Thoughts on marriage

wedding pic1

Part I.

I don’t think I was ever one of those people who planned their dream wedding. There’s so many misconceptions about love, romance, and happily ever afters. I think the biggest is that no one ever lives happily ever after, not really. Because life isn’t happy all the time, and a relationship isn’t happy all the time, and moments aren’t happy all the time. I think marriage is a lot like paying taxes: everyone expects you to do it eventually, but no one prepares you for the reality. In spite of the fact that millions of people have done the same thing before you, you’re not given an extensive education on the subject. You go in blind, hoping for the best, not necessarily prepared for the worst, but you try anyway.

It’s interesting to think about the reasons why people get married in the first place. There’s all the right reasons of course: meeting someone you genuinely want to spend your life with, meeting someone you want to start a family with, wanting someone to love and share all the good and bad moments with. There’s a beauty and an almost fantastical ideology behind love. It’s probably the only thing in this world that can make us feel like, in the right moments, that we’re living in a magical place. But other reasons people get married is to avoid something that is uncomfortable to them, primarily the idea of ending up all alone.

Most people feel their best knowing they have some level of independence. But human beings are highly dependent creatures. We want to know that if we need help, someone will be there to support us. Whether it’s physical or emotional, we rely on others to keep us content, healthy, and safe. Despite this need for human connection, there’s so many cultures in our world where people are largely left to fend for themselves. We’re a species that needs others, and yet when someone (typically an adult) is in need, we want them to deal with it themselves. One thing that becomes apparent as you enter into adulthood is that there’s very few people who are there to support you in all the big ways.

When you’re young and in school, you often have a wealth of communities to be a part of, and people who will offer you support simply because of your age, and consequently, lack of ability to be more independent. There’s an emphasis to make sure kids have community, an education, and activities to be involved it. Adults have to carve these things out for themselves, and depending on location and circumstances, that can be a challenge.

That’s not to say that adolescence is an inherently more enjoyable time in one’s life (even though some people may indeed feel this way). Ironically enough, the freedom and independence that adulthood can bring can be liberating, scary, but ultimately something many of us wouldn’t want to give up. For me, it’s less about wanting to be a kid again, and more about wanting to bridge a gap. I want the independence and self-sufficiency that I need to develop as an adult, but I also want to have access to many of the (often free) programs I had as an adolescent, many of which made it easy to do things I loved while meeting other people.

The transition from adolescent years to adulthood raises an interesting question: does independence have to equal isolation? What would an America that emphasized a greater sense of community and support among adults look like? Can we value independence and ingenuity while also acknowledging that none of us can handle life’s hurdles alone?

Part II.

I think that, in some ways, marriage (and committed relationships of all kinds) are one answer to the problem of adult isolation. But is it enough? When I was in school (even in college), I noticed an attitude toward romantic relationships that was quite different, and maybe a bit more negative, than the attitudes people have when they are no longer in school. When I lived in my dorm, there was one girl in my hall who didn’t socialize much with the other girls in the building, but her boyfriend visited her often. I knew more than one person who expressed that it was unhealthy for her to spend so much time with her boyfriend without making other friends.

Naturally, no one could know what her social life was like outside of the dorm. Perhaps she had enough friends. Perhaps she was in more of an adult mindset than her peers were. When I was in high school, there would sometimes be a level of animosity if it seemed like a girl was choosing her boyfriend over spending time with her friend group. In school, everyone wants to be dating someone, but there’s almost this unspoken rule that platonic relationships are key in order to have a healthy, balanced social life.

But in the adult world, past the college stage, keeping up with friends becomes less realistic. People have jobs or they are dealing with unemployment. Some people are getting married and others are getting over breakups. Some people are having children. Suddenly, a person is spending most of their time with their significant other, only this time, it isn’t “unhealthy” or odd or antisocial, it’s just the norm. Spending time with a significant other and family makes sense. There’s a change in lifestyle and, consequently, a change in social expectations.

