Life: The Most Complicated Race

“Life isn’t a race. Everyone goes at their own pace.”

I never found either of those phrases comforting. To me, they seemed like something to say for the sake of making someone who’s behind feel better. After all, why would anyone say those things to someone who’s ahead? It’s like telling someone whose life is going great at the moment that everything will be okay. They don’t need to hear that because everything already is okay for them.

If life were a race, it’d be an extremely complicated one.

The “right” way to live life is supposed to be finish high school at 18, finish college at 22, start a career, get married, buy a house in the suburbs (why is it always suburbs?), have kids before 30, retire at 65, and… that’s it.

Of course, nothing is wrong with that path of life, but there are too many people in the world to expect that to be everyone’s path in life. “No one size fits all”, especially when it comes to how to live. Even if you did everything in the “script”, you might not do it at the “normal” age. Some people finish high school at 16 (in fact, in European countries, 16 is the normal age to finish high school), some people start college at 20, some people start 18 and finish at 26, some people have kids in their 30s (one of my co-workers had her son at 39), you get the idea.

I’ve always been in a late bloomer in the script. Heck, you could say my script was in reverse because I loved adult shows and looked after children as a child, and I’d set myself on fire before I ever relived my childhood (another part of the “script”; you’re supposed to want to go back to childhood because it was more carefree). I finished high school at 19, dropped out of community college at 20, met my boyfriend at 21 (well, three months before I would be 21), got a soul-sucking job at 22 (that I was naïvely happy about because it was my first job), went to trade school at 24, graduated two months before I’d turn 25. That’s the end so far. My script is all screwed up, and really, it’s writing itself. If things go well, I can add “got my driver’s license at 25” to it. But judging by the “normal” life script, I am very late! I’m supposed to have a ring on my finger by now, and be walking down the aisle in a few months! Or maybe I’m supposed to be buying the house. Did I mention I hate rings, weddings, and am neutral to being a homeowner? Wait, can you build a career in four years? Isn’t that assuming you find a job immediately out of college? How do you fit “marriage, house, child” into four years? I guess, technically speaking, it’s possible, but that’d be way too fast for me.

The perhaps-not-so-ironic thing is I’ve never felt bad about being late. I used to for a while, but I usually got over it because I got something good out of it.

  • I graduated high school a year late because I was forced to transfer school districts. I had the chance to skip 11th grade, but I didn’t feel ready. If I did, I would’ve never met my best friend, who I’ve said more than once is the only good I got out of high school. We met in September 2011, meaning we’ve been friends for 7 1/2 years! That means so much more to me than graduating “on time”. And in the end, nobody cares what age I was when I finished high school. Just that I did.
  • I only went to community college because my family wouldn’t stop pressuring me. Had I stuck it out, I would’ve either flunked out anyway, or had a degree I didn’t care about. I was much more focused in trade school because I wanted to be there and I’d been away from school for a few years, which got rid of the burnout from my previous 14 years of schooling (now, I have retail burnout!).
  • Probably the only thing I’ve done “on time” is meet my boyfriend, but I don’t think there’s any “right” age to meet the person you marry (though the idea seems to be you’d meet them in college; there are people who attend college solely for that reason). However, we are not getting married any time soon. In fact, it’ll be a while before we’ve even under the same roof, let alone walking down the metaphorical (or literal) aisle. I couldn’t care less about that. My view on marriage has always been I’m open to it, but it’s not necessary for me to be happy.
  • My license. I’m currently studying for the written test, and practicing with free tests online, but whatever age I get it, it’s still a license. The reason I didn’t get it earlier is I failed driver’s ed in high school and my family couldn’t afford a car anyway, so I saw it as pointless. However, taking the “adult road” means I don’t have as many restrictions because I’m over 21. That makes me glad I waited.
  • My “career” started in retail, and I quickly discovered I don’t want it to be a career! But it’s still work experience, something I can put on a resume, and it got me through school, so I don’t regret it. Whenever I get an IT-related job, I will definitely be late on the “start a career’ checkpoint. But it’ll still be a career. Just got to find it.

Maybe the better thing to do would be teaching teenagers it’s okay to have an “abnormal” path in life,  and that everyone’s path in life won’t be the same. In the end, what age you check a box off, so to speak, really only matters to you. Yes, I wish some things happened earlier – I wish I’d gotten my license at 21 so I’d have it now, and I wish I’d met my boyfriend in our teens so we’d have more time together – but I’m not upset they happened, or are happening, at the times they did. It’s not worth being upset about. Any person it does matter to isn’t someone I want part of my life. The last thing I need help with is comparing myself.

Besides, my end goal in life is to have a life I’m happy with. That includes my boyfriend by my side, whether he’s still my boyfriend or my husband by that point, us living happily under the same roof, never worrying about money, and having jobs we enjoy and don’t drudge through. As much as I’d like it as soon as possible, I’ll go slowly if it means it’s built stronger and lasts longer.

I Think I May Miss Them

Shockingly, I made it through to the end of my trade school program.

I have one day left, and it’s not a full day. I have to go to take a final test, but after I finish, I can immediately go home. I also have one more payment due, which will be paid next Friday.

I’m currently waiting on a call for an interview for an internship position. If I’m approved for it, I’ll be working in a public school in a town that is, thankfully, much closer to my home than my school is. I’m very nervous about it because it’ll be my first interview for a non-retail job, which means the “cute and cheerful” persona won’t cut it.

