I am 23 years old, and some days I feel utterly unaccomplished. I remind myself that I am young, and, barring a catastrophe, I have decades left on this planet to create something remarkable. I take time everyday to appreciate the space I occupy. But even though I know my anxiety borders on the absurd, I can’t help but think I should be doing more. What about the 23 year olds who’ve written books, produced films, made millions? I’m not among them. What’s wrong with me?
Similar anxiety seems to be epidemic among Millennials. We feel the pressure to be the Mark Zuckerberg of our chosen path. The logic goes: If you haven’t generated an idea that will change the world by age 30, you’ve failed. We, of course, overlook the fact that the Zucks garner so much attention precisely because they are anomalies.
Friends and mentors have told me feeling the pressure to have it all as early as possible didn’t begin with my generation; however, we may feel it more acutely because of the rise of ubiquitous media. Now we have countless ways to track the progress of our peers. As the outlets through which we can receive information have expanded, so has the destructive voyeurism that leaves us feeling inadequate.
Years ago at the height of my depression, I avoided Facebook completely. Watching as the people I knew seemed to enjoy triumph after triumph was too great a burden. Now we know that Facebook offers a distorted, impossibly cheery reality. Though, on the surface, we are more connected than ever before, those connections are easily falsified. One can make themselves look successful, content, and happy when they’re truly none of the those things. The anxiety of underachievement is about fabricated narratives as much as it is unrealistic expectations.
Millennials tend to think very highly of ourselves and our skills. That confidence doesn’t always gibe with “traditional” values and expectations. I believe I have something to offer to the world, and I don’t want to toil for decades before I can share it. But refusing to follow the rules often leads to another sort of let down. I personally know a number of young adults who wish to be pioneers, but it’s difficult to blaze a trail when you haven’t yet learned how to navigate. If I wish to strike it on my own, I’ll have to start playing checkers and work my way up. But patience is valueI never quite grasped. Ambition? Yes. Focus? Absolutely.
A major piece in my journey to continually give thanks for the space I occupy, is redefining what my ideal life looks like. This reconceptualizing necessitates deconstructing images of gross-materialism that have bombarded my consciousness for, at least, the last decade. I want so many things for my life, but I now value joy and peace above all else. There’s boundless bliss to be found in walking fearlessly in your destiny, but the path to fulfillment is trod with baby steps. Passion remains my guide, and perhaps that means I will never know what it’s like to “plank on a million” and that’s ok.
Kimberly Foster is the Founder and Editor of For Harriet. Email or Tweet her