Adulthood comes with a certain expectation of self-sufficiency. A person is expected to have a career that can support their lifestyle: one that probably includes paying for their own housing, food, car, healthcare, clothes, etc. It’s the whole reason our parents, schools, and communities raise us, so we can eventually obtain all of life’s essentials and luxuries on our own. There’s also an expectation that one will enter a long-term, committed, typically heterosexual and monogamous relationship. This person should also be self-sufficient, having a career so they can afford housing, food, clothes, etc. Then, there may be an expectation that this couple will have children, whom they will raise until they can be self-sufficient themselves.

It’s a cycle. But are we doing this thing right?

Part III.

It’s been expressed for years now that in the U.S, about half of all marriages end in divorce. Do I think this is a bad thing? No. I’m twenty-five years old. I don’t want the same things that I wanted when I was twenty. And the things I want when I’m thirty may be entirely different than what I want now. People change. People and relationships should be allowed to change. I don’t see the divorce rate in this country as a failure. I see it one way our culture’s obsession with self-sufficiency has actually paid off: no one feels the need to stay in an unhappy or unhealthy marriage out of fear. Fewer people in the history of humankind are left to worry that without their marriage, they have no means of meeting their needs for basic survival.

In the grand scheme of things, I probably know relatively few married couples. And I know even fewer who have relationships that I’d aspire to emulate. Too many people, from the outside looking in (and with an enormously limited amount of information) seem to be in unhappy marriages. There’s a lot of reasons why people get married, and usually those reasons are on the extreme ends of things they hope for and things they fear.

But why do people who are unhappy in their marriages stay married? New relationships are always more exciting than those that have been established for a while. Unhappy people might stay married for their children. Another reason is, again, fear. Leaving a marriage means going into an unknown future where one is scared, uncertain, and of course, alone. That fear of loneliness can influence a lot of people in their most life-changing decisions.

One of the reasons early adulthood is so stressful is that it seems everyone wants, and feels they are expected to, achieve all of the adult milestones at once. People want to have their careers and their love lives in order by the time they reach the age of thirty. But that first decade of adult years is more often filled with trial and error than certainty.

Lots of people reach their mid-twenties and find a good relationship, maybe have their first child, but are still figuring out their careers and finances, and many are still supported financially by their parents. Others have their career path figured out and a decent level of financial stability, but haven’t found the relationship they want. Few people seem to have both of these areas balanced out in their twenties, and nothing is set in stone or “finished” because these are areas of growth, Relationships, careers, and one’s sense of self are constantly evolving.

When I was younger, if I thought of marriage, I probably thought of it as a simple, singular, and even somewhat isolated concept. But now, I can’t think of it without acknowledging how it connects to other areas of adulthood. I don’t know for sure if I want to be married. But I do know that I want to be financially independent first. I know I want to find new ways to do something I love while meeting new people. I know that I want to be free to grow, change, and evolve without the weight of other peoples’ expectations influencing my choices.

I know that if I do get married, I don’t want it to be because I’m afraid of being alone. And I don’t want it to be because people think it’s odd that I’m not spending all of my time with a significant other, much like my school peers thought it was weird if someone didn’t spend more time with their platonic friends.

Part IV.

It’s a complex idea to navigate; the concept that we should be these independent beings, but also that we should be partnered with someone. This idea that we should be able to handle paying bills, feeding ourselves, and keeping a roof over our head on our own, but also that too much independence is considered strange.

There’s a lot of potential in the human ability to be independent while maintaining a need to rely on others. If only our society could learn to allow these needs to intersect instead of prioritizing one over the other at different times, tipping the scales to opposite extremes and constantly leaving people to feel as though they are failing at something–the paradox of either having too much independence or not enough of it.

One’s ability to support themselves with food, clothing, and shelter are needed for survival. But marriage? Marriage is but one solution to the complex problem of loneliness. Our views of family, relationships, and community rarely extend to support those who are not married. It leaves few other options. But maybe people who aren’t married need more options to feel like they aren’t alone in this world.

I think that in many ways, (consensual, healthy) marriage is good for people. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone. I don’t have much of an answer to the question of whether or not I want to get married. I’m twenty-five. Ask me again when I’m thirty.