Yesterday, our second-to-last day, we had a pizza party. Yes, despite being on a 500-calorie diet, I participated and went to gym later to burn it off. We took a few pictures too, and I have one of the whole class. Then, a feeling I never expected hit me.

We are really leaving.

I didn’t become friends with my classmates. We were friendly to each other, yes, but no friendships formed. Yet, when I look at the class picture I have on my phone, I think about how I spent the last eight months with this group and Monday will really be our last day as a class. Unless the stars align, chances are none of us will see each other again. I looked forward to internship, and to the end of this program, since I started it, especially since I had to withdraw and re-enter. Now that it’s here, I suddenly have an emotional conflict going on.

I truly may miss them.

I don’t know why. As I said, no friendships formed. There are no special bonds. I don’t know them beyond a few mentions of their personal lives here and there. There’s no reason I should feel this way. But I do.

For the sake of preserving their privacy, I won’t post the picture here. I uploaded it to Dropbox, and saved it on an SD card in my phone, to ensure it won’t be lost. I wonder where I’ll be a year from now, and how I’ll feel if I look back on that picture in 2020. Will I remember their names?

In lieu of the class picture, I’m going to end this post with a song I haven’t listened to in a few years that writing this out has brought to mind. The “friends forever” part sure won’t happen, though.

“Somehow today, we have to say… goodbye.”

Positivity: Real vs Fake

There’s something about I’ve noticed about self-proclaimed “positive” people. Actually, any person who screams “if you don’t like your life, change it, don’t complain!”

They will scream this, even if you are doing that.

For some reason I will never understand, it seems these types of people believe complaining and working to change your life can’t be done simultaneously. Weird. Like people.

I’m currently in school. That’s considered by most people to be a step in changing your life. But if I had a dime for every time I complained about school – having to wake up early, balancing work and a job (two jobs at one point), running on little sleep, studying, the $200+ I must pay monthly to attend school, the lessons I struggle with, the boring days, keeping up with my grades – I could probably pay off my student loans in a month.

But I still attend school, so I’m still changing my life like these people scream I should be doing. And it’s still not good enough for them. And honestly, school is just still one thing.

If nothing else, I’ve learned most people who scream “change your life” don’t really care what you do. It just makes them feel better to look at someone as negative or a poor example for feeling bad for a day, no matter how much effort they’re putting in to improve their life. Because everyone knows if you really were making a change, it’d be instant and you’d never have a bad day again. Yes, that’s sarcasm. I hope it was obvious.

Real positive people don’t look down on others, don’t preach about how positive they are, and actually understand feeling bad is human instead of shaming people for it. They also practice what they preach instead of giving out advice they themselves don’t follow (assuming it’s applicable to their life at the moment). And this might be a stretch, but I imagine positive people also don’t join certain communities and single out a person for the content of those communities when they knew it ahead of time. Or have spies in that community, for that matter.

In short, real positive people aren’t bullies under the guise of “positivity”. If you’re going to scream at someone to “change their life”, the very least you can do is know beforehand if they’re already doing that. If you don’t care to know that, you’re blowing smoke and nothing more. And since this is the internet, the latter is the most likely scenario. In which case, I say to your “facts”…

The Point of No Return – Part 2

Previous related post.

I took the final for my second-to-last class yesterday. I struggled a lot with this class and didn’t do well, but in the end, I did pass. Shockingly, I could’ve failed the final and still passed, though I’m glad I didn’t. Today is the start of the last of my school’s program. What then?

According to the program, internship follows the end of classes. To say I’m anxious would be an understatement.

Yes, I’m happy school is almost over, especially considering all of the trouble I had to go through to reach the end. I’m still disappointed I couldn’t stay with the first class and graduate on December 4th of last year, but I suppose it doesn’t matter now. At the same time, the only work experience I have is in retail and I truly fear I can’t do anything else.

Retail is difficult in that it’s tedious, repetitive, and draining, the latter especially if you’re an introvert. However, the jobs themselves – at least, my positions – are relatively easy. As a cashier, I stand in one spot, push buttons on a computer, scan barcodes, take money, and put the stuff in bags. The end. As a floor associate, the job description is less “fancy” than that: clean the floor and racks, and put merchandise back. You could teach a child how to do these jobs. Yet, even retail can prove to have its challenge because when I had full-time position for a few months, I ultimately failed because the workload crushed me like a 1,000-pound weight. And I wouldn’t try to get into the hell above that. I’ve yet to meet a manager who likes their job (“Don’t do it! It’s a trap!”), including my own. Two of my managers felt the need to lecture me about all the insanity and stress managers puts up with, and I get the point! Of course, that brings into question why they chose it. One of those two implied he doesn’t think lower employees/associates have the right to feel stressed because of what managers deal with. That’s another reason to stay away from management. I prefer not to look down on people. But I digress.

What I’m trying to say is if I can’t keep with a retail job unless it’s part-time, how on Earth could I do anything else? I’ve heard of people getting very close to graduation, only to quit weeks or days before, and I think I’m beginning to understand why. Taking classes on the subject is not the same as doing the real job. Even interviews are different. As far as I can tell, I ultimately got hired at the stores I worked at because I faked being cute, cheerful, and my awkwardness didn’t scare anyone off. That doesn’t work in interviews for what I’m studying, and having trouble talking will likely mean I bomb over a dozen interviews, if I get any at all. And yes, I do practice. Again, practice and the real thing aren’t the same.

Of course, all of this anxiety is irrelevant if I fail this final class, so maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. I should pass before I talk anymore.