Do you know that episode of Friends, The One Where They All Turn Thirty? Rachel freaks out because she’s turning 30 and realises her mental timescale isn’t corresponding to where she’s at in real life. I used to think that episode was funny, but now it seems uncomfortably close to my own age and life and it’s no longer so amusing!
Life many people, I had a life plan mapped out. I’d leave school, go to University, meet a partner there, leave and establish a career, be married by 25 and have kids by 27. Simple.
I did not schedule time in my plan for mental illness. I did leave school and I did go to University, but that’s where neat predictability ends. At 21 my life was flipped upside down and it never got ‘back on track’ like my mind says it should have. Career? No. Marriage? No. Kids? Ha.
I recently turned down a job offer for my dream job. Doing that broke my heart, but for the first time in a long time I’m being honest about where I’m at in life. The critic in my head is screaming that I turned down the opportunity to finally get ‘back on track’; it was my chance to move out of my parents (moving a very, very long way from home), set up life on my own (again x10), start the career that might help me catch up on the plan that has been flashing at the front of my head with a warning beacon since I first fell unwell 6 years ago – TIME IS RUNNING OUT.
But is it? What if I unplug the warning beacon and let the plan fall into darkness? Who came up with the rule that we must be married by X, earn £££ by X, own our own home by X and have popped out a few sprogs by X? All my life I have held onto this fear of being left behind, of time running out – but while I sit in a corner and panic about how my life is slipping away, life is actually passing me by! In an effort to catch up, to achieve something amazing to make up for my perceived failures, I tend to reach too high and ultimately fall. I want to reach 10 without passing through 4, 5 and 6 – and that usually makes me stumble, fall, and end up in negativity.
Although there were a number of personal factors also involved in my refusal of the dream job, one reason was that I’m trying to finally stop running before I can walk. I want to accept where I am right now and build on it, rather than beat myself up for being here and wishing I was somewhere else. If I had to choose 3 words to describe my decision making in the past they would be: fast, wreckless and over-ambitious. Now, I want to be: confident, considered and good-enough. No more panicking that I’m not doing well enough in life; I’ve actually been through a lot, and wading back in slowly is probably going to get me to where I want to be in a better physical, mental, spiritual and financial state than if I threw myself back into the sea of life screaming ‘Wait for me, I’m behind on my plans and need to get there QUICKLY.’
Until now I’ve been an angry passenger on an express train through my twenties, annoyed that we seem to have missed stopping at Career Central, Proposal Junction and 2.4 Children Station. But what I’m trying to accept now is that none of those stops were planned ones, and I need to sit back and enjoy the ride instead.