Why Expectations and Milestones Hinder Us

We’re bombarded with milestones at every stage of our lives. Society tells us there is a certain path and time for when we go to college, get a job, get married, and have children. Holidays are filled with conversations like “What do you want to do after graduating college?” and “Have you met anyone yet?” Personally, I dread holidays and family get-togethers because I feel like I am constantly defending all of my life choices.

I grew up in a very traditional household with strict parents who just wanted the best for me. Growing up I had two choices: go to college or join the Navy…or both. My siblings and cousins were constantly asked, “What do you want to study in school?” I was always the black sheep and said I wanted to be a lawyer, a pilot, or a teacher…a complete left field career choice in a family who went to the medical field, engineering, and business. Nonetheless, the fact I said I wanted to be a lawyer made all my family members proud. They kept telling me I was going to be so successful in all my future endeavors.

Throughout high school I kept telling myself: college and law school. There is no other path I could take or I would be a failure. I needed to be a lawyer by the time I was twenty-five and become a partner at a law firm. Part of my plan was derailed when I got denied from my dream college: Washington and Lee University. My seventeen-year-old self panicked and thought I would fail at everything else in my life. Denied from my dream college? END OF THE WORLD, RIGHT? I was down to my next choices: George Mason University or James Madison University. I chose GMU thanks to a very special teacher of mine who told me to go to George Mason because it would be perfect for me. Thank you Ms. Lingua-Wheeless!

The next four years of college went according to plan. I was studying government and living the dream working on political campaigns in between semesters. I kept telling myself…don’t forget about law school. By the time I was a senior in college, I was torn…do I go to law school or do I get a master’s degree? I opted for my master’s degree and put law school on hold for a few years. My family members kept asking, “When are you going to law school?” I didn’t have the heart to tell them it just was not my dream anymore. I felt like I was admitting to failure even though I got my actual dream job of working for the federal government.

Once I came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to go to law school, I started focusing on my career. I let go of the expectations and said if law school was really for me, it will come back into the loop one day. I finally felt at peace knowing I had a job I really enjoyed and I was putting my college degrees to use.

The downside of letting go of your expectations is that society loves to reminds us we are on a timeline. Right as I started to feel like I found my place in the world, I was constantly questioned about my personal life. Family and friends kept telling me, “You need to start looking for someone or you’ll end up single and childless for the rest of your life.” That was the least of my worries. My worries consisted of deciding what master’s degree I wanted next, planning a work out schedule, and seeing my friends during the weekends. I am a fully functioning, tax paying, adult that contributes to society but apparently I have to be married with children at a certain age.

REALITY CHECK. That’s NOT what I want at 26. That life works for the majority of the population but it is not my cup of tea. More importantly, what if I NEVER want to settle down to society’s definition of “settling down.” What if I want to be able to date who ever I wanted in different places and have no children? We’re such an “accepting” society but something is only acceptable when it’s agreeable to someone. Milestones hinder us. I just got over thinking I wasn’t a failure for not going to law school and now I’m being told I’m doing my life wrong.

Being single and childless is the life for me right now. I have a job that requires me to travel and move so I’m always on the go. If I could get a promotion by moving to another state or another country, I want the ability to get up and move. I probably sound selfish, but that’s my priority in life. People keep telling me that my priorities will change when I decide to settle down. They always keep telling me “You’ll change your mind about having kids” and “You’re going to regret being so career focused when you’re 50.” I just channel this out and keep doing my own thing.

Forget the expectations and milestones. Live the life YOU want.