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5 tips for hard days

sunrise

Sometimes I have days where I feel really anxious about the future, directionless, and just really out of it. Stressing and overthinking about the future can feel necessary at times, especially if I’m trying to figure something out or make a decision. But it’s important to take care of yourself in the present. If you’re worrying and upset about the future or the goals you haven’t accomplished, you’re not allowing yourself to enjoy your life in the moment. Here are five tips for getting through hard days or moments like this:

1 – Get out of your head. This is the biggest issue for me. I get so caught up in my thoughts and the things upsetting me, and from there I just spiral downhill. Remembering to breathe and focus on the present moment helps me to distance myself from my problems. The grounding method of focusing on the things you can feel, see, hear, smell, and taste is also helpful here. This has also helped me out of mild panic attacks.

2 – Spend time in nature. Spending time in nature is so good for you. When I spend some time outdoors, especially in a beautiful place near water, trees, or flowers, it reminds me that life is about more than achieving everything and traditional concepts of “success.” Sometimes life is just about enjoying beautiful sunrises and seeing little baby birds fly about the trees. Waking up early enough to see the sunrise can also be a major mood booster.

3 – Play music you like and dance. Music can really help you to focus on the present. It can help you to de-stress, feel good, and feel less alone. Dancing is also a fun, no-pressure way to get some exercise. I find electronic dance music tends to make me feel happier, even if it’s just a few moments of focusing on the music and nothing else.

4 – Watch a tv show or read. Diving into a fictional world (or even nonfiction) can be a nice break from your worries in your own world. It’s a good way to remember that you don’t have to be productive all day, every day. I find watching a movie or binge-watching a show to be a good stress-reliever at times.

5 – Drink water and have a snack. Simple things like drinking water or eating a snack can give you a chance to relax and focus on what matters most — taking care of yourself and your body. Taking time to eat something I like without distractions is a good way to be present and practice mindfulness.

When I’m having a bad day, the thing that helps most is to focus on the present. It helps me to go back to the basics, often getting through it by doing the simplest things. Having bad days happens sometimes, and sometimes all you can do is let yourself feel the things you feel.

Naturally, if your struggles are persistent or interfering with your day to day life, be sure to talk to someone and seek help from a doctor or therapist.

We all struggle at times with the stresses of life. Keep some simple rituals in your toolbox so you can find balance again.

12 Lessons I’ve Learned by 25

flower yellow

I turned 25 just over a month ago. It feels like an important age on some level. In a weird way it feels like I’m officially an adult. Like I can feel more empowered in my choices because, at this point, who really cares what anyone else thinks? I’m not saying that this age is the epitome of drinking from the fountain of wisdom. I think it’s far from it. Which is interesting, because I feel like I’ve experienced and learned a lot, especially in the past few years. But at the same time, there’s still so much left to experience and learn.

There’s a wealth of wisdom you gain when you reach 30, 40, 50, and so on. It really puts things into perspective. This (my twenties) is just one chapter in my life, one stage where all I can do is trust my intuition, try my best, and see where all of that takes me. Still, at this point in my life, I’ve learned a lot of things, many of which I’d probably pass down to my younger self if I could. Here’s 12 lessons I’ve learned by 25.

1 – Go at your own pace. They call your twenties your “defining decade” for a reason. In a way, they’re like the high school years of adulthood. You’re figuring out who you are, what you like, and the kind of life you see yourself living. It’s pretty huge! The people around you are all going to be at different stages in their careers, finances, romantic relationships, and family life. In the age of social media, it is especially tempting to compare your journey to another person’s. Don’t. Your path is yours alone. It is unique. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

2 – Milestones are optional. In some ways, birthdays bring expectations. You may feel like reaching a certain age means that you should already have your own place, a stable career, your own car, the love of your life, and even your firstborn child. I don’t think it’s emphasized enough that you are not REQUIRED to do anything at all by a certain age. There is no such thing as being a “late bloomer” in love, career, or any other aspect of life. When you reach retirement age, do you think anyone (including you) is going to look back on your life and judge you for things you didn’t accomplish in your twenties? Of course not. So just live. Take your time. Do things your way. Don’t worry about anything, just keep being better than you were yesterday. Keep growing.

