I Put The Checklist on Hold

For me, one of the most discomforting parts of becoming an adult was losing my sense of hyper focus. For twenty one years, I knew exactly what was expected of me. I knew I would go to school every day, do my homework (sometimes), graduate, and then go to university. I would get a bachelor’s degree, some leadership skills, and eventually a job. But then…what?

I hit a lot of mile markers during my hyper focused time. Graduate high school? Check. Get accepted to college? Check. Pick a major? Check. Graduate college? Check. Get a first job and an apartment? Check and check. All of those moments came relatively fast, one right after the other in a blur of years that were busy with classes and homework and resume builders. But the next items are a lot more spread out and, for the first time in my life, they’re all optional, too.

I’m starting to see some of my friends check them off. Long term relationships, engagements, first homes, and even kids; my Facebook newsfeed is littered with big announcements like these. And in a way this doesn’t surprise me because if you decide you want these things, then what’s to stop you from pursuing them at the same pace you achieved all the other mile markers?

But personally I don’t feel ready, I don’t feel sure, and so like many other twenty somethings I’m kind of moving forward at my own directionless pace. I don’t have a fixed mile marker to work towards. For the first time in my life, I don’t have a “life goal” that needs my full attention. And while that terrifies me, I’ll be the first to admit that my years of being “adrift” and “low achieving” have been some the best times of my life.

I’ve grown so much as a person these last two years. I’ve had the time to focus on my relationships with my friends and my family in a way I couldn’t before, and those newly gained interpersonal skills have made me a better friend, a better roommate, and a better employee.

I look at the pictures I have hung up around my cubicle at work, pictures of me from as early freshman year of college. And while I still have fond memories from those times, I know I’m not the same person I was when they were taken. I’m so much more confident in myself and what I’m capable of, so proud of the friendships and connections that I’ve made, and I’m especially proud of all that I’ve accomplished since graduation.

It’s hard to explain unless you knew me during those times, but I think of situations I’m in now and I know that who I was six years ago wouldn’t have been able to what I do, socially, professionally, or otherwise. I didn’t have the courage, the skills, or the ability to pull on the strength of my friendships and I think that’s partly because I was so hyper focused on checking things off and making them look right on the outside.

So don’t be afraid to step back from your checklists and mile markers. A little short sightedness can pay off in ways you never expected.

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