Since my last post about being unsure whether I would get a job I really wanted, related to mental health, a number of things have changed. Since February/March, I had been working in a position I didn’t entirely want — but it was a massive stepping stone, a look into what-could-be — but that was balancing on a tightrope that was fraying too quickly, making everything appear to be distorted and fragmented. A disillusioned reality in the muddy reflection of a rainy puddle.

Two weeks ago, I changed the trajectory of my life in the midst of the waves of depression, disappointment and a sinking ship pulling me under. While it seemed like I was never going to get it together and everything was becoming too much too soon, with the job I had up in the air, not getting the one I had really hoped I would (I mean, I didn’t even get an interview lol), and I wanted to just not exist, another door creaked open.

It is both exciting and terrifying, full of challenge and the ability to change me — make me grow — and I am feeling Everything.

I have also made the decision to maybe, potentially, hopefully start a MSc in Psychology.

That’s a decision my mum isn’t entirely happy with. “Why are you going to keep studying? You need to work, start a family and buy a house.”

I mean . . . buying a house? In this economy? When I’ll be taxed left, right and centre and won’t be able to buy anytime soon, if ever? I can only dream. And as much as I do want to have my own family, I want to build up my career. I am just at the start. I have already waited three years — I am three years behind my peers, always feeling like I am chasing a speeding train, running and running after it (and if you know me, you know that I can barely run for 40 seconds without getting out of breath. Yes, I know, I need to work out but I cba), wanting to reach some kind of inevitable goal that means I’ve done what I was supposed to.

By society’s timeline, I am late. I am not there yet.

I haven’t even gotten to the platform yet. And it is exhausting. But I am trying. I am trying to tell myself that it doesn’t matter that nothing went the way it was supposed to — that my life so far has not followed the plans I had when I was in my teens, hoping I’d get all A’s and A*’s, do 3 A-Levels and go to university at 18 and graduate by 21, get married straight away and be a mum by 25, while having a career in mental health and published a book by one of the ‘big five’ publishing houses. It doesn’t matter. The truth is, we can all plan, hope and dream for our lives to go down a certain path, follow the plan and be smooth sailing, but life rarely pans out the way we hope. We don’t get the luxury of having it all in the palm of our hand, of having our lives turn out to be exactly the way we had hoped, ticking every single box on that checklist in our head.

We can often feel like that about everything — relationships, babies, houses, employment — we see people we know, we see people we don’t know, posting the highlights of their lives, the carefully curated snapshot revealing the bright and glittery moments, and then we wonder why nothing is going right for us. I often compare myself to others, wishing my life wasn’t such a disaster when everything is so perfect for everyone else, but right now, I’m just starting out.

It can be so easy to look at myself and then look at someone else and wonder why I don’t have what they have: why can’t I be the one travelling to a different country every other weekend, why can’t I be the one getting engaged, why can’t I be the one owning a picket-fenced home with a backyard big enough to build a pool, why can’t I be the one doing this and thriving? How can I always feel like I’m drowning in the expectations from my family, in the lost dreams I once had?

Life isn’t meant to be one long smooth trajectory, because we’re meant to stumble and fall and find our way back up. What works for one person may not work for you, or me. It’s liberating to do life at one’s own pace, where you don’t have to adhere to the timeline mapped out by society. You don’t have to be married with the perfect nuclear family by the time you’re 30.

I’m in that starting position of the rest of my life at almost-24-years-old and I’m just starting to realise that life is hard and it will always be hard, but there are moments that make up for it and maybe I’ll forget that every once in a while and find myself wishing my life was a little more like that Instagram influencer who goes for brunch every Saturday morning and has the body I wish I could have without working for it, or the picture perfect apartment with the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the London skyscape.

Everything is chaotic and wonderful, but to quote Mulan, “the flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

Maybe nothing will turn out to be the way you had always imagined, but it all turns out okay in the end, even if it takes a while. Even if it takes three years. One thing will happen and it will change the direction of your life and you will find yourself at the point where you realise that maybe, just maybe, you can achieve your dreams even if plan A, B or C never worked out. But there are so many other letters you still have to go through.

I’m probably on plan F right now. I have gone through switching to Childcare and restarting my A-Levels, to dropping out completely and switching apprenticeships twice, to working full time, to going back to college, to starting a degree in Psychology and then dropping out and doing nothing for a year. I started an English degree I finished, with no clue what direction I was going in and crying every other day because I felt like a failure. I started a job I took for the sake of it, to fall in love with the company because it did everything I have always dreamt of, and wanted a job that I wasn’t qualified for but could have been great at in another life. I ended up getting a job in a career that will map out a new course in my life and hopefully help me to change lives and empower other people, and just maybe I will get back into Psychology. I have failed time and time again and every time, it crushed me, and for so long I didn’t know what I wanted.

Growing up in a family, in a culture, that expects me to be a certain way — when it is the complete opposite of who I am: an obedient and dutiful daughter, wife, niece — is exhausting and debilitating. I am tired of waiting on someone to save me and wishing for everything to be different, so maybe that’s why I’m always changing my mind and getting bored and wanting something new, because this is the part of my life I have control over. This is the part of my life I can make my own, even when I feel lost and like I’ve fallen too far behind to catch up, and yes, maybe I am 3 years behind my peers, but two weeks ago, I made a decision to say yes to something that will be rewarding, challenging, mentally taxing, but ultimately, be the start of something.

There will always be obstacles and maybe some things, or maybe everything, will shatter into pieces too small to put back together, but the point is: somewhere along the way, you will find yourself exactly where you’re meant to be. There will be magic and there will be choices you make that will shape the rest of your life, even if it doesn’t best please your family. Sometimes, you just have to choose what’s best for you, for your future, even if it isn’t following the same timeline as everyone else’s, even if it isn’t what your culture expects of you, even if your family tries to change your mind. Just know, your timeline doesn’t have to match anyone else’s — you can go at your own pace and at the end of the day, it will be just right. Life has a way of falling into place when you least expect it to.

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