I used to envision my future as a successful career-oriented woman with a bob.
Moving briskly through city streets in heels as I yelled into my smartphone about the latest work fiasco.
This image of my future self becomes less likely the older and more self-aware I become. Though I wore a bob for many years, I am a woman with naturally wild hair, and waking up in the morning to wash it, let alone straighten it, is near the bottom of my priorities. And the sight of me walking in heels is comparable to the scene in Bambi when the young deer tries to run on ice.
It’s understandable that my image of success was white collar, considering how strong females leads in movies and television, from Sex and The City to Scandal portray accomplishment. Success is a suit and tie, an oversized house (or massive rent-controlled apartments with walk-in closets brimming with designer gear), and lots and lots of money.
I’ve been ticking all the boxes necessary for that kind of success for the last few years. At 25, I took a big step up the corporate ladder by landing a role as communications manager at a highly renowned retail company.
It was the big break I had been waiting for, and I was absolutely miserable.
I had a hard time connecting to the world of retail; sitting in sales meetings, trying to convince people to buy things I didn’t truly believe they needed.
Work was overtaking my life. Instead of working to live, I was living to work.
The things I cared about became obvious when I no longer had time and energy for them. I couldn’t remember the last time I enjoyed something I wrote. I went months without finishing a book. And I was constantly cancelling on friends.
In an effort to find success, I found out what I stood for, or, actually, what I didn’t.
I studied advertising and then journalism in college with the intention of doing something I was good at, and eventually pairing it with something I was passionate about.
The problem was that I was so busy trying to build up my resume that I didn’t take the time to find out what that passion was.
I’ve always wanted to travel. A few years ago, I set out to spend a year abroad, living on a remote Scottish isle as an au pair, but my visa was declined and I started a career instead. Eventually, I told myself, I’d have enough money to see the world bit by bit.
While a career makes travelling the world a likely possibility, I’ve learned the value of time. With no children, no mortgage, and nothing but time, why would I wait?
I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful millennial. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had. At 26, I know I shouldn’t expect to have it all, but I refuse to accept that unhappiness is a byproduct of growing up.
I’ve been living in my in-laws’ basement for the past month, surrounded by a small pile of boxes containing the very few belongings we haven’t sold or donated. I’m one month away from starting a job as a waitress at a small rural pub in the United Kingdom. I don’t have much, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but with a one-way ticket and all the time in the world, I’ve never felt more successful.
While this is a likely possibility, I’ve learnt the value of time. At this point in my life I have no children, no mortgage, essentially nothing but time, so why would I wait?
I’ve struggled to write this because I don’t want to sound like an ungrateful millennial. Don’t get me wrong, I am nothing but grateful and appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had. I can see your eyes rolling from here, because I know that at 26 I shouldn’t expect to have it all. But I refuse to accept that unhappiness is a byproduct of growing up.
Today I sit in my in-law’s basement that I’ve been living in for the past month, surrounded by a small pile of boxes that hold the very few belongings we haven’t sold or donated. I am one month away from starting a job as a waitress at pub. I don’t have much, and I certainly don’t have it all figured out, but with a one way ticket and all the time in the world, I’ve never felt closer to success.