When I made the trek from Mandeville to Kingston for university just over a decade ago, it was the first step on my proverbial journey of a thousand miles. I would have my undergraduate degree by age 23, my Master’s a couple years after, a luxury vehicle, my dream job and looking to buy my first apartment all by 30 years old. *Cue 30*
Needless to say, perhaps I should have measured my expectations. Many of us have that stark moment of realisation where the things considered measures of success become constructs of a society and social media driven age that foster comparisons of individuals’ achievements without context. As an aside, let’s clear up one thing, no one is sharing their failures on social media, OK? Good.
As we strive to live our best lives, free of unrealistic expectations, here are some things that have helped:
Ask for that raise or promotion
You know you’re a team player, have put in the hours and delivered results so why should Robert from Human Resource fill that recent better-paying vacancy when you are just as qualified? Put yourself out there and ask for what you want. And also be prepared to not get it because life just isn’t that easy. Be ready for everything that is coming to you and also to accept those that are not meant for you.
Don’t feel pressured to have a child
Children are great but they aren’t for everyone. Don’t let societal expectations convince you that you are somehow less than because you don’t have or don’t want children. There are seven and a half billion other people on this planet; there is no need to feel rushed into creating a mini-me just to check a box on someone else’s list.
Learn a new skill
If forty is the new thirty then thirty is a pimple-faced teenager about to step into the world. Do not limit yourself to what you have done and what you think you are capable of doing. If you want to learn to swim, take lessons; learn a new language, buy Rosetta Stone; start a business, then write that plan and hustle all your relatives into investing in it.
Take your vacation, ALL of it
God forbid you die tomorrow, your job will likely be advertised before the nine night. Work is important but it isn’t everything. Time well-spent with family and friends, participating in a favourite hobby or binge-watching Netflix are the things that will bring you solace. We are not machines, and even those need to be rebooted sometimes. Always remember to make time for you.
I have repeatedly told ‘town’ people that Kingston is not Jamaica. By extension, Jamaica is not the world. There is so much to see and do. Take every opportunity to have a life well-lived. Contrary to one cousin, Kathmandu and Timbuktu are real places, why not explore them? See beyond the limitations of your circumstance and situation and make decisions that “spark joy”, to quote author and television host, Marie Kondo.
Forget your job and focus on your career
Your job gets you from one month’s bills to another. Your career does that plus allows you to save, invest, vacation and plan for retirement but, most importantly, be happy. If you wake up dreading the office daily, maybe that’s not the place for you. Maybe an office isn’t for you. This is the perfect time to reflect on all the things that have ever truly made you content and work towards making that your long-term goal.
No one is telling you to work towards being a Calvin Klein model or the next Naomi Campbell, but exercise has amazing health benefits. It rejuvenates your body and mind. Plus, nothing makes you smile quite like fitting into those jeans you bought on sale but had no realistic shot at wearing.