3 – Foster meaningful relationships. My personal philosophy is that one meaningful friendship is better than ten acquaintances. The other side of that is that building a relationship takes time. Invest your time into good people. By the time you reach your thirties, your job, city, and romantic relationships may change a few times, but good, healthy friendships can last for life. (Sometimes friendships also run their course, and that is okay, too). But overall, investing in good friends/family members is a great thing to do for your future (and present) self.

4 – Passions can evolve. I’ve always been someone who is passionate about many things. Art, music, theater, animals, the environment, helping people, etc. People often say to “do what you love,” and many times this message suggests that you should love doing one thing for the rest of your life. While it’s important to find focus in your career, it’s okay to try different things and to change your mind. (In fact, most people do exactly that). I studied theater in college before I changed my major to English. I focused on writing for a few years before realizing it wasn’t an easy way to pay the bills, so now I’m pursuing social work. I still love theater, I still love writing, and now I can pursue a career that will allow me to help others, which is something I’ve always been passionate about as well.

5 – You don’t have to be good at something right away. This is something I feel needs to be emphasized more, especially in schools. You don’t have to be good at something the first, second, or even third time you try it. You can be terrible at something, but spend a few months or even years improving your skills. This goes for anything: math, writing, sports, and even other areas of life such as dating, interviewing, and communicating. You’re allowed to make mistakes. You’re allowed to fail. Most things you fail at in life are not going to have high stakes (i.e – it’s not brain surgery). So give yourself a break. Let yourself fail. Let yourself improve.

6 – Do things for personal enrichment. So much of our twenties revolve around “getting our lives together.” We go to school so we can have a career. We get a job so we can afford our own place, food, etc. We date so we can find “the one.” So many of the things we do are so serious, with long-term thinking in mind. And all of these things are good. Like I said before, your twenties are the foundation of your adult life. In the midst of all this, make time for things you do “just because.” Read good books, try a new sport, go for hikes, talk to strangers at happy hours, go to concerts. Do things just for fun. These are the things you’ll remember years from now, and these are the things that will keep you from being too stressed out.

7 – Don’t worry about what people think. This one is always easier said than done. But the truth is, there’s always going to be people judging you for something. More than that, people will expect you to live the way THEY are living. People who are married will expect you to get married, too. People who have kids will expect you to have kids, too. People who have good careers will expect you to have one, too, etc. But at the end of the day, no one is living your life for you. If people can’t respect the way you live, happily show them the door.

8 – Give yourself options. It’s easy to feel like you have to find one career, one life partner, one place to live, etc. But you don’t have to limit yourself, especially not in your twenties. Give yourself options for your career. Don’t settle down and get married just because others expect you to (do it because you genuinely want to). Exploring your options can save you from looking back years later, thinking, “I wish I knew I had another choice.”

9 – Be honest. Be honest with yourself and the people you care about. If you’re going through a hard time, talk to someone. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. The more authentic you are in the way you live, the easier it will be to find the right opportunities for you.

10 – Forgive, but don’t forget. By the time you reach twenty-five, you’ve already gathered your fair share of “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s” and regrets. You may look back on your life and wish you had chosen a different college major, a different romantic partner, a different city to live in sooner, etc. The sooner you learn how to forgive yourself, the more inner peace you’ll have. There will also be other people who may have hurt you or betrayed you, sometimes in more extreme ways than others. Forgiving other people is a personal thing, and sometimes it’s too hard. But taking care of yourself and being patient with your journey is a good start. If something from the past is affecting you in the present, consider talking to a loved one or working through it with a therapist.

11 – Do activities you enjoy. When you’re trying to pursue your career goals, it can be easy to let other passions, like music or fitness, fall to the back burner. Try to make time for personal projects. Join groups that share your interest. Take an enrichment class or two. Nurturing your talents is a great way to boost your confidence and do things you can feel proud of.

