I'm about to turn 29, and birthdays have officially become depressing. Why? Simple: I had thought I would've accomplished so much more by this point. I have to remind myself that in life, there are certain goals it's OK to spend more time on, because not everything happens in a neatly organized timeline — which is exactly how we tend to plan our lives out.
The overachiever in me has lofty goals. In my early 20s, I jotted down the precise ages I would reach certain milestones: pay off my college debt, publish my first book, get married... Life certainly hasn't gone as planned; but it's still been amazing — and that's because I finally got it through my thick skull that growing up isn't just about constantly hitting goal after goal. It's also about enjoying the journey along the way.
I feel like so much of what we strive for takes longer than we think it will; and then we beat ourselves up over it. Don't. Great things take time; and they can't be assigned to a specific age. Life has its own way of unfolding. So if you find yourself getting older and not achieving one of these goals, remember that it's out there somewhere. You just haven't found it yet.
1The Life-Changing Career
When we're young and ambitious, we're laser-focused on climbing the corporate ladder and finding the job that's going to set us on the path we dream of. Frustratingly, you might find yourself going from job to job in search of this, and feeling like you still haven't gotten it.
Sometimes, these things don't happen as quickly as we're planning for — and it's because you can't plan everything. If you're chasing something so monumental, why would it be easy to grasp? I hate to be that person, but I'm going to bring up some people who didn't find massive success until later in life:
2Paying Off Your Debt
"This year, I'm going to pay off my debt!" Me, seven years ago.
College in this country often comes with a hefty price tag. The College Board says that for in-state public college, the 2016-2017 academic year costs roughly $24,610. This leaves many students with hundreds or even thousands of dollars in student loan bills each and every month. According to Student Loan Hero, in 2016, the average graduate had $37,172 in student loan debt — a six percent increase from 2015. Overall, 44 million borrowers are $1.4 trillion in debt, just from school.
Now, as of 2016, graduates were making an average annual income of $50,556 after graduating, and this was an increase from the year prior. That's a great living; but factor in other expenses like rent, food, gas, and that hefty debt you must pay to your alma mater, and that paycheck quickly dwindles.
Don't be too hard on yourself if your loans take you (much, much) longer to pay off than expected. Don't be ashamed if you can't even make your payments and need a deferment. It happens. We do the best we can.
3Buying A House
Statistics show that the number of U.S. households renting has increased over the last several years — from 36.1 percent in 2006 to 41.1 percent in 2014. Home ownership saw a decline. Guess with whom this increase in renting was more notable? Millennials. What's to blame? Job loss, low-income growth, and (in)affordability of homes are some of the factors.
If you've got a less-than-desirable paycheck and a mountain of debt hanging over your head, getting a home just might not be in the cards for you right now, no matter how bad you want it — and you know what? That's OK. The average age for first-time homebuyers is 33, which is still young considering what a big undertaking it is.
4Taking That Trip Of A Lifetime
If you're under 30, odds are you've spent roughly the last decade trying to make that dream career happen, while trying to pay off your debt and save for your future home. Why, then, would you get so angry with yourself for not having the time or money (or both) to travel to Paris or Cancun or wherever it is you've been fantasizing about?
While some Americans don't spend much time away from home, those who do spend an average of $4,700 on vacations every year. If that sounds like a lot of money, that's because it is. Some of us don't have that much laying around; but you probably will one day. And then you'll take that awe-inspiring trip.
5Finding Mr./Mrs. Right
How many of us dream of meeting our soulmate in college and going on to marry them? JK. That hardly ever happens. So we'll just meet someone after we graduate and fall madly in love. Except... wait... are you telling me THAT MIGHT NOT HAPPEN EITHER?
Some research says that on average, women meet "the one" around 25. Others say it's closer to 27. Oh yeah, then there are the millions of women who meet the one at a totally different age. The takeaway? There are no rules. There is no one-size-fits all approach. Enjoy the adventure, and know that you'll meet Mr. or Mrs. Right when it's your time.
6Starting A Family
While it might seem like everyone around you is procreating — and therefore, you should get busy — maybe it'll bring you comfort knowing that women in the United States are waiting longer than ever before to start their family. About 15 years ago, the average age a woman gave birth to her first child was 24.9 years old. As of 2014, that age had gone up to 26.3. The difference is not as small as it seems.
Also a valuable reminder: Not all families look the same. Sometimes, it's a mom and a dad. Other times, it's two moms. Still other times, it's a mom who has a baby all by herself. If your path looks different from other people's — in any way — don't bother comparing yourself to anyone, because you're special and unique.
7Reaching Your Optimal Health
Maybe you're trying to get your blood pressure down. Maybe you committed to a new exercise routine. But what happens if you gave yourself two months to learn how to do a certain Pilates move or run a 10-minute mile, and you miss your goal?
You failed and now you have to start all over.
Kidding again! If you have a tiny slip, if your efforts fall a little short, don't let this discourage you and derail all of the hard work you've put in thus far. Lifestyle changes like this can take months, sometimes years. Every day, put the work in, one baby step at a time, and you'll get there. There's no doubt.