Recently, I jokingly mused of suffering from a premature quarter life crisis. My mother scoffed as if I was speaking of some made up ailment.

And while we laughed, I bitterly thought to myself that it was true.

I’m at a new, strange place in my life. I’m pushing twenty-five and I’ve not finished my four-year degree, I work part-time, and at times, I feel like I’m floundering. I put a bow on the top of my well put together package and hope I can fool other “adults” into thinking I’ve got my shit together. All this, while I’m inwardly screaming, “I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL I’M DOING, GUYS!”

It’s a scary thing, so I spend most of my time compartmentalizing and internalizing.

But recently a friend of mine confided in me, and much to my relief I found that she, too, feels a little lost.

There’s a lot of pressure (especially on us ladies) to lock down the right guy by the time you’re in your mid-20s. It’s an archaic idea that stems from centuries of reinforcing this ritual. From the days of the monarchs of the old world to now, for some reason society still pushes this. We’re living in a golden age of women empowerment and feminism, yet there’s still a lot of stress on us to find that future Doctor, Lawyer, or whoever just got picked in the first round of the draft (okay, I’m dreaming a little there).

And often times we settle into something because we feel like that’s the next natural step. Hashtag because society. Oh, silly society, can’t you ever quit trying to dictate our fabulous lives!?

Back to my friend. At 23, she was fresh out of a dysfunctional relationship and fell straight into the love of her life’s arms. They were an instant classic and fell into a lovely rhythm. He quickly moved into her apartment and they nested in. They were in sync and best friends. Everything seemed to be working like clockwork.

Then who should come breaking down her door? The doubts that come with that pesky quarter life crisis. She began doubting her relationship and the path she was taking. And these doubts didn’t stem from her boyfriend or the relationship itself. They stemmed from wondering if she’d settled down too early. She became unsure of herself which in turn caused her to be unsure of all her very foundations.

She wondered (and also wished—no judgment) that she would have dated more and experienced more that was out there in the wild world.

We shouldn’t be letting an idea, or society, or what’s “acceptable” dictate who we are. What works for one woman won’t necessarily work for another. There shouldn’t be this pressure to settle. This is the time in life that we should be taking risks and trying new things, not settling into something because we feel like we have to.

Now don’t get me wrong, settling isn’t necessarily “settling” for everyone. Some people do fall in love early in life, and their next natural step is marriage, kids, and the whole white picket fence deal. That is their risk and choice.

I have two major role models in my life that epitomize both schools of thought. One of these women left her relationship of many years and dove head first into her career. She’s wildly successful, happy, and independent. She’s the picture of a strong, career driven queen. Another is a woman who is talented, beautiful, and also career driven, but she seems to gather strength from her husband. He doesn’t define her, but he lifts her up and pushes her to follow her dreams. Both of these women are all the things I aspire to be, both choosing the path that worked for their individual self.

So I implore ladies in all walks of life to do you. Never lose your identity. Never compare yourself to others. Never let a social norm define you and your life. Strike out. Make mistakes. Dye your hair a funny color, get a tattoo, or hell, paint your fingernails neon pink! But whatever you do, make sure it’s for you.

Enjoy your 20s and enjoy your life. Don’t be normal. Don’t let society push you around. Be yourself. Please yourself. Love yourself. Stay who you are.


Featured image via We Heart It @saltakhalelova