According to society’s “standards,” you could say that I’m nowhere I’m supposed to be. I’ve seen countless friends tie the knot, pop out a kid or two, purchase a home, and do other adult things like renting a cannon for their outlandish gender-reveal party. Side note: Maybe I’m just being bitter, but the fact that pregnant couples now have a gender-reveal party AND a baby shower is the worst case of double-dipping if you ask me. It’s one thing to take up one Saturday of my life for your unborn child, but it is not acceptable to ask for two. Unless you’re shooting the kid out of the cannon, save the stamp and don’t invite me.
While I feel no pressure whatsoever to get to the gender-reveal-party-planning stage of my life, at 30 years old, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any pressure. Pressures of needing to be at a certain point in life because of what society tells me about my age. Comparison pressures to those around me. Should I be on a faster track? Wait, what track am I even on again?
Oh yeah, this track... I just turned 30 years old, with no husband (shoutout to my boyfriend of almost four-years though, who’s probably reading this post… no pressure ;)), no kids or house in sight. And, I’m still trying to figure out my career, but most of all my happiness. I’ve lived and rented apartments in Manhattan for the past five years of my life and paid a ridiculous amount of rent for a ridiculously small amount of space. All of which I currently have nothing to physically show for. On paper, it may sound like a really bad investment. But, the past five or so years of my life have chewed me up, spit me out, chewed me up again, and molded me into who I am today.
When I sit back and think about it, I can honestly say that until the past few forming years, I had no idea who I was. I was funny. I was outgoing. I was X, Y, and Z things that people came to expect or want out of me. I was who I thought people wanted me to be. The one person who was never on my list of people to consider? Myself. I put my needs, wants, and desires to the very bottom of every list. My name wasn’t even on the list. I was so focused on the people around me. What they thought. What I thought they thought about me. What I thought they should be thinking about me. Note to past self: People are self-absorbed and really don’t think or care about you nearly as much as you think they do. This goes for everyone, no matter how amazing you may be. Which, you probably are.
So here’s a story that you won’t care about nearly as much as I do, but I’ll tell you anyway because it’s time to put myself back in the driver’s seat. Back in 2017, I was in a car accident that nearly took my life. I’m thankful to still be here today and I’m even more thankful for the lessons I’ve learned from that trauma. More specifically, how precious life is and how I want to live it.
Traumatic events can change us. Reshape the world as we see it. That’s exactly what this traumatic year of my life did. It was hard. It was more than hard. It was learning how to use every limb on my body again kind of hard. A struggle that I wasn’t sure I would ever overcome. But, I hope that some of my struggles can make someone else’s process a little less struggle-y; a little less fall on your face and a little more about picking yourself back up again. I’m no teacher, but these are some of the lessons I had to learn the hard way.
Stop and appreciate what you have, while you still have it. One sure-fire way to learn how to appreciate something? Take it away. I spent months not walking after my accident, not able to shower myself, shave my legs (wasn’t too mad about that one, though, ya girl is lazy) or even get myself out of bed on my own. Things you never think twice about, these were all ripped away from me. If you’re reading this, I encourage you to stop and appreciate what you have every single day. The simple things you don’t think twice about? Start thinking about them. We (me included) spend so much time and energy focusing on what we don’t have, it’s easy to forget about what we do have. You have a lot. I’m sure of it. Start appreciating what you have, before it gets ripped away from you. I’m thankful for my struggles because it pushed me to become me. A better version of myself.
Find the things that bring you joy. Do a lot of it. My entire life, I’ve been a storyteller. Dramatic. Sassy. Expressive. I wasn’t born screaming, I was born telling my mom I didn’t like the food she’d been feeding me for the past nine months. As life moved on, I wasn’t just telling stories, I was writing them, too. I’ve been a damn good writer ever since I could hold a pen. Okay, maybe it took me a few rounds of ABC’s, but you get the point. I’m the friend you come to when you need help writing a cover letter, sending a poignant email, or writing a scathing Yelp review in hopes of some free ‘za.