12 – Help others. Whether you support your friends when they need someone to talk to or donate to a good cause, it’s important to give back. You have unique gifts you can use to help others or brighten someone’s day. Knowing you can make a difference, even a small one, can give you a sense of purpose and keeps you motivated. In addition, being there for others often means having people who will be there for you as well. You give love, you get love.

These are some of the lessons that I’ve learned by 25. Life is a journey, and we all pick up different nuggets of wisdom along the way. Learning new things means that you are growing and evolving, and that is always a reason to feel proud of how far you’ve come.

Identity Politics

Identity is a powerful thing. The more we grow and evolve in life, the more we tend to gain clarity about “who” we are. Some of us find confidence and solidarity in labels: Gay, Strait, Bisexual, Pansexual, Queer, Trans, Nonbinary, Man, Woman, Black, White, Latina, Asian, Deaf, Teacher, Doctor, Nurse, Student, Activist, Artist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Atheist, and on and on. There are so many identities we can embody and several that can define us all at once.

Often, labels can help us to understand ourselves and our place in the world. This is especially true for minorities and marginalized groups. A simple label can give a person a sense of community, liberation, and something to stand for. Our identities often drive what we want from politicians and social campaigns. We go as far as to label our political stances: Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Independent. The very thing that can bring people together can also divide us, creating an Us vs. Them mentality.

Some people don’t like to label themselves at all. Not their sexuality, not their gender, not their race, not their belief system, not their politics. People who prefer not to fit into any one category may find themselves being pressured to choose a side, or to fit neatly into a box that everyone can readily understand and, consequently, judge.

Labels can change over time. A person can go from being an Atheist to a Christian to a Buddhist. A person can go from being a woman to gender-fluid. A person can go from being conservative to liberal. Few people stay in the same boxes their whole lives. We are creatures of change.

I think labels can be valuable. They give us a sense of self and purpose. But I also think fitting into a box can be limiting. When it comes to politics, many (not all) gay people will take a stand for gay rights and social acceptance. Many (not all) women will stand for women’s rights and feminism. Many (not all) immigrants will stand for other immigrants and refugees. But it can create a problem when people only take a stand for their own identities.

If people who are not directly impacted by the struggles faced by the LGBT community, the deaf community, people with developmental disorders, people with mental illnesses, Black people, Hispanic people, etc, aren’t as educated or involved, what does it say about political movements? If our politics are mostly driven by personal experience, how can we expect others to step outside of their own experiences to understand our needs?

I think we need to challenge ourselves to step outside of our own labels. I think sometimes our politics need to transcend our identities. And I think the way we do that is by educating ourselves on the experiences of people who are different from us. Otherwise, we’re stuck in our own bubbles, surrounded by a group (some smaller than others) that understands our struggles and our fight, remaining as unaware of our neighbors as they are of us.

I think it’s important for us to know ourselves. But I also think it’s important for us to build bridges by knowing about others, too.

Laurel vs Yanny

[Note: this post gets political.]

Yesterday, a clip was trending on social media where some people heard the word “yanny,” others heard “laurel,” and some heard both. People have been comparing it to that dress that appeared to be a different color to different people.

It’s interesting that we can all have different perspectives and that we can perceive things differently, even though, in most cases, our experiences of our senses seem to be similar and somewhat universal. This whole thing has made me think about something that has permeated our (United States) culture much more over the past couple years–politics.

A lot of people say that, politically, the U.S is divided. For some, this division is about republicans and democrats. For me, this division is about racism. It’s about homophobia and transphobia. It’s about Black Lives Matter, affordable healthcare, affordable education, and affordable housing. It’s about policing and controlling women’s bodies. It’s about the fact that there are states that I am afraid to live in because there is a higher chance that I will experience discrimination in the workplace or other settings. It’s about the fact that people who claim to be nationalists are more outraged about political protests than they are about homeless veterans.

