All our lives, we are instinctively, and often unconsciously, taught that life is structured around a ticking time clock and a checklist. I believe this begins at a very early age. As children, we are pushed to begin crawling around a certain age, interacting with others is another check off the box, and potty training crosses off another major task. Growing up, we must go to school, make friends, play kids inc. sports, and learn respect. As teenagers, it’s our duty to make good grades, get our license, often get a job, begin applying to colleges, and exploring relationships that are a little more intimate than the everyday friendship. After graduating, we are expected to either go to college or begin an 8-5 which we will mindlessly work for the rest of our lives. Around the mid-20s, it’s time to “settle down”, have a family, live a respectable life, and save up for retirement, and the kid’s college fund. Then, once all the boxes have been meticulously checked, the clock strikes, and that’s it… our unbelievably dull, “proper” life is over.
Now, please understand, I’m not at all mocking the system (well…I am a little), but I don’t disregard it. After all, it’s how the world has been spinning since before any of us can remember. All I’m attempting to push here is that you beg the question, that you ruffle the feathers with the question, the question “WHY?” Why are we all expected to live this life and ultimately judged or perceived differently when our lives don’t necessarily fit these boxes? Why are we all expected to be a certain way, to categorize our life based on this checksheet; yet, at the same time, told to “stand out” and “be yourself”. How can we be ourselves when we are judged for not living “the life”?!
Maybe you’ve never thought about this unconscious checklist that ticks your life away, but think about it…Think about the questions people ask you, the way you have always conducted yourself and shaped your life because it was just “what needed to be done” or “what everybody did”. Now, reevaluate the checklist. Does it basically match up with the way your life has been lived? Can’t you remember the rewards for potty training, the stickers you got for sharing with friends, the sleepovers you were encouraged to go to, the spankings you received for wetting the bed at seven years old, the lectures you received about bad grades, the push to get a job when you hit sixteen, the shove to go to prom with that cute boy, the dooming question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “Where are you going to college?” The unbelievably embarrassing, and often hurtful, “Found any cute boys yet?” or after your sister’s wedding, “When’s yours going to be?” (Obviously, these are tailored to my life, specifically…)
I can tell you that I have thought of this checklist and this unconscious time clock since my senior year in psychology, that’s right, this is a real thing, guys. I’m actually not pulling this out of thin air. Now, different cultures have different “time clocks”, and as Americans, ours has been labeled “the American Dream”, and basically goes just the way I originally described it.
Now, don’t be upset because your life does fit in with the time clock and you are therefore, the average zombie of a person just living the day to day life as it’s been created for you since time began. It’s okay, and the great thing is, you can change it! There’s this crazy thing called living your life, and you get to make it all up on your own.
Please understand that I’m not telling you that the system is all wrong, nor that I consistently buck the system with every life decision I make, because I don’t and it isn’t all wrong—all of the items on the list are good, wholesome things. I’m just trying to tell you that it’s okay if this isn’t your list. It is completely fine to live life by a different checklist, or maybe even no checklist at all. The important thing is that the life you are living is the life you choose to live…the life you desire to live. Be the person you want to be, not the person society has shaped you to be. So, go skydiving instead of going to your senior prom, get a tattoo instead of a promise ring, ditch college to backpack Europe, live life on your own, be independent, adopt a baby from Africa; I’m only begging you to create your own box, to climb the mountains you yearn to climb and leave the rest on the horizon.
This guest blog was brought to you by my wonderful sister, Kaitlynn.
You can hear more from her here.