Kelly Spencer and Megan Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
When you’re four years old, you start school. When sixteen, you get your driver's license. Eighteen... you can vote. When you are done school, you get a job.
Society has created timelines for nearly everything that we do in our lives from getting married to owning a home and even having children. As adults, the 'keeping up with the Joneses’ phenomenon overtakes many. There are timelines throughout our entire lives until we 'retire at age 65' and beyond.
But I would like to flatly and emphatically call bull crap on this pressure of timelines. I challenge us to decisively and distinctly let go of imposed societal agendas and do what is right for us, as each moment arrives.
Who says you can’t travel in your twenties, start a new relationship in your seventies, start therapy in your sixties or take up a new hobby in your fifties?
Mindfulness teaches us to honor this moment. This moment that is happening currently and for us personally. This does not mean to live accordingly to others. Mindfulness teaches us to honor OUR body, OUR mind, OUR heart in each moment and from that place of awareness to act for the best outcome for ourselves.
At any age, we can get panicky when we put pressure on our personal success through unrealistic or comparison measures of accomplishment. When we are so busy competing with social norms, no matter what age we are at, we may be ignoring our denying our truest feelings and needs. Denying our feelings is not only unhealthy for the mind and body but it may also rob us of valuable information that we could be learning about ourselves.
The fact is, acting from a place of health and happiness for ourselves is the only real control we have. And true accomplishment and success is not an outward achievement, money in the bank, a certain aesthetic norm or the pressures of following a common timeline or agenda. Rather, achievement and progress are made by being true to ourselves and honoring what is, rather than what we wished it could be. Not only do we create more health and happiness for our lives by doing so, the opposite of this creates misalignment and adverse affects in our lives.
An insightful message by my daughter:
“From a very young age, I applied an immense pressure on myself. Despite constant support from family and friends, an internal war with my own pressures and time lines always existed, for as far as I can remember. I distinctly remember in Grade 5, my mom finding me laying on the dining room floor working on an English project, feeling like I’d be up all night to make it perfect despite the due date several days away. I broke down when my mom told me to go to bed. Overwhelmed, crying and I thought my future success was determined by this grade. I was 11.
"In high school, I realized I wanted to be a corporate lawyer. Fairly unique compared to my mom’s path of full-time hippie. Every decision I made was plagued by thoughts of how it would affect my future. I took every business class I could, including online classes from five different school boards. While many high school students had 6-8 university level courses, I took 15. Despite being an honor student, it was never enough.
"I enrolled in a high school International Academy, which I had to fundraise for and give up my summer break. I was writing essays in airports and studying notes in the middle of the night, adjusting to the Beijing time zone. I ended my summer with a near 95% average, and still felt inadequate. I graduated with nearly 500 hours of community service, participated in dozens of clubs, and was President of a successful chapter of Junior Achievement Company. I still felt I was not up to par.
"Heading to University of Guelph in 2014, I was originally part of a five-year program. I was determined to not only get my business degree, but a minor in political science and learn the language of Mandarin. Overwhelmed with this intense time line, I attempted to gain control by developing a strict 20-year plan including vague plans of my retirement. I felt I needed to have my undergrad completed by 22 (eight months ahead of what it technically should have taken me), law school and my MBA done by 27, and a successful job by 28, married by 29, and start a family at 30. I believed this strategic planning to be normal. At 20, I was stressed and concerned about my retirement at age 65.
"In my third year of university things shifted. I lived in a state of anxiety and pressure. Then, I just stopped caring. But not in a good way. It was a cycle of overwhelm, shifting into not caring about life, to anxiety for days, then not caring again. I would wake mid-night, panicked and heart pounding, wondering if I will ever be good enough.
"One day, after a fun day of shopping with my mom, I cracked. I broke right down in the parking lot of a mall. Unhappy, self-conscious, and physically and mentally drained, I would later find out I was in a state of what they call a disassociate personality disorder. I realized I needed a professional to assist me with my past and current issues. Soon, I started making decisions for now and not for my 30-year-old self. I took a semester off, which led to two.
"For people that know me, sharing this may seem out of character. I don’t like attention. In high school, I was the back-stage manager while my brother played lead character. I share, as I feel that I am not alone in this. Whether you feel stresses in school, job, or life, don’t fall victim to time lines or fixed agendas of where you should be in your life. There is not a specific way to lead your life. Take time off school. Change careers mid-life, do whatever you need to, to be happy. My life plan meant nothing if it was filled with intense pressure, stress, or unhappiness.
"My plans haven’t changed, I’ll still be a corporate lawyer, but I’ve released the rigid timeline. Instead, with time for me, surrounded by support and seeing a therapist regularly, I am happy and not anxious about my future and comfortable with where I am right now.” - Megan Spencer
Our feelings are our emotional compass which navigate life and let us know when something is right or when it is not. When we let go of the “shoulds” and “ought to’s” in our life, and honor the message we’re given - we grow, we learn, and we can eventually find our own agenda and timeline that leads to personal accomplishment, health and happiness.
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