We’re obsessed with timelines. The ones set for us by the world around us. The ones our parents set for us. The ones we set for ourselves. Where does it start and how do we learn to love where we’re at, instead of focus where our timeline should be?
At some point in your childhood, you probably wrote one of those “Where I See Myself In 5 Years” stories. In 5th grade, for the yearbook, in my school we all wrote one called “When I’m 25.” I was home over the summer, going through all my childhood things in the basement looking for a photo, and I stumbled on that yearbook. Next thing I knew I found myself reading the story…
In the 5th grade, at 10-years-old or so, I was certain that at 25-years-old, I would not only be a Harvard Law School graduate, but I’d also be married with three kids. All daughters (yikes!) and I’d be living on Long Island in very close proximity to my parents. Now, logic aside - because I am unclear how it’s really all that possible to get a law degree by 25, let alone have three children at the same time, I’m reminded of something: marriage, children, a top-of-the-world career - I sure planned to have it all.
This month, I turned 28. Not exactly a milestone birthday on the timeline scale, but nonetheless, in the months and weeks leading up to my birthday, I began to panic. Normally, I mark a birthday with constant countdown reminders to everyone in my path, but this year was different.
I’ve realized that the closer I got to 30, the more I started to feel anxiety set in over "timelines," especially in love - in my relationships with my friends, family, self, and significant other.
It’s been as if any question about my “timeline,” a real timeline or perceived one, became a trigger for me, setting me off into a spiral. So what did I do?
I Focused On My Current Self
Sometimes, that was a bit obsessive and unhealthy. In fact, I became so infatuated with my skincare routine that I am pretty sure I was on a first-name basis with the girls working in Ulta. But what I realized was that the me that I am now is the only me I’ve got. So why not just love myself? And hey, if that meant changing all of my moisturizers to have retinol because it made me feel better and “upgrading” my makeup, well then I deserve it.
I changed up my gym routine (your 28-year old body and your 18-year old body don’t want the same workout) and I learned to listen to my body more. Above all, I realized that I had to focus not on the timelines of everyone else but on embracing my own life and everything that came with it - and that meant listening to me, not the timeline.
I Threw Myself Into The Present
Spoiler: I did not go to law school. But I also tend to obsess over “what’s next.” My boyfriend, ever-practical will always say to me “why change something that makes you happy?” And I have a dissertation ready about why I need a new, more important job, we need a bigger bar, etc. etc. But what’s so wrong with the present, anyway? We’re all so obsessed with timelines and milestones that we may be forgetting to enjoy the present.
I Stopped Focusing On Everyone Else
At a co-workers suggestion, I read Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, and while everything about that book was amazing I always remind myself of this one lesson: “nothing is about you”.
When applied to timelines this is so simple to recognize. We all have our own timelines and nothing anyone else does with their timeline is because of me. I had to realize that. At 28, my parents had two kids. I don’t even know if I want kids. Why follow a timeline when I can blaze my own trail? At 21, my parents were married, but they also met at 15.
In life and in love, there's no timeline but your own and that’s really why I've learned to embrace mine.