Be kind. Smile often. Work hard. Get good results at school. Date people. Make friends. Go to university. Get a boyfriend. Graduate. Move in with mum and dad. Get a job. Probably retail. Get a better job. Move out from mum and dad's. Probably with said boyfriend. Make new friends. Have cheese and wine nights. Work hard. Make time for exercise. Look after your body. Get another better job. Get a work phone. Get married. Probably move again. Make new friends and have semi-sophisticated dinner parties that basically consist of dry chicken with vegetables and some fancily named potatoes. Have kids. Get into yoga. Get another better job. Become a culture vulture and pretend to know lots about contemporary art and cutting edge theatre. Go to Sadler's Wells to see companies whose names you cannot even begin to pronounce. Retire. With a comfortable pension earned through hard work and a series of good jobs. Become a custard cream and tea addict. Move to the countryside. Do a lot of crosswords and gossip about the neighbours' hydrangeas and Doris' new washing machine. Reminisce. A lot. Try and decide whether you've lived a happy life.
Not that it matters. You can't change it either way.
And yet, we do think this. We do question what we are doing with our lives. We do give ourselves a hard time. For not doing enough, not earning enough, not achieving enough. Not being in or working towards a job that is deemed reputable enough. Don't have a desk? Not a great job. Don't have a work phone? What you playing at mate? Don't earn at least £30,000 a year? Might as well give up.
What happened to getting by? What happened to doing a job because you enjoyed it and it got you enough money to live and it allowed you to spend your spare time doing the things you love? Like volunteering for theatres, redecorating an entire room, going to the cinema or running along the Thames? Like taking a day trip to Brighton or buying that vinyl you've been saving up for? What happened to having priorities that maybe weren't career-related but were family-related or charity-related or even art-related, sport-related, music-related, passion-related? I sound like a total anti-feminist at first glance. Women have fought long and hard to earn equal pay and the right to do the same jobs as men and here I am campaigning for a quiet life with family. But we feminists don't campaign against all of the above. We fight for equal rights, equal opportunities, equal choices.
There it is. The key word. Choice.
Making decisions is not only a responsibility. It's a right. And I think we forget that these days, among first-class degrees, sky-scraping offices and high-paying jobs. I'm not saying I don't want a career. I would be happier than Buddy the Elf in a revolving door if someone came along and offered me my dream job. What I'm saying is that right here, right now, I just want to live. I don't want to be sucked into the typical routine. The one where career progress takes over everything. The one where you leave university and instantly feel like you have to be in a great job, a stable relationship and look amazing 24/7 with beautifully manicured nails and an even self-tan.
Real life isn't like that. My nails are chipped and short from the amount of times I've cleaned at work and I'd much rather spend my money on all the different types of cheese than on getting them done. My legs are so pale that they're practically see-through and yet my arms look like I've spent a week in the Caribbean. My bed's not made because of how late I was when I rushed out the door screaming this morning. I wear nice clothes to work only to get changed into a uniform and I don't mind. I don't have a work phone - I lose my personal one enough. I like my job. It's exhausting and sometimes it's crap but overall I like my job and I get home with enough time on my hands for my boyfriend to force me to sit through the Scooby-Doo movie or to go to the pub with friends. I don't eat salad everyday. I drink far too many Pumpkin Spice flat whites. I go to bed too late and get up too early and have massive bags under my eyes, even if I haven't spent my day programming some new app. I interact with people day in and day out and yet I don't hate humanity. If anything, they warm my heart.
I'm not going to stay in this comfortable, stable and somewhat chaotic position forever. Of course I'm not. I have goals and aspirations but why rush? I'm happy right now. I'm done with putting extra pressure on myself for no reason if it's not what I want to do.
Sure, I may not be 'successful' by modern day society standards but who cares? Guaranteed, whoever you are, whatever you are doing, if you are happy then you are successful. There's enough manipulation and pressure and guilt shoved on us by the media and today's ridiculously high standards - you don't need to be adding even more on to the pile.
Relax. Take a breath. Smile. Ask yourself what your priorities are. Yours, not anybody else's. Well done. You're doing fine.