Often, we feel the need to live up to the expectations of our parents, of society. But is that the kind of life we really want? Does it make you truly happy? Is it who you really are? Or even, is it pushing away what would have made you happy?
It is a difficult topic to discuss, so I am going to use a personal story as an illustration.
For a long time in my life, I thought I wanted to get married by 25, plan for children by 28, get a house by 30. Therefore, when I was in my last relationship, I had that timeline at the back of my mind for a long time. As you can guess, it made me anxious when I realized I could not meet this timeline and 'expectations'. This anxiety, directly and indirectly, contributed to many of the conflicts I had with my then significant other, and was probably a major contributing factor to why he eventually left.
Sometime before that fact though, I came across this article, and this excerpt spoke especially to me:
Stop following “timelines” or “milestones”.
“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”– Joseph Campbell
Get married in your mid 20s, buy a house in your late 20s, have a baby in your late 20s and early 30s, and the timeline moves along. That’s what they say right? The reality is you don’t have to get married, you don’t even have to have a baby if you truly don’t want to. Before I explain this any further, please know that I am not against any of these. Because I would love to have at least one child one day and if I, one day, decide that marriage is for me it would be because I found the right one who I connect with in all levels. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, everything. And more importantly, that it feels right to me. To my heart. To my soul. My point is, it’s very important to listen to what you inner voice is telling you. And if it’s telling you that kids aren’t for you, that marriage isn’t for you, listen to it. You are probably meant for a different path in life, one that stays true to your purpose here on this planet. Don’t get married because your parents want you to, or because you’re in a long-term relationship and you might as well tie the knot, or have a baby because you’re a woman and that’s what you’re suppose to do, or because you’ve hit that “milestone” and you feel like you need to, or because you need a man to make you happy, or because your peers are all getting married and you don’t want to be left out. You don’t have to hit these societal milestones and timelines and you sure don’t have to plan your life around it most especially if you don’t want to. Create your own life.
I don't know why or how, but just reading that excerpt suddenly jolted me into the realization that what I thought I wanted all along, were not my own desires.
I remember simply sitting in my chair, wondering why I wanted to get married by 25, or have kids by 28, and could not come up with a single reason of my own. Except that, that was what my mother did, and my family and friends were often questioning why I was not settled down, and I thought my family expected me to. I realized then that all I wanted (and still do), is a man to love me for who I am, someone I care for and hold my hand even when I am 80 and not pretty anymore. As long as we were happy and loved each other, who cares when we tie the knot? We will be supporting each other all the way anyway, enjoying each other's company, and building a life together. Did I even want children? This is going to make my family upset, and I apologize for disappointing them for this confession, but my honest answer is, I really do not know. I am just not ready for it, and I don't know when/if I will.
I remember feeling so stupid at that point. This whole thing that eventually broke down my relationship, I did not even want it myself. I only thought I wanted it because someone told me it was the right thing to do, that it was good for me, that if I didn't achieve it, there was something wrong with my relationship. If I had more clarity about what I really wanted, and had the courage to stand up against others' expectations, I would probably have lived the past few years differently. Mentally and behaviorally. More happily. But my enlightenment came too late, as the damage was too much to repair (how do you convince someone that you now don't want something that you had been insisting on for so long?).
So please, don't make the same mistake as I did.
I have moved on and forgiven myself for all this prior lack of clarity had done, but I hope that this glimpse into my inner life helps to make you question where your true calling lies.
Ladies, do you really want to have a baby and have that fairytale wedding? Are you pushing away a perfectly good man just so that you can do what society deems is right?
To the general reader, are you on this career path because you want to, or your parents really wanted you to? Don't get me wrong, it is OK (and respectable) to follow your family's wishes. I know a fabulous girl who did her PhD because her grandfather wanted a doctorate in the family, but she found her own path and interests in her field of work (while pursuing other loves), and fulfilled both her grandfather's and her own expectations. So the real question to you is, does what you do make you happy and leave you feeling fulfilled at the end of the work day? Does it make you jump out of bed in the morning, excited to start a new day?
I wholeheartedly wish that you will be able to find, within the depths of your heart, the kind of life you truly want for yourself. And that you will have the courage to rise up against the tide, if required. And then lean back, relax, do the best you can, and enjoy the ride that life is.
I understand that many of us will fear disappointing our family. But know that our family loves us unconditionally; yes they will be disappointed for a while, but they will eventually support us, because at the end of the day, they just want the best for us: to be happy.
As for societal expectations, do you really want a crowd of people ruling what you do with your life? Most of the time, people don't even remember what they had said, 5 min after they say it.
All it took for everything to click was someone telling me it is OK. And now, I am telling you this: It is OK. You will be OK.
Good night, everyone.