I grew up and went to college to pursue a degree in journalism, but then something happened. After I graduated, I realized it was pretty hard to pursue a career in journalism and make money. Or, I was just lazy and broke. Either way, I pursued a career path that slowly let my passion for writing burn to an ember. I’ve had a successful professional career and I’m proud of what I’ve built, learned, and done along the way. But at 30 years old, I’m finally pursuing more than just a career, but a life that I want.
If you’re not happy, do something different. Last year, I did something different. I quit my job. I quit my steady paycheck, comfortable job of almost four years. To do what? No clue. I’ll admit, it was a pretty brash decision driven by other factors, but ultimately it was a bold step in my journey. Keyword: my. This is my journey: not the journey society tells me I should be on. After I up and quit my day job, I then spent months figuring out what I thought I wanted to do career-wise. I spent countless hours and days spinning my wheels in my studio apartment applying and interviewing for jobs I knew I didn’t want, but I thought I needed because of the title, salary, or outside opinions.
Almost every day (sometimes multiple times a day), a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought I knew exactly what my next step would be. On Monday, I had myself needing to go back to school. That Wednesday, I was teaching myself how to caption videos online. And by Friday, I was making memes because duh, I should have just used my wit and been a meme-ist. Phew, what a week that was.
It’s a pretty scary thought to think that you’ve been on one career path for almost eight years, and have no idea what the end of this path looks like. I heard a lot of “No’s” from potential employers during this process. This stung at first but ultimately continued to shape the person I was becoming. After months of trial and error, stopping and starting, new resume after new resume, I decided to focus on the one thing I kept coming back to writing.
I made a website. I pulled all my written work together. I started to tell my friends and family about what I was pursuing. The almost instant response (outside of the core group of people who know everything about me) was “I didn’t know you were a writer,” or “I didn’t know you went to college for journalism.” Each time I was met with this response, it reminded me how drastically I had let that passionate fire inside of me wither to an ember.
I knew this about myself, but the world didn’t. And that was my fault. I have pretty crazy anxiety (which is also going to come as a shock to anyone reading this article who thinks they “know” me) which caused me to not only hide my fears but also hide my gifts. After finally admitting this about myself, seeing various therapists over the years, and dissecting the crazy thoughts that my mind conjures up, I’m in a better place. Not because the anxiety has just magically disappeared, but because there is peace and freedom in being honest with yourself and the world around you. Being confident with both your fears and gifts. The second I started opening up about my anxiety and struggles to my inner squad, so many of these fears melted away. It’s like I stepped out of the heavy-ass fur jacket I’d been sweating in all my life, only to find out that life is much better without that jacket.
I’m still figuring out exactly what I want to do, and that’s okay. I’m still figuring out what makes me happiest. But one thing’s for sure, I’m finally considering myself. My happiness. Saying no to things that don’t align, which is a pretty hard word for someone with anxiety to muster up. I’m writing. I’m pursuing freelance gigs that I want to spend my time on. Not because someone else told me I should do it, but because I want to.
Moral of the story: I’ve never fit inside a standard box and luckily, I don’t abide by society’s standards either. I may not be where I’m “supposed” to be, but I can finally tell I’m on the right path. A path that I forged myself. Some days are harder than others, but overall it feels good. If you’ve wandered (which is also a really important part of the process), come back to those things that ignite a fire inside of you and never let them dwindle.
So here I am, world, I hope you can handle me and my fire because I promise you I won’t ever let it burn to an ember ever again.
Kelsey Lundstrom (aka KelsayItLikeItIs) is a freelance writer living in New York City. She says a lot of things, but she always says it like it is. Her goal is to inject humor into the seemingly mundane parts of life, or whatever obstacles it may throw her way. You can check out her blog for a good laugh AND a good read: www.kelseylundstrom.com/blog