I’m taking a break from food and exercise today and posting a quick commentary on something that’s been on my mind. I’m sure a lot of people can relate.
When I first started reading Buzzfeed and ThoughtCatalog articles, I thought they were extremely thought-provoking. First, they gave me this warm and fuzzy feeling of community, reminding me that the terrifying Alice-in-Wonderland falling-down-a-hole feelings that constantly swirl around my brain are “normal.” I mean, if people can write article after article with “10 Things You Should be Doing in Your 20s” and “15 Signs You’re in a Quarter Life Crisis” and people follow up with thousands of comments and demand more, I’m obviously not alone. That’s a great feeling that combats the loneliness that comes with graduating and moving into adult life. Secondly, some of the tips are great! “Get to know yourself,” “Get a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” “Stop having unreal expectations about what love is supposed to be like”… I began taking mental notes of all these ideas that seemed to make so much sense.
But finally, and what has stuck with me the most about these posts, is that it’s all just too much.
My brain is overflowing with information, advice, and quirky sayings about surviving and thriving in your twenties. I finish the workweek, face the weekend, and suddenly I’m wondering if how I’m enjoying my free time is enough.
I’m not staying out until 5 am dancing on tables like no one’s watching. I’m not planning my wedding. I’m not planning a trip to one of the 800 places you must see before you die and I’m definitely not working towards the endless checklists of things that I have to do in my 20s before “real life” approaches and I’m “locked down.” This whole “If not now, then when?” mentality is great in theory, but it consumes every free moment of my life, moments when simply getting hot chocolate with an old friend seem like perfectly acceptable ways to spend my time.
How is what I’m doing now not real life? This idea that I’m paying my dues until my real potential can be fulfilled is not only frustrating but completely goes against what I think the premise of these articles is. Today, I am an intern and a waitress. That’s my real life. Of course I have goals for the future and I don’t plan on staying where I am forever, but the person I am and the life I live is fine. In fact it’s a dishonor to myself to say that it’s “fine”. My life doesn’t deserve an adjective. If I wake up tomorrow and I get a full time, well paying job downtown, then that will my life. But it won’t mean that I’ve finally arrived and that then I’d somehow be more worthy of putting my life on display.
We can never just do anything anymore. We have to make sure others know what we’re doing, whether it’s through Instagram or Facebook, or even FourSquare. I don’t need to know where you went to dinner last night…I just don’t. But that’s the world we live in. And it perpetuates this need to show everyone else how well we’re living our lives. It perpetuates this fear of missing out on life because we’re constantly bombarded with people’s highlight reel and compare it to our own intimate storyline. Even though we know better, we’re forced to constantly compare and wonder if we’re living our lives right.
We’re constantly told, “Life is wasted on the young” and warned that when we’re old and frail we’ll regret those times that we didn’t hop on a plane to New York City for the weekend just because we could. But I think the real waste is that we’re too busy worrying that we’re not living right. I’m tired of the cynicism and the inadequacy. How many seconds, minutes, hours, days do we spend worrying, trying to improve ourselves, trying to work towards the future, trying to live the life social media tells us is fulfilling. It’s exhausting. It brings on so much unnecessary anxiety. And finally, it makes us overlook the small things that actually make life great: the family dinner that you plan with a group of friends, the conversation you strike up with a stranger on the bus, when you run a 5k dressed up as your favorite Disney character, or when you have a spontaneous solo dance party because “Shake It” by Metro Station comes on the radio. It’s all so beautiful and so random. I just don’t want to drown in virtual expectations and forget how special these small moments are.