It’s about the fact that Nazis and the KKK STILL EXIST. It’s about the fact that there are people who care more about displaying confederate flags than they do about respecting and protecting minorities. It’s about the fact that brown people who commit acts of violence are terrorists or thugs while white Americans who commit mass shootings are “mentally ill,” “troubled,” “lone wolves,” “isolated,” and “bullied.” It’s about the fact that gay pride, Black Lives Matter, and DREAMers being supported by mainstream media (at times) does not mean most places in this country are safe for marginalized groups.

It’s about the fact that sex workers are shamed by the same politicians who watch porn, hire escorts, and cheat on their spouses. It’s about the fact that immigrants and people seeking a better quality of life are shamed by a country founded on genocide and built on the backs of Black slaves. It’s about the fact that people of color, LGBT people, and women are astronomically underrepresented in history textbooks.

There is a division between me and the people who are contributing to the above issues. There is a division between me and the people who turn my existence, and the existence of my friends, into a political battle daily.

This is my perspective. This is my “yanny.” But the fact is, not everyone is hearing what I’m hearing. Not everyone is seeing what I’m seeing. Not everyone is feeling what I’m feeling. My values are not the same as everyone else’s. Other people are hearing “laurel.” And maybe some of us can hear both at times, just like some of us can at least empathize with a perspective that is different from our own.

We all experience life in our own way and there are perspectives I will simply never understand. And there are people who will simply never understand me. Everyone is fighting for their own existence to be validated, heard, represented, and understood. We are seeing different stories unfold. We are seeing the same dress in a vastly different color.

I want to feel safe and respected. I want the people I love most to feel safe and respected. That will always be the force that drives my perspective. That will always dictate the color I see and the sound that I hear. I don’t think divisions can ever go away while anyone’s identity is be swept aside.

At least, that’s the way I see it.

 

How I perceive each zodiac sign

[Most lists go in order of the zodiac calendar, but I’m organizing mine by element.]

Taurus – Hard-working, loyal, and dedicated. Strong-minded and stubborn. If you’re a true friend, they will stand by you forever. Selective when it comes to love, they build slowly when entering a relationship, but once it’s real, they love hard. They are true builders and will take slow, steady steps toward their goals, not stopping until they reach them. Can be lazy and loves to relish in the pleasures of the senses.

Virgo – Neat freaks. They like things to be tidy, but they can also have secret messes. Good-hearted, kind, and reliable friends. They are tenacious and tend to stick to the things they’re comfortable with. Perfectionists; hard on themselves with a tendency to critique others. They will create a stable, comfortable, clean home life. May stick to bad habits if they fall into them.

Capricorn – No one works harder than this sign. They are kind, loyal, and determined. They may have some insecurities, but they’re usually a lot more amazing than they think they are. Career may come before relationships at times.

Pisces – A very sweet sign. A bit shy, but also incredibly charming when they want to be. They need time alone to think and recharge, but they also need social fun on occasion, maybe attending a dinner party or seeing a concert or sports event. They can be directionless at times, but they need stability, especially when it comes to the comforts of home. Sensitive people with lots of feelings. They like to help people.

Cancer – The most nurturing sign. They are very kind, loving, and loyal. They are incredibly emotional and will share or vent their feelings to anyone and everyone (at least to people they trust). They like time to themselves, but they like time to be social with friends as well. They’re relationship oriented and are the most likely to be in a long-term, romantic relationship.

Scorpio – An emotional, possessive, strong-minded sign. Filled with secrets. They only let a select few in, and they may find it hard to trust people. They like to keep to themselves, but they also like the occasional adventure. Relationships can be intense, but they are loyal. They like to be in control, and will low key manage everything around them.

Aries – A very impulsive sign, but when they find something they like, they are 100% into it, however long it may last. They are incredibly easy to start conversations with. They are fun, bold, and always down for an adventure.

Leo – These people are very strong-minded, have an unapologetic sense of humor, may be a bit stubborn, and make great leaders. They know who they are, what they want, and what they believe. They make passionate friends and lovers, but they can be impulsive as well.

