One of my most memorable birthdays was my 23rd birthday, and in a very weird way too. I didn’t have a birthday party; in fact, it was a quite uneventful birthday. I did not receive any gifts; my parents even forgot to call or text me until the next day. What made that birthday memorable for me was my state of mind that day – I was depressed and sad.
It is such a weird feeling to have on one’s birthday, but I was feeling that way because I felt that by that age, my life seemed headed…nowhere. When I got into university at 17, I had expected that I would graduate by the age of 22 – but there I was at age 23, practically starting afresh. That was obviously not working out, and it bothered me a lot.
I had set a goal of being a millionaire by 25 – my account balance was in the low figures. The company I had started with a friend a year ago had barely done one job.
It took my then girlfriend to cheer me up and talk me out of that state of mind, albeit temporarily. When I look back at that time, I laugh at my inexperience in life.
But what I was going through is not unique to me – a lot of people experience it, on a daily basis. I got inspired to write this because on my birthday two days ago, a few friends and I were sharing experiences of going through such feelings on our birthdays.
So why do many people feel varying levels of depression and sadness as they get older? Simply put, the pressure they put on themselves on their own or through comparing themselves to others. It especially happens you come from a family background of financial stability – you want to go higher than where you come from, and even your family wants that for you.
Like this article says, it also does happen that many young people from such backgrounds think of themselves as special, exceptional, made out for a life that is glittered with successes and every day being a hit back to back (credit to Olamide) and hardly any setbacks.
And then there is social media – this one is a huge contributory factor. You are scrolling down your Facebook timeline and you see your secondary school classmate with her two cute babies. And you? Speeding towards 35 and not even in a relationship, talk less of being married. You are job-hunting and your former university classmate is working with an oil company, changing cars like shirts.
Even worse are those who are faking it until they make it, but still manage to make you feel like you are lagging behind. After all, social media has allowed a lot of us to package our lives excellently and show what we want seen.
Or consider tweets like this one:
You just started working and earn 200k a month. You have no car, no decent apartment, no property. What are you having a girlfriend for?
— ORIAKU (@puffypearl) January 16, 2016
Over the years, I have discovered that rather than trying to live my life like I am playing chess, I should live it like l am playing Tetris. In other words, I cannot really see more than a couple of moves ahead no matter how hard I try. I cannot control the board no matter how hard I try. Life will more likely than not throw curveballs at you in ways you least expect.
I have also come to realize that in this life, everyone runs his or her own race. No matter how similar your situations at the start of that race, it does not mean that you will run it the same way. As such, there is no gain whatsoever comparing your life to that of another – and to parents and family, there is nothing to be gained by comparing your kid’s life to another person’s, whether another of your children or someone outside your family.
I am in nowhere saying you should be complacent – far from it, be ambitious and daring and have goals. Goals help you focus your energies and give you direction. However, do not be so attached to your goals that are time-bound such that missing them either as a result of the unforeseen problems that routinely come with life or your (in)actions cause you so much distress.
Also, there is a temptation to hang on to goals that are visible to everyone else – graduating from school, getting a job, buying a car, getting married and having kids, having your own house, etc, and that they should come in quick succession. Often, we are too focused on hitting these goals that we forget to live life, to grow, to learn new things about life and ourselves, to discover the things that truly make us happy and are worth living.
It also robs us of contentment, of recognizing how far we have come and the things we have achieved, be it big or small. There is no faster route to being unhappy than viewing your cup perpetually as half-empty.
So in conclusion, do not let the pressure of your goals, family or peers get to you as to rob you of your happiness especially as you grow older. There is so much more to life than just ticking goals off a to-do list.
It is not so much about the destination but the journey.