As the bartender made his way over with four birthday shots in hand my friend looked at me and said, “Chels, I don’t want to turn 26.”
At first, I thought it was a bad attempt at making a joke but the look in her eyes told me she was actually being serious. I gave her the biggest hug as I tried to wash away the confused feeling in my chest. Despite having a passionate budding career under her belt, a loving man by her side, and the greatest friends behind her, she still felt that she wasn’t exactly where she “needed” to be. As we raised our glasses in honor of the birthday girl, I found myself distracted by the elephant in the room that apparently now comes with turning a year older. Instead of celebrating it with arms wide open, society has cast a spell over us saying if we don’t have x, y, and z by the time we blow out a certain amount of candles, then we must be doing something wrong. We then proceed to beat ourselves up and never take a moment to stop and realize that possibly, we are doing everything right.
Let me ask you this, have you ever been the person who thought you could actually plan out your entire life?
Half of you are currently laughing at me while the other half know exactly what I’m talking about. If you fall into the latter category, you aren’t alone. I am completely guilty of being the college senior who sat at her desk and wrote out a five-year plan. I put my heart and soul into that color-coded timeline, so it may come as a surprise when I say that I am forever thankful that the plan on that piece of paper never became my reality. The person I loved, the city I wanted to call home, and the job I strived to land were all meant for the girl who I was then, not the woman I am now.
Here are a few steps you can take to say goodbye to the dreaded five-year plan.
1. DON’T DRAFT A TIMELINE BASED ON SOMEONE ELSE’S LIFE
As cliché, as it may sound, playing the comparison game, will only lead you to a dead end. Comparisons can either make you feel superior or inferior and neither of those feelings serve a useful purpose. Write your own story, learn from your own experiences and live your life through your eyes.
2. EVALUATE YOUR GOALS
Saying goodbye to the five-year plan does not mean you should wash away your goals! Instead, use this as a chance to check in with your personal and professional goals and know that it is absolutely OK to tweak them if you see fit to do so.
3. BE NICE TO YOURSELF
When you are your own best friend, you don’t seek out validation from others, because you realize that the only approval you need is your own. This is your life and your journey and once you recognize the value to that then no one, not even a “plan,” can get in the way of your happiness.
4. WELCOME NEW OPPORTUNITIES
Since life doesn’t always go according to plan, being able to welcome new opportunities with open arms is key. How silly would it be to close the door on an opportunity just because it wasn’t color-coded on a piece of paper you drafted up three years ago? Don’t sell yourself short out of fear of not sticking to your five-year plan—learn to ride the wave of life with a smile on your face and motivation in your heart.
Life is going to take a different path for every single one of us, so constantly comparing your journey to someone else’s will only hinder you from making the moves that are meant for your life. Just because your best friend is engaged, your roommate landed her dream job, or your younger sister purchased a house with the white picket fence all before you did does not mean that you are screwing up. With each new day and each year that you are lucky enough to blow out another candle, know that this is your life to live and your journey is uniquely beautiful.
Keep dreaming, keep loving and as always, just keep swimming.
Chelsea Briche runs the popular blog The Millennial Miss. A platform for young women surviving their twenties with grace and a lot of humility. The platform is Chelsea’s “pledge to you, the ones who haven’t quite figured it all out yet. That we, together, will immerse ourselves in every single thing possible; explore, love a lot, love a little, and never touch the ground.”