Age, Success, and the Foreseeable Future

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And we have entered month two of 2018, or, to me, the first official month of the year. January has always seemed like a toss away month, right? Thirty-one days to get out all the funk from last year, then we can begin fresh on February 1st. January is when things start. February is when they happen.

Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 23. 23. It’s funny, since I was a kid I’ve always had a very clear idea of where I would be when I hit a mile marker age. I used to think about turning 18, years before I even approached that age, and I imagined myself taller than I actually was. I imagined myself rolling out of bed, cool and calm, so unaffected by a world that told me I could now be an adult. At 21 I imagined getting drunk on an exotic beach with twenty of my closest friends. But 23, that was going to be the year. The turning point, the real one, from semi-adult to full-fledged grown-up. A year out of college, a year into a career. And I’m there, for sure. I’m making moves in my life to be the writer I want to be, and I’ve never felt more like I’m going somewhere.

But then my last best friend from childhood got engaged yesterday, and somehow I feel I’ve missed a step.

Over the last three or so years I’ve watched my old friends fall in love and get themselves committed, taking me back to the days when we’d sit around at sleepovers and talk about “that day.” The day we’re supposed to strive for. The wedding day. We’d talk about it, back when we had no idea who we even wanted to marry, detailing the food, the venue, the dress, the ring. Then one by one they got the food, the venue, the dress, the ring. Different, of course, from what we imagined in those girly bedrooms while some boy band serenaded us from an ancient stereo, but at the same time everything they’d dreamed. And while their dreams came true, mine became more and more… anxious.

Not that I want to be next or anything. I’ve been dating someone for three and a half years and I am quite happy to keep it that way for the foreseeable future. But where I live, marriage is defined as success. It’s no secret that Southern women marry young, and for a lot of them it works out just fine. It’s never been my plan, though, despite the wedding Pinterest board I occasionally add to and the dreams I have of one day walking down the aisle. So it’s not so much the looming threat of nuptials that causes my anxiety. It’s more that in different areas of this country success is defined differently, and I don’t fit any of the definitions.

In some places, success is defined as having your own apartment that is easily affordable. Success is a social nightlife. Success, as a writer, is having your work published in other places besides your personal blog. I’ve got none of that.

Age 23 was supposed to be the “success” year. Not the “coming up” year, or the “going places” year. I was supposed to be at the places, living my best life, seeing a future stretched out before me, as clear as a mountain view after a long rain.

Yeah, when I was a kid I had a lot of ideas about where I’d be at each age. As it is, I was definitely not unaffected by the world at 18, I hardly drink not that it’s legal, and I can barely count five close friends, let alone twenty. But I am successful. I have not reached what I would personally define as success in my writing life, but I’ve followed the steps well enough to get to that point. That’s pretty damn successful.

Whatever your idea of success it – be it marriage and a family, a high rise apartment in the city, a six figure salary doing what you love – don’t get discouraged if you haven’t reached it when you expected to. As long as you are working towards it, believing in it, and wanting it enough, you are successful. And we’ll get there.

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