CAMPBELL: Don’t squeeze your life into society’s timeline

In this era of digital media and the ever-changing definition of “news,” there are some websites out there that seem to be a little confused about what they want to be.

For example: the Huffington Post. Is it a blog? A news aggregator? A place on the Internet where the most random pieces of information gather together? It’s hard to say. I recently decided that one particular section of HuffPo, Huffington Post Teen, whatever it may aspire to be, is actually a purveyor of horrible advice for its readers.

The article “Twenty things not to worry about before you turn 20” actually appalled me. Filed under “Stress Management,” it was a list of things teenagers always worry about that Carolyn Gregoire, the apparent expert on all things young-adult, doesn’t believe anybody should be concerned with until the third decade of her or his life.

The gem of a list included things like “what you’re looking for in a relationship,” “knowing if/when you want to get married or have kids” and my personal favorite, “knowing who you are.”

What really bothered me about this article was the implied expectation that, once someone exits their teenage years, the clock is ticking, so here is a list of 20 more things to worry about. Thanks for that, Carolyn.

One of the entries in the list was “following a ‘life timeline.’” I don’t fully disagree with this entry, but I would modify it. I don’t think you should ever worry about following some sort of timeline in your life. The idea of a “biological clock” is a ridiculous fabrication that society has somehow imposed upon people, women especially, and it leads us to believe that there are milestones we must meet in order to be “normal” (another ridiculous construct).

There is not a certain point in a human’s lifetime when some alarm clock goes off and someone says, “Well, that’s it, you missed that deadline. You have failed to figure out your career. But never fear! You still have a couple years to find a soul mate and start a family. Good luck. Let’s hope you don’t screw this one up next.”

Here’s what I think: There is no timeline anybody needs to follow in order to lead an acceptable life. Who really needs to accept your life and the pace at which you do certain things, other than yourself? Yes, of course, things like college loans don’t pay themselves, and, if you have decided college is the way you want to go, you probably need to declare a major and complete it in order to graduate. But if you are bartending or still in college or have absolutely no idea what you want to do with your life or “who you are” when you are 27 years old, is there anything wrong with that? No.

If you haven’t decided if you want to get married by the time you’re 30, where is the problem? Some people meet the person they want to spend the rest of their life with in middle school, and some people meet that person in a nursing home. Some people don’t ever feel the need to tie themselves to an individual person at all.

When you go home this week for Thanksgiving and your family asks you all those questions you love to answer, like, “What’s your major?” and the great follow-up, “So what do you plan to do with that?” or “Are you dating anyone?” or, for us seniors, “What are your plans after graduation?”, don’t stress when the answers you find yourself giving aren’t what Uncle Bob and Aunt Janine were expecting to hear. Be honest with yourself and your family and friends.

If you don’t know “who you are,” don’t sweat it. You literally have your entire life to figure these things out. As for me, I suppose I should go a little easier on the Huffington Post and give it a little more time to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. After all, it’s only 7.

  • FJE

    11/24/12 Thanks for your your editorial “don’t squeeze your life …”
    I work out at the Rec Plex and read the Marquette Tribune frequently. Your editorial is full of wisdom. I wish I had received that kind of advise years ago when I was a student.

    I could not agree more…..popular “wisdom” has a tendency to oversimplify and turn the big questions into poor cartoon copies.

    I am an adult and the quest for answers is still a drive for me to read, attend talks, engage in discussions, etc.

    I like that you mentioned that there are steps in the process that we need to complete like finishing your major, find a job that you like, etc ………but the search for answers to questions such as “who am I ” hopefully never ends since it is a moving target, and you want it to be so, otherwise it means you have ceased to evolve or you have died (both are the same thing for that matter)