What Life Taught me Before my 24th Birthday

As children, we are given a certain ideal of what our lives should look like.  By high school, we should be mini, well-rounded humans that have a set list of hobbies, likes, dislikes and even a list of things we want to be when we grow up.  By the age of 18, we should graduate high school, have our career path picked out and be heading to some sort of college or vocational school.  By 22, we should graduate college, get on our feet and be hired into our career for the rest of our lives.  By 25, we should be married.  By 30, we should be popping out (or making) babies…and the list goes on.  Unfortunately, for many of us, life does not happen this way; and we are made to feel like failures if life doesn’t happen by this cookie-cutter standard.  My life started out on the “right path” but somewhere along the way I am staring in the face of the age of 24, and I have nothing to show for it.

In high school, I was a singer and I played piano.  I loved being in theatre, I loved writing and poetry and I loved my anatomy and physiology class.  I loved it so much that I wanted to go to school to major in biology and be a coroner.  I was the co-captain of my dance team and won over 17 first and second place trophies in dance.  I graduated at 17 and was headed to the prestige, Westminster College in Pennsylvania that only accepted a certain number of Biology students per year.  Biology class wasn’t easy for me.  In fact, I hated it.  My right-brained mind hated that everything had one right answer and one wrong answer.  I wanted to dream, to create and to perform.  Fast Forward to my second year of college.  I could no longer afford the 40,000 dollar a year private school, so I transferred to Kent State University in Ohio.  I decided to major in music education.  Their music school, The Hugh A Glauser school of music was a top music school in the area.

It turns out music was my passion, but it still was far from easy for me.  I was not proficient in reading music when I first started, I had no experience with music theory and I was playing catch up all the time.  I was a joke at the school to a lot of people.  My teachers even told me that I should “consider other career options.”  Four years of college and I suddenly was out loans to borrow and financial aid to struggle with.  I was one year away from a Bachelor’s Degree in music and I had to drop out of school to work a minimum wage job as a receptionist for a salon.

I got married…and divorced.  But at least I always had my job and my friends that I worked with to help me through the hard times in my life.  They knew about my depression, my anxiety, my painful marriage, but they stilled cared for me and always had my back.

…Until one day, when they didn’t.  I lost my job and found myself at a loss.  Here I am, writing this blog a week after losing my job and all I can think about is how much of a failure I am.  I didn’t graduate, I don’t have a career, I’m in debt, I’m poor, my marriage was a disaster and I have no idea what I am going to do for the rest of my life.  But there are a few things that being in my mid-twenties and confused has taught me.

1.  It is okay to not be a college graduate:  Most people don’t graduate within the 4 year plan.  Some even wait to return to school years later.  Some never return, because they find happiness in life that doesn’t stem from a degree, but rather the love, support and happiness they find in their loved ones and in a fulfilling life.  I don’t know if I will go back to school yet, but I do know that my happiness does not depend on a piece of paper.

2.  It is okay to not be perfect at everything:  Since I was five, if I wasn’t perfect at something, I would get frustrated.  I quit so many things because it was easier than admitting that I wasn’t the best at it.  I strive for perfection and when I am not perfect, ensue mental breakdown.  It is okay that I wasn’t the best musician in college.  It is okay that I am not the best in my yoga class.  It is okay if my boyfriend’s mom is a better cook than me.  It is okay if I go through my entire life being average at everything I do, because there is still no one else like me in the universe.  I am best at being Vanessa, and I am coming to terms with that.

3.  It is okay to lose a job:  I didn’t set out to lose my job that morning.  It was not my intention for whatever happened to happen that caused my employer to decide that they no longer needed me.  The perfectionist in me has applied for nearly 15 jobs in a week’s time and is telling me that I need to find a new job ASAP because I have to be able to pay my bills and stay on my feet.  But, sometimes stuff just happens.  It is okay that the universe picked me for said stuff to happen to.  I will be okay.

4.  It is okay to be in your mid-twenties and not know what you want out of life:  I like being a receptionist and I wouldn’t mind being a receptionist forever as my career choice.  But that’s not to say that I HAVE to make a decision and that is the ONLY decision I’m allowed to have for the rest of my entire existence.

5.  It is okay to know what you want out of life:  While I may not know exactly where I will be working in the next ten years, I do know what I want in other aspects of my life.  I know I want to get married again someday, I know I want a kid, I know I want a house and it is absolutely okay that I know what I want.

6.  It is okay if your career and your passion are not the same thing:  Being a musician, it is kind of hard for me to have my career and my passion be the same thing.  Yes, I teach lessons, and that can be a source of income, but it is not enough to make a living.  It is absolutely okay for your career to be something you like that pays the bills and your passion to be something else like singing, art and *ahem* blogging.

Am I having a quarter life crisis?  Being the obsessive compulsive, neurotic, freak that I am, it is quite possible.  Do I look at my accomplishments so far and get a little depressed?  Absolutely.  I wanted to be so many things, and now I am nothing.  I sit alone all day and apply for countless jobs.  I have no one who needs me and I have a desperate desire to be needed.  But it is okay.  It is okay that all I do is job hunt, clean and work out.  It is okay that sometimes I take naps because life has got me down.  It is okay if I don’t wash my hair or wear the same shirt for a couple days, because I am allowed to be confused and sad.  But most importantly, I am allowed to use this time to find myself and learn who I am as a person.  I needed a vacation anyway.

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What Life Taught me Before my 24th Birthday

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