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Saturday, Feb. 24
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion

OPINION: Why are we rushing for recognition?

oprecognition-illo

Growing up, and especially in my last couple years of high school, I felt this crushing pressure and impossible expectation to complete various life milestones as quickly as I could. When my dad encouraged me to take a gap year, I barely considered the option out of the fear I would be “falling behind” the rest of my peers.  

Looking back, I don’t necessarily regret not taking the gap year — I have had an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding experience so far at IU that I don’t feel would have been made “better” with a gap year. That said, it makes me sad to think that I immediately cast aside an opportunity to try something somewhat unconventional solely due to pressure of fitting in and staying on an arbitrary timeline. 

Social media often echoes the idea that it is virtuous to accomplish various things at the youngest age you can. I get the sense it is considered more impressive to graduate with a law degree at the age of 22 than, say, 40.  

This is not to imply that it is somehow wrong or bad to do something faster or younger than the average person, but no one should feel lesser for taking more time, or superior for the opposite. Your life is in a constant state of change, growth and development. It is okay to pivot your direction whenever you please, and the most “successful” and fulfilled people do it all the time.  

Since having a bit over a year of time in college and a summer internship under my belt — both experiences that have introduced me to a multitude of exceptional, inspiring people who I can look up to and feel immensely proud to work with — I have realized what a waste of time it is to care about how quickly I can move through life. 

I have met plenty of other students in college who have told me they won’t be taking a gap year before their graduate school plans or are hoping to graduate early in order to “get it over with” and begin their career earlier or start a family. Of course, everyone should do what fills them with joy, but I am discouraged when I see people rush through college and other stages of life simply for the sake of meaningless praise from their LinkedIn connections. 

Some of my biggest role models graduated college in three years, while others tacked on an extra yearthey may not have planned for. Some are not pursuing or never completed a university degree. Some of them are beginning jobs that fit with their major, others are excited to travel and learn from being in new places. I most look up to and am impressed by the diversity of experiences that my friends, peers and role models have — not by the speed at which they complete stereotypically necessary life milestones. 

We do not gain maturity and self-acceptance through obsessing over speed and getting started on “real life.” These values are taught and developed through adapting to changing plans and interests, going off course and taking risks.  

I am not and never will be impressed at someone who chooses to pursue a certain path simply for external validation. If you spend your whole life simply looking ahead to the next step — graduation, your first job, a better job, getting married, starting a family, retiring — you may find that the years entirely slip away.  

Although difficult in a society that constantly pressures us into thinking ahead and striving toward unachievable self-improvement, it is okay to cherish and honor the time that you are currently in even if you are not making the salary, living in the big house or sculpting the perfect body you feel like you need. It is okay to be in a time of transition without working to end that as soon as possible. Life is anything but linear, and some of my best experiences so far have been completely unexpected.  

 

Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in policy analysis with minors in geography and urban planning.  

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