Do you feel like you’re supposed to follow a specific timeline? We bolted out of high school with all kinds of latch-key-kid bravado, and even though we wanted to pursue our own specific gifts and talents in our very own special way, there was still kind of this prescribed road we all tried to follow.
College, grad school, start a career, get married, have kids, work for a few decades, retire.
It’s as if we expected our lives to follow a neat, orderly path, one milestone conveniently leading to the next.
But let’s really look at that for a minute.
Life is unpredictable, and after 2020 I think that’s a major understatement. Life is clearly a series of twists, turns, and surprise plot points when we least expect them. It’s hardly ever a neat and tidy journey from Point A to Point B.
So why do we keep expecting it to be that way?
I came out of college with an undergraduate degree in English Literature and no idea how I was going to use it (no teaching for me, please). I went from advertising to administrative work and back again. A few years later a new thing called the Internet took me down the yellow brick road to web design, of all things, which brought me into corporate marketing and communications.
The high-stress environments I always seemed to find myself in parlayed into yet another career as a mental health therapist. I was the office therapist before I became a therapist with an office. Poetic, right?
I went from William Shakespeare to Carl Jung in a span of about 25 years (with a little Frasier thrown in just for laughs). I couldn’t have predicted any of it, and it’s been really cool. And on top of my professional journey to Oz, I am a grandmother, which is the best role I could ever have, hands down.
But I still sometimes carry around the nagging feeling that I should be in a certain place “by now.” I can’t even really tell you what that place is, it’s just an echo of some kind of societal map that no one bothered to unfold for me. Even though no one drew any particular timeline for me, I still feel like I should be hitting some kind of arbitrary markers in this “time of my life.”
It’s like a weird Gen X FOMO.
Why do we to place ourselves (and let others place us) in these timeline boxes? Who made these rules anyway? Here’s a better question: Why don’t we break these rules more often?
The Myth of the “Right” Timeline
We’ve all been sold a myth – that there’s a “right” timeline for achieving our dreams and goals. It can feel like there’s an invisible stopwatch clicking away, setting deadlines for when we should have accomplished our biggest life goals.
Even if others don’t put that kind of pressure on you, my guess is that you’ve become pretty adept at putting that pressure on yourself. You probably did that in your 30s, too, and created all kinds of angst for yourself. Good timesl
Speaking to my high performers, overthinkers and all points in between here: Your timeline is YOURS. It doesn’t belong to society, to your family, or to anyone else.
It’s your journey, your pace, your dreams.
Embracing your unique journey means ditching these arbitrary timelines and pursuing whatever’s rolling around in your heart, regardless of your age or life stage.
Want to start a business in your 40s, 50s, or 60s? Do it! Who knows what you might create for yourself, your family, and the world around you? You may end up having so much fun that worrying about retirement might not be so top of mind anymore.
Thinking about switching careers, or even going back to school? It’s always a good time to invest even more in your own skills and talents. As awesome as you are right now, maybe you haven’t even lived up to your professional potential yet. Can you imagine?
So what if it looks to everyone else like you’re starting over. Nothing is ever wasted and every experience matters.
The younger folk don’t own the energy and focus to accomplish big goals. They’re determined by your passion, drive, and willingness to work towards them. And being in this “time of your life” means you know where a lot of the potholes are so that makes you an even smarter bet to win.
Have the time of your life
Don’t be afraid to listen to that inner voice that’s whispering about what still feels unfinished in your life. Don’t drown it out because it doesn’t align with some timeline given to us by popular society.
Ditching society’s timeline means you’re brave enough to follow your dreams at your own pace.
So, what are you waiting for?