I’ve been struggling a lot over the last year with deciding where I am and where I want to go – in dating, in my career, in life – and I’ve been told that it’s just something people my age experience, that because I’m a twentysomething and a millennial I’m going to be prone to self exploration. I’ve found this to be true in some respects, but I also feel like there are times that that knowledge stirs the pot of something it doesn’t need to, that it makes me feel unsettled when I was content, that I should be feeling something that I wasn’t. I’ve talked a little about that before in my article A Polarization of Post Grad Perspectives.
A few days ago I stumbled upon this article by The Love Story Project. The article was about anniversaries and tangentially about how mile markers in our lives, whether real or imagined, are supposed to make us feel.
“We have micro-scripts (for what you say over anniversary desserts) and macro-scripts (for how a relationship should progress at a week, a month, a year, ten years) and these scripts are incredibly, frustratingly powerful. It’s hard to break away from them.”
And in a way I guess this is what I’m feeling. On the surface level, I’m being pressured into passing certain mile markers, being cajoled and subtly encouraged into experiences that mirror the attitudes of my friend group, and underneath there’s pressure to feel a particular way about those experiences.
When you date, you’re supposed to try for a Long Term Relationship. When you work, you’re supposed to love-hate your job, but always keep an eye out for Something Better. When you go out for a night on the town, you’re supposed to pretend that standing around in a circle with your girlfriends is The Best Night Ever. But what if I just want to date to get to know someone and be happy? What if I have more fun staying at home and watching a movie or playing board games? Why do I have to follow the scripts and what happens if I don’t feel what I’m supposed to feel when I do?
“So much of the ritual connected to love is about pleasing, about performing the role of partner to someone else’s exact specifications. And organizing our lives to match some sense of how we believe they should be.”
I’m not against compromise and I’m not against letting someone else take the lead from time to time, but my life shouldn’t be about pleasing someone else or following all the rules if they don’t click with me. I should be able to carve out a different path if I want to, to read between the lines and do what feels good. I don’t want to check off relationship/career/life mile markers just because someone else tells me “it’s time.”
And yet sometimes I find myself doing it. I’ll take cues from my peers when I feel out of control instead of trying to make the decision myself. Instead of really taking the time to think about it, I’ll let someone else’s expectations and mile markers dictate what’s right and wrong about how I feel. This isn’t always a bad thing, there have been times when I felt like I needed a push or when advice from others was particularly illuminating, but most of the time I just end up feeling more confused.
I need to work harder to make sure that my own voice is the loudest in my head, that I take cues from my own heart instead of short-cutting to advice from other people. I need to follow scripts that are self-written, not ones laid out by someone else, and I need to allow myself to move through them at my own pace, feeling whatever it is that happen to feel along the way.