Myth: Everyone Else Has Their Life Figured Out

A graduate student smiling and posing for a photo.

Flickr user Open University

Think of a peer you admire, whether it be a friend, classmate, or someone prevalent on campus. How do you perceive their life and their success? Chances are, if you admire someone, you probably think that their life is all put together and that they know exactly what they are doing. However, you can never fully understand somebody’s life from the outside looking in. Especially in the case of our college peers, it can be easy to compare our journey to that of our friends and classmates although we have no idea what confusion and setbacks they are experiencing themselves. The overachieving group member that is always an assignment ahead? He doesn’t have a clue what he wants to do after school. The friend with five job offers lined up? She was turned down for her dream job and feels like she would be settling by accepting any one of the offers.

It’s complicated.

Life is so complicated with twists and turns and everybody’s journey is different. No matter how perfect someone’s life seems or how ahead of the game you think they are, there is a good chance that they are also dealing with some type of struggle. Even if they aren’t currently struggling, it is guaranteed that they encountered a trial or two on the way to get where they are today. Nobody wakes up one day and knows exactly what they want to do in life and exactly how they are going to get there. Even if they think they do, plans change and life happens. The direct road map that people draw up in their head to reach their goals is often riddled with unforeseen obstacles and detour routes. The good news is, that these obstacles and detours make the journey to reaching one’s goals more valuable and helps make them a stronger person.

You don’t need to figure it out by college.

There is a myth that by the time you attend college or are about to graduate, you need to know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life. It is important to understand that college is a time of self-discovery and while it may point you in the general direction of where you want to go, it does not define the rest of your path. The general timeline that college students feel a pressure to adhere to looks like this: graduate with a degree after 4 years, land a dream job right out of college, find someone to marry and have children with by the age of 30 and retire as early as possible. While some people may follow this narrative, it is most certainly not for everybody and there is no “right” or “wrong” pace or order in which you achieve life’s milestones. That’s what makes your life unique!

Take the example of my best friend, Rileigh. Rileigh was going to attend a larger college after high school, but had brain surgery and had to start college a semester later than planned. During her recovery time, she elected to attend a small private college instead while living at home. Eventually, she met her fiancé and moved in with him at the age of 20. Today, at the age of 21, Rileigh is currently working toward becoming a teacher and works as the director of her local daycare. Not only is she married, but she also has a child on the way!

This looks very different from my journey after high school. Personally, I chose to attend a large 4-year university that none of my friends went to and haven’t lived at home since I graduated. I’m not currently in a relationship and do not anticipate having children for many, many years. I will be graduating a semester early and am currently exploring my options for post-grad employment.

Although Rileigh and I have achieved life milestones at very different paces, neither of our paths are right or wrong. In fact, they’re both pretty great in their own way! Sometimes it seems that Rileigh knows exactly her future will look like, while I still have no idea. Fortunately, I do know that I’m headed in the right direction and I have the rest of my life to figure it out.

Looking for the right college to set you on your path? Use College Raptor to discover individualized college matches, personalized tuition price estimates, your acceptance odds, and potential financial aid from schools around the country