November 30, 2015

What Happens If You Miss the Milestones?

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I hate milestones.

There are very few things that I can state with certainty about my person, but the one thing I know without a doubt is that I like to rage against the machine. I don’t like the man, I don’t like the man’s rules, and when given the opportunity, I will most certainly try to overturn the man’s authority.

I often get the sense that everything and everyone around me is trying to box me in—you are this person, they declare, pointing a dictatorial finger at me—and in response, I really just want to flip them off and do the exact opposite of what they’re telling me to do.

It’s a complex, I know…

As part of my “rule-naysaying,” I also like to naysay milestones.

You know the ones that are established for us in advance, like some sort of bland television dinner, or a one-size-fits-all life. We’re told we should finish school, go to university or do a trade, find a job, work (hard), meet a partner, get married, buy a house, have a child, have two children, make those children conform to the milestones, retire, have grandchildren and die.

The pressure to meet the milestones gets served up to you, time and time again, a broken record, rehashing the same idea, until we’re all indoctrinated by it. Until we’re part of the milestone zombie nation. What happened to living a life less ordinary people? Some of us just want to wear the vampire costume for Halloween, not the zombie one!

Besides my own contrarianism, I also think, we’re not all happy in that one-size-fits-all life.

We’re sold the dream of the white picket fence and family, but that doesn’t mean the dream suits everyone, and the inevitable outcome of living a life that’s not really your own is unhappiness.

I distinctly remember telling my mother as she walked me to school one morning, at the ripe old age of six, that I would not be getting married, nor would I be having any children—so she could wipe those expectations from her mind pronto! (You can imagine how thrilled my parents were at dealing with their Che Guevara infant…)

I then spent the rest of my teen years and subsequent adult years raging. But, the infinite irony is, the milestone-naysayer, hit every milestone.

Yes, let it be known. The milestone naysayer, has completed every milestone.

It was almost like the milestones followed me. They vehemently jettisoned themselves into my path, and then they were so insistent, they never let up! Epic juggernauts these milestones were, they wouldn’t taken no for an answer!

So here I find myself, in my early thirties, having finished school, gone to university, found a job, mastered that job, married a husband, bought a home, and had a baby (in that exact order)! Sometimes, I am staggered by the ordinariness of my decisions. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t actively participate in all those milestone decisions, they may have fallen across my path, but I chose to collect them along the way.

This past weekend, over a cider, I was discussing the concept of milestones with two friends of mine. We’ve been friends for over ten years, and we met at a time in our lives when we had only completed some of the low-level-commitment-required milestones, like going to university and getting a job. Somehow our milestone path had diverged so greatly since then. One of my friends had been in a relationship for over eight years and was living de facto, the other was still single. Both had no children. We started talking about whether or not ten years ago we would have wanted to be in this very place at this very time.

Had we achieved the right milestones, or had the milestones left us behind?

Again, I was the one who had not wanted the typical milestone-rich diet, and yet I was the only one who was milestone-fat.

Were we all in some way disappointed about the decisions that we had made, the paths we had taken, the places we had ended up? Did I not want to be footloose and fancy-free, scouring the world one country at a time, sans commitments? Did they not want to be sending out invites to their upcoming baby shower?

The conclusions we drew were that sometimes we find ourselves happy in the lives we hadn’t intended on living. While I had accrued enough commitments to sink the Titanic (no iceberg required), I still found myself in an authentic space. My friend in the defacto relationship was perfectly happy with her partner, and my single pal, equally perfectly content with her continued quest.

Authenticity can be found in any space and so can happiness.

We might miss the milestones or we might hit the milestones, like hurdlers on the 800-meter milestone run, the only thing we shouldn’t do is, let the milestones take us down.



10 Reasons to Throw Away that Bucket List and Live.


Author: Lisa Portolan

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: BiblioArchives/LibraryArchives//Flickr

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