On Learning That Life Isn't A Race

As I write this, we're in the midst of graduation season. My social media is full to the brim of photos of people all dolled up in their graduation gowns and you can't open instagram without seeing a boomerang of people throwing their caps in the air. This year it was the turn of the people I went to school with, including my best friend. And I won't lie... it felt pretty crap.

I suppose a bit of context is needed here for anyone who isn't familiar with little old me and the path life has led me on. I'm twenty-one and just about to start my third year at university. I finished sixth form in 2016 and it was fair to say my A Level experience was far from perfect. I was, to put it rather bluntly, mentally ill for at least my second year of sixth form and it was a small miracle I sat my exams in the first place, let alone passed my A Levels and got a place at uni. But in the midst of all the turbulence I was facing as a result of my mental health, I had decided I wanted to take a year out of education to focus on me before my academic journey continued. So I took a gap year, managed to secure a full time job in a school and watched as the majority of my peers headed off to university. I followed a year later and if you fast forward a couple of years, here we are.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I was feeling so negative about seeing the people I grew up with graduating. It would be hard to say there wasn't a twinge of jealousy there. Perhaps it was jealousy surrounding the fact that the people I grew up with had reached this big academic milestone and I hadn't. Perhaps it was because, for them the hard work was done. There was almost a feeling of regret in the air; regret that I had taken a gap year and put myself one step behind my peers.

These emotions almost seemed silly because, when taking my gap year in the first place, I had always known I would graduate a year late. It's something I honestly thought I had come to terms with, until the moment when I saw everyone putting on their caps and gowns.

I wanted to be there; I wanted to be graduating; I wanted to be achieving this significant thing with everybody else. But I wasn't and it made me feel like I was lagging behind and honestly, like I was less of a success.

But it's not just about graduation; when I look around me, everyone is in different stages of life. 

I look at people I went to school with, at current and old work colleagues and at my uni friends; all people who, despite being the same age as me, are at completely different points in their lives in terms of relationships, home, career; the whole shebang. Some have successful jobs, some have bought houses, some have graduated; some have even grown small humans inside them.

Sometimes it feels like life is a 1500m race and I'm still walking my way around the first lap.

But I recently look a long hard look at the situation and thought... Chlo it doesn't really matter. It doesn't really matter when other people graduate, or what degree classification they get. It doesn't matter what the girl you used to sit next to in maths is doing with her life, or when the popular kids bought houses. It all doesn't matter. What matters is my journey.

I'm taking life at my own pace; crossing each stepping stone when suits me and not taking a blind bit of notice about which stepping stone the rest of the world are on. Because I'm just doing me. Life is this crazy journey which shouldn't be rushed. Every step should be appreciated and enjoyed.

Look at life as a walk up a mountain. There are a hundred and one different paths up the mountain, some which are steeper and a little harder to climb, some which may even result in rocks being thrown down at you. Some paths may be direct and some may take you the long way. Each one of these paths is different but they all get you to the top of the mountain in the end. And you'll look back down at the path you've followed and wouldn't change it for the world, because you've achieved something great. Scrapping my metaphor for a minute, this achievement may look different for each person; for some it may be a career goal, for some it may be marriage and children, for some it may be financial stability, for some it may just be happiness. We are all walking up our own paths, at our own paces and towards our own end goals; the focus should be on ourselves. Yes at times our paths will cross with others, but your only focus should be on your individual journey and enjoying every second of it.

"Life isn't a race, find joy in the journey."