When I was a child, I thought that being sprayed by a skunk would be a significant, recurring event in my life. It was drilled into my brain that when I was sprayed, I would have to immediately drop everything, run inside, and take a bath in tomato juice.

18 years later, and I’ve never even seen a skunk in real life, aside from at a safe distance in the zoo. 

I have been lucky enough to never be in the middle of a tornado. I’ve never seen a shark fin lurking in the ocean while at the beach. A scorpion has never even crossed my path. 

I thought that quicksand would be something I would encounter at least a couple of times by now… no. Never been chased by a swarm of bees either. 

These are all completely plausible events that do happen in real life, just not very often (for most of us, at least.) 

When I was younger, I also thought that by senior year, I would be going to crazy house parties every night like in the movies, have met the love of my life, and have a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after high school. And none of these things have happened. 

As humans, we are designed to set up goals and expectations for ourselves. These expectations often revolve around where we are in comparison to others. If we don’t fit the certain mold of what we create in our minds for what it is to be successful, we spiral into the hole of thinking that we are not good enough. 

In reality, there is no set checklist or 8-step plan for a successful life. I used to think that the only way to “live” is to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a job relating to what you majored in, work the majority of your life, retire, play bingo for a couple of months, and die peacefully. 

What this 8-step plan doesn’t take into account are things such as financial hardships. Traumatic events. Mental health struggles. Even simple things like just taking time to rest, and spending time with the people that you love. 

Although I might not be going to crazy parties every night, I do have a small group of friends that I love spending time with. I don’t have my own car yet, although I do have my learner’s permit and I am finally planning on taking my driver’s test this year after two years of procrastinating. And while I have no idea what I want to do with the rest of my life, I do know that I want to continue writing and making art. 

It is important to be able to be comfortable with where you are in your life. We often set goals for ourselves in comparison to other people, when in reality, we all live different lives. We don’t have the same goals, the same aspirations, or the same backstory. Since we are all so different, nobody reaches their goals at the same time, and this is completely okay. 

The best that we can do is learn to be gentle and respect ourselves, and love ourselves for the progress that we have made. 

I never would have imagined that I would be where I am at this point in my life. When I was in seventh grade, I thought that I would be wearing basketball shorts and listening to Fall Out Boy for the rest of my life. I didn’t plan to eventually have pink hair, learn bass, or even  be Editor-in-Chief for The Blue and Gold. 

Getting older isn’t about reaching the far-out goals that you set for yourself. It’s helpful to set goals so that you continue moving forwards and making progress, although the most important thing is becoming comfortable with yourself. Spending time getting to know who you are and want to be, instead of focusing on how you will fit into the big picture.

Everything falls into place eventually. No matter how many checklists are made, how hard you work, nobody can ensure where they will end up. And although you might not know where you will be a year from now, if you are comfortable with yourself and are doing what you love, it won’t matter exactly where you are. It sounds cliche, but we are always in a state of becoming, and nothing is ever set in stone. The unknown should be something that we are okay with. 

I have spent a lot of time in my life with anxiety thinking about possible worst-case scenarios. While some people say that “the future is never as bad as you imagined once you get there,” sometimes it is. Sometimes the future is terrible. Although if you are truly connected with yourself and learn to put yourself first, the future will at least be bearable. 

You don’t need expectations. You don’t need to compare yourself to others to see if you are doing anything right. Chances are, you aren’t. And nobody is!

While I sometimes still struggle with self-love and the pressure of expectations, as we all do, I am proud of the person that I have become. I have begun focusing on the things that I am good at and love about myself, and this has guided me to become the person that I am today. 

I have never seen a skunk in real life. Apparently, my brother saw one outside of our house once that was “just about to spray him when he ran away just in time.” Sureee. If I ever see one myself, at least I would know what to do if he sprayed me.

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