When asked how I am, there are two words that consistently come to my mind; ‘stressed’ and ‘anxious’. Ninety nine percent of the time I bite my tongue, as I am desperately trying to get myself out of this constant state of unease. Yet, whenever I talk to close friends (usually after a glass of wine, when the truth begins to come out) I realise that I am not alone in feeling this way. Why do most young people in 2017 suffer from this state of unease when we are one of the most educated generations in Britain? Surely, our high levels of education should mean that we work good jobs, earn decent money and are starting to build the great future our parents desperately tried to sell to us, as they encouraged us to spend endless nights in the library.
The small number of us who are actually enjoying their jobs are still constantly assessing every aspect of their lives against those around them. ‘Why does he make more money than me?’ ‘How can he afford to pay more rent?’ ‘How does he manage to have such a good social life whist working full time?’ ‘Her boss seems so much nicer than mine.’ ‘I wish I had her drive, because she’s changed jobs twice already and she’s doing so well’…you get the idea. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we never happy with the path we have chosen to take? A number of the people I know, including myself, are already stressing about when they will have their dream position, when they only graduated last year.
We all hold the harrowing misconception that we must conform to society’s standards and achieve certain things, by a certain age. We analyse those around us and instead of being happy for them, we activate the green eyed monster inside us and evaluate what they did to get to where they are and how WE can exceed their achievements.
Our generation, more than any other before us, continues to analyse their worth by what their CV, their grades and their job title says about them. We are so obsessed with learning to recite the values of companies we apply for in an interview, that we forget our own. The pressure cooker that we put ourselves in is overheating and we are beginning to lose sight of what it is that we actually want for ourselves rather than what those around us are achieving, or what limitations companies we work for put in front of us.
Of course, our constant need to see what others are doing with their life via social media only heightens the problem. The beautifully edited images of other young people twirling around at a tourist destination halfway across the globe begins to haunt us. It tells us our life should also be that perfect. Or we see a Snapchat story of that girl who has always had her shit together, on her lunch break in a beautiful London office with sunnies on and wearing a smile, telling us how much she loves her life, making us analyse and evaluate our life against hers, question our worth and sending us right back to square one.
It is easier said than done, like most things in life, but we need to realise that there is so much more to us than the job we work in, the degree we studied and the grades we achieved in school. We hate to admit it, but most people our age are completely and utterly lost. It has become so hard to get a good graduate job that most people just take what they can get and try to convince themselves that’s what they want, meanwhile losing sight of what dreams they had for themselves before the thunderstorm that is adulting hit. This concept of ‘adulting’ is a problem in itself, because it tells us that we must work in a job after graduating, complain about that job, and occasionally go out and get wasted, trying to forget that nothing has turned out as we planned, and the fact that we will never be a princess, or fireman, or whatever it was you said you wanted to be when you were little.
As someone who has consistently conformed to society’s expectations, I am putting my foot down and refusing to continue. I’ve come to the conclusion that I only have one life, and I want to spend it doing something I absolutely love rather than doing what would make my parents happy or what will look good on my CV. I have already done that, and it made me miserable. I am making a pact with myself, and whoever is reading this, to stop comparing my path to those around me because we all have different goals and what I want out of life and my career goals might be someone else’s worst nightmare. I’m also refusing to settle. Yes, I don’t have the best grades, or the best CV, but that does not mean I have to settle for whatever job is offered to me. I like to believe that life is worth more than that and I am going to write down my goals, and see what path I need to take to achieve them from there.
The moral of the story is this: conforming to society’s standards won’t make you happy and neither will comparing your path to those around you. So instead, put that energy into figuring out your own goals and ways of getting there.