Sagittarius – Such a fun sign! Optimistic, generous, and very upbeat. They want to have a good time and make other people happy. Constantly experiencing new people, places, and things. They may hide their sadness or struggles from the world, preferring to party, smile, and have a great time. So loving and exciting. They are walking, talking adventures.

Aquarius – Walks to the beat of their own drum. Very unique and individualistic. They have a lot to say and are very generous, especially when it comes to money. Free-spirited and spontaneous. Not likely to stick to a set plan for the future. Thinks outside the box.

Gemini – Creative, intelligent, and effective communicators. They are talented, especially in many creative areas, but they may be more go with the flow when it comes to career. Fun, spontaneous friends. Can be a bit moody.

Libra – Good communicators. Easygoing, easy to get along with. They create a beautiful aesthetic with everything: fashion, pictures on their phone, social media accounts, makeup, etc… Can be good leaders, unafraid to speak to or work in groups. They might not talk about their deepest feelings, but they feel a lot and will be very compassionate if you talk about your emotions.

Things I wish I knew in high school

Our high school peers can be a valuable network. 

I didn’t like high school much, I wouldn’t want to go back, and when I left I didn’t think I’d see most people again. Social media makes it easier to keep in touch, so I’m still in touch with people from both high school and college. The thing I never thought of as a teen is this: the people you know in school (whether it’s high school or university) are future professionals. The people you know will eventually work in a variety of different fields, and they’ll be the ones you can ask questions or learn more about an industry through.

Weigh your options.

When I went to college, I knew exactly what I wanted to study, but I never really weighed my options to see what else schools had to offer. I didn’t take the time to really look through all of the departments, and if I had, I probably would have found a balance sooner between following my passion and earning a living.

Know that things change.

As a teen, I felt so so so much pressure to figure out what I would do! For! The rest! Of my life! But honestly? Like the real honest truth? All of that is a myth. Lots of people, if not most, change careers at some point in their life. There are people who become accountants, teachers, doctors, or psychologists, only to leave the field and do something else.

That’s not a bad thing (even if it might sound like a waste of money from all the degrees). But it is a fact of life. People change and grow. What you want at 18 or 24 might not be what you want at 29 or 35. You don’t need to know what you want to do forever. But finding something you can see yourself doing for at least years is a good place to start. Once you have experience in one field, it’s easier to find ways to apply those skills to another.

Don’t take life too seriously. 

School and building a career is a lot of work. It’s important to work hard and study and try your best, but you want to make time for fun and good memories, too. The career path you choose in your studies might not last forever (or who knows, it just might!), but you’ll likely have relationships and friendships that last for many years. Those will be some of the most valuable things to take from your years in school.

Blaze a trail.

The truth is, there’s no “one size fits all” advice. You might have someone who chooses to study engineering and builds a career in that, or you might have another person who graduates with that same degree, only to decide, ‘This career is not right for me.’ You can have someone who studies Musical Theater and finds different jobs they like after college, then you’ll have others who study the arts and struggle to pay the bills for a while.

It can really go either way, regardless of what career path you try. You have to find the balance between doing something that makes you happy, and doing something that makes you money. For many people, this means experimenting, trying out different things, and learning more about themselves before finding a path to “settle” on. But the truth is, I don’t think we ever settle. I think we’re always evolving, and you just kind of have to be along for the ride.

Your 20s will be one big experiment. 

Very few people have their shit together in their 20s, regardless of how their lives may look on social media. People are figuring out their careers, and their love lives, and whether they want children, and where they want to live, and (for those in the U.S), making sure they still have health insurance after they turn 26. It’s a long road with a lot of (really) big decisions.

Overall, I think you just have to remember to breathe. Most decisions are not final (except, ya know, having children. That’s a bit more permanent than most things lol). But overall, you have a lifetime to learn, grow, and try new things. The time also goes by fast. It can be stressful, but try to make time for fun and to be happy. You’ll go through career highs and lows, honeymoon phases and heartbreaks, decisions you’re proud of and things you would do differently if you could. It’s quite a journey, but you learn a lot and become more You than you’ve ever been.