Have you ever asked yourself…
…if you are too old to do what you want to do?
…if you’re afraid of being left behind?
…if you think you missed your chance?
…if you feel like you’re running out of time?
I know I have.
For a little perspective, it was only last month that I turned 30. And with such a big milestone in my life, I can’t help but look back. I’m not where I wish I was, or where I expected to be, and while I wish it wasn’t the case, it kind of feels like I’ve been wasting my time.
Until my birthday, in fact, it felt like I was running a marathon. Desperate to find some version of success before my twenties were a thing of the past. It was a deadline looming over my head and I was afraid that it would only prove that I am as inadequate as I feared I was if I didn’t make something of myself.
We are constantly surrounded by expectations, either our own or the ones that are thrust upon us by others. And when you fail to live up to those expectations, it can feel like you’re falling behind. Like you’re running out of time. Like maybe you’ve lost your best chance at having the life you’ve always wanted. Like there was an expiration date written on the side. You might hit a certain age and wonder why you haven’t figured everything out.
I think this expectation is especially hard on people who are anxious to have a life and a career that allows them to be creative. To be a writer. A graphic designer. A musician. It isn’t easy, especially if you find the progress slow and the results frustrating. And long hours and hard work are no guarantees of success.
We are all desperate for shortcuts. Desperate for more time. We want things to be faster so we rush things. We have no patience so we push ourselves past our breaking point. We work long, hard, and sometimes ineffectually, and years go by but the pressure never fades. After one hurdle is the next, and it feels like a neverending race. We’re constantly focused on what’s ahead instead of appreciating the present.
Social media plays a big part in this phenomenon. We live on fast forward now. Everything is moving at a breakneck speed. People are busier. Attention spans are shorter. Everywhere you look you see people who are younger than you and far more successful.
So how do you keep up? How do you live the life you’ve always dreamed of while making very little progress, and constantly worrying that you’ve missed your chance?
Celebrate ALL of Your Successes
Even the small ones. The day you spent writing. That week you dedicated to your website. The last few days you spent creating new products for your online store. Sometimes the small steps are just as important as the big ones. Especially when you don’t feel capable. Those days that you get to work despite the pressure, and despite feeling like it’s a waste of time are really the most important. Those are the days that show how committed you are. The days that will ultimately get you to your goal. Even the most successful people have bad days. Weeks. Months. Maybe even years. That’s going to happen to you regardless of what point you’re at in your career or how old you are.
Be Careful When You Compare Yourself to Others
I’m not going to tell you not to. It’s human nature, and if it were that easy to do there would be a lot less anxiety in the world. It’s not easy to see someone else’s success only to compare it to your own journey and find it lacking. And I think there is something to be learned from someone else’s process. If someone is ahead of you, they have something to teach you, and their journey isn’t something that should be ignored. It’s a tool. A goal. A milestone. Let it inspire you and teach you but don’t let it hold you back or make you doubt yourself.
You See a Single Room Through their Window
This is the double-edged sword of our social media age. We see tons of success stories but we don’t see the failures. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before, but all you’re getting is their highlight reel. You only get to see what they show you, and chances are it’s going to be the more glamorous and successful side of their life and not that one weekend they spent in sweats staring at the computer feeling like a failure. And that can be exhausting. It also creates a terrible (and impossible) standard to hold yourself to. And the most frustrating part is that that trend isn’t likely to go away. The success story is a powerful marketing tool. When we see others succeed, we naturally feel like we can do it too. We’re even willing to spend money to that end. The effect is even more potent if their lifestyle and values align with our own. It feels that much more within our reach. And hurts that much more when we don’t make it.
One Destination, Many Journeys
We all want to succeed. We all want to achieve our goals. And we all have different paths and different hurdles that will take us there. And it can be disheartening when your path is the long and meandering one and you see so many people who seem to have arrived already. Everything you do and every experience you have will contribute to what makes you unique. Things which come naturally to others might be much harder for you. It isn’t fair, but it’s the hand you’re dealt. Learn. Grow. And keep moving forward. When you reach the end you’ll know the path you took was the one you had to take to get you where you are.
Know That It’s Never Too Late
You are only guaranteed to fail if you don’t try. If you don’t give yourself the chance to succeed, then you won’t. If it is so important that it causes this sort of anxiety, then don’t half-ass it. I’m not saying you need to dedicate all of your time to it either, but give it, and yourself, the time and focus that it deserves, and nothing less. Accept that it will be hard. Much harder than some people make it look. Be realistic with your goals and what you are capable of. But more importantly, start. None of this matters if you don’t start.
I’ll cut myself off here before I sound any more like a Tumblr post than I already do. That being said, I do think it’s an important topic to address. It’s something that bothered me for years, and I felt it was important to talk about. I don’t doubt that for every successful person you see online there are thousands of talented and creative people struggling to do the same.
You might be wondering how I’m feeling, now that my ‘deadline’ has passed. Not going to lie, I was an anxious wreck all the way up to that my birthday. But then it happened, I turned 30, and everything was exactly the same. I realized I was just as capable as I was before. If anything I was more capable because I had experience. My age was truly just a number, and it did not define my capabilities or my ability to succeed.
So I write this post with the hope that it might soothe any of your fears or anxieties. That you don’t need to have some daunting goal hanging over your twenties. Or your thirties. Or your forties. You are free to take things at whatever pace you are comfortable with. As long as you don’t give up, you have all the time in the world.
I want to hear from you!
Have you ever felt like you were running out of time? Dreaded that you were falling behind? How did you combat those feelings? Share your story below!