I think of your twenties as a very selfish decade of your life. It’s a short period of time where you’re constantly changing as a person. The person you were at age 20 is now unrecognizable at 29. These years have been set aside for you to examine your life circumstances. Your mortality. To ask yourself, “What the hell am I doing here?” Something that I’ve struggled with lately is trying to figure out exactly what my ‘calling’ might be. What are my personal strengths? How can I use those in my search to find a purpose? Is there such thing as a purpose? Am I going to disappoint my family? Will I die having never achieved something that I had always dreamt of? Then I’m back to my mortality and welcome to freak show, anxiety, make yourself at home! It’s become a never-ending cycle of brutally attacking myself for the paths that I have (or haven’t yet) chosen.
Now, if you can understand and relate to what I’ve said thus far, stay with me. On the other hand, if you’ve never had any problem figuring out who you are and what you’re doing here, screw off! You’re like the kid in class that knows the answers to our work in Chapter 15 before we have even begun Chapter One. Nobody likes people like you. I’m secretly jealous, but still, screw off. You shouldn’t be here.
Okay, so let’s talk about me some more, because that’s what I’m best at. I can get a hall pass for that one. Selfish decade, remember? I graduated high school five years ago. It hasn’t been an extremely long time since I was shat out into the real world, but it has been long enough to see majority of my colleagues finish college, begin a blossoming career path, start a family, etc. It’s hard not to be discouraged by another’s success when you feel like you aren’t attaining yours at the same pace. Younger Ashley thought that she would have a fancy degree hung up on the wall of her mildly obnoxious mansion right about now. I find those thoughts absurd and hilarious, but it makes me wonder who sets these ridiculous deadlines for us? Answer– WE DO. Only us. Well, with the exception of that stupid MASH game, but that thing told me I was going to have 36 kids once and I decided right then and there not to listen to that kind of preposterousness.
I’m this far in and I still don’t know why I’m writing this. Maybe it’s for me to look back on when I’m in those brief moments of “feelings”. Maybe I’m just writing this to let everyone know that there is no secret answer to this thing called Life. There’s nothing out there that will help you reach the enlightenment and acceptance that we’re all so desperate to come across. Here’s what I can tell you from my own personal journey though:
A lot of the things that you want for yourself don’t actually originate from YOU. They were someone else’s idea of you, and stupidly, you made them part of your journey. For example, ever since I was a child, my family members always told me they wanted me to become a nurse. It was a dream my mother set out to achieve, only to birth three children and never finish. I was born and they said, Viola! We shall bestow this goal upon her! It took me until my third year in college to realize that nursing wasn’t something that I was interested in. Complete opposite, actually. I would never be able to handle a profession like that. My entire identity seemed to crash down that day. I never felt so lost before. I realized that it was okay, though. Failure is necessary. I cried, shook it off and forgave myself. I have to keep reminding myself that this is my own life and not to seek the validation and acceptance of everyone else around me because I’m the only one that has to live it.
I didn’t hit rock bottom, I was just scared. Nobody else cared about what I wanted. I was experiencing my first, very real existential crisis, and I was the only one that could help me. I’m still figuring it all out. Hell, I probably never will if we’re being honest here, but I want other people to know that it’s okay to not have the syllabus to your life prepared and crisp. “Take whatever stick you’re using to measure success and break it over your head.” The only thing that those ideas do are confine you from being happy and content with yourself, as you are. Instead of celebrating on what you’ve already done, you resent yourself for all the things that you haven’t.
Stop doing that. Be happy with yourself. Be happy in this present moment. Find your peace. Laugh more. Whatever talents you have, express them.You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be another person’s idea of successful. You only have to be happy. That is real success. Even though this quote has been misattributed to Abraham Lincoln, whoever did originally say “whatever you are, be a good one” couldn’t have been more spot on.
NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH GOOD PEOPLE— not your education level, not your career choices, and absolutely not your beautifully outlined dreams– nothing. Surround yourself with those people that build you up and everything else will eventually fall into place. Life is too short to keep rushing through it. Savor this crap. If not, you’ll wish you had. Now go out there and be whoever the hell you want to be!