here is the thing: The track is a circle; it goes round and round. There is no finish line, there is no win at the finish line. That cheer you hear at the end is only temporary, because once you cross it, the other will be a circle away, and the more lines you cross, the faster you’re expected to be on the tack, the quieter the cheer, the less the fulfilment, and the more you lose along the way.