I believe in living my life. Not my parent’s life; not my friend’s life, but mine. It’s too exhausting trying to live life for everyone else and shoving mine aside. I am fortunate to have learned this at a young age. I learned to live my own life before I even learned where I would be going to college after graduating form high school.
I am the third out of four daughters and attended your typical suburban high school where unless you had money, looks, or athleticism, you were considered a social outcast. Well my father is an electrician and my mother a secretary. I was always a scrawny kid, weighing a whopping 98 pounds when I graduated from high school. And I was more adept backstage in the theatre than out on the athletic field. Being a part of the “in” crowd just wasn’t going to happen. Rather than torturing myself, I decided that it didn’t matter what people thought. I was going to live life my way. Only I know what is best for me and what will make me happy in this life. No one else can decide that for me. People can certainly suggest things they think might make me happy, but ultimately it is on me to find enjoyment in those things or not.
As I get older I am thankful to have a family that supports this mantra. I am a 27 year old, single female. My two older sisters are married and one has three kids. In earlier days, I would be considered an old maid. While my parents are both of a generation where women were married and had kids by the time they were my age, they raised all four of their daughters to believe we do not have to fit into any stereotypical female roles. There has been no pressure to settle down and start a family. My entire family is supportive of my choosing graduate school over trying to settle down.
It was in grad school that I was reunited with an old friend. As we spent time catching up, I was surprised to hear some of the roads life had been steering him down. After getting out of the Marines, he had begun college at his dream university. But because of a promise to a fellow Marine, he gave up those dreams and moved back to help his buddy out. The more I talked to him, the more I realized he was living his buddy’s life and not his own. I still vividly remember asking him, “When did you stop living your life?”
This conversation has stayed with me through my entire graduate program. It serves as a reminder for me to ask myself, “Who are you living for?” Whenever I find myself stressed and emotionally drained, I ask myself this question and reflect on what I am doing. I want to have a positive impact on this world and I believe I can achieve that by being true to myself and living my life the way I feel it should be lived.
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