What I love about the community surrounding Blossom is that everyone comes from different backgrounds. We are all navigating the labyrinths of our 20s. Some of us are further along than others, yet, just as many are maneuvering around roadblocks. Lately, I’ve been struggling with comparing my progress to my friends. As my college graduation date approaches, I can’t help but compare my achievements, and lack thereof, to other people my age.
I grew up in a city with a small-town mindset. The general consensus was that if you grew up there, you’d probably settle down and stay there. That unspoken principle wasn’t something I ever saw myself sticking to. I wanted to explore my options, and thankfully I was able to do just that. Out of my friend group, I was the only one who left our state to go to school. My experience leaving home was insanely nerve-wracking, especially since I was one of the only people I knew who left. It was almost taboo for me to do so. I had many guidance counselors try to deter me from going out of state and many of my peers didn’t see the point in leaving home. For a while, I was known back home as “the girl who left” which prompted DMs from people in my town I’d never spoken to before who wanted to know what it was like.
On my first few visits home after being away in college, I felt this weird separation from my old high school friends. It wasn’t a superiority thing by any means, but I felt like I couldn’t really connect to them the way I used to. I had my own new memories, new friends, new experiences in a place they didn’t have any knowledge about; it was lonely.
In addition to finding the balance between hometown life and college living, many people I grew up with started settling down. I couldn’t log onto Facebook without seeing an engagement post or a photo of a newborn. This sinking feeling in my stomach like I was somehow running behind everyone loomed over me. I thought this was the kind of thing you deal with when you’re at least in your 30s. Hearing so many of my friends doing what I deemed as real “adult” things simultaneously made me feel younger and yet aged me 10 years. I was almost frustrated by the lifestyle differences between us. I thought feeling like the odd one out without a serious partner or a kid would happen a lot later in life, not at 22. Somehow, it also conjured up feelings of immaturity. It made me think I wasn’t grown-up enough to handle having a spouse or a home with a family. To be honest, I know I’m not!
I even found myself struggling with friends who have similar lifestyles to me as well. Spending the past 4 years surrounded by seemingly “like-minded” art students has equally helped and hindered my perception of the world. It was reassuring to meet people who think and work like me, but there are so many nuances and quirks in every industry. Some of my peers gravitate towards the corporate route, wanting to get hired by big brand names and well-known corporations to establish themselves. Other artists I know are partial to the idea of self-employment and freelancing. I constantly find myself bouncing between both of those options.
With a background in film and writing, I’ve been told there are several ways to “break into” the film industry. I’ve been advised to become an office assistant at a production company getting coffee and sorting mail until someone asks to see a script from me one day. Another suggestion has been trying to find an agent that believes in a straight-out-of-school screenwriter that I can trust won’t scam me. Neither of those options seemed ideal. After seeking counsel from an adviser on campus, I came to the conclusion that I can be free to meander in and out of whatever career path I choose. I get so hung up on wanting to create a perfect outline for my next steps, but being put in a box is the one thing I fear the most.
Comparison truly is a lost cause but insecurity and anxiety have a way of making it unavoidable. I couldn’t help but feel like I was slipping behind my peers who’d been offered job opportunities or film students who had a better reel than I did. I thought I had to meet this idealized standard to feel like I was accomplishing things.
This constant back-and-forth in my head questioning why I wasn’t living or doing things the way my friends were was getting me nowhere. Sometimes even talking to my friends about their accomplishments made me sad, which then kickstarted a spiral of guilt surrounding my selfish habit of making the situation about me. I wanted to be happy for them, the ones who stayed home, the married ones, the parents, the accomplished, everyone. I hate that I couldn’t see myself where they were. I beat myself up for not reaching their same goals, and I questioned if leaving home was even the right thing to do.
Even talking to my roommates, I realized a lot of us were struggling with the same feelings of inadequacy in our respective fields, our hometowns, and as young adults in general. I think keeping an open line of communication about your fears and your aspirations can help bring them into reality.
Being in your 20s and not being able to see a clear direct outline or plan for your future is stressful, to say the least. These are supposed to be our golden years and sometimes I already feel like they’re wasting away. What helped pull me out of my rut was actually having conversations with these friends I envied and wanted to emulate. Hearing them tell me their own stories and struggles helped me rationalize my thinking. Staying at home wasn’t a cakewalk and neither were the steps needed to get my friends the opportunities they have today.
A close friend of mine from college decided to drop out during the peak of the pandemic. In his time away from school, he’s worked on expanding his portfolio from photography to modeling to several other creative ventures. He uses every day as an opportunity to advance his crafts by writing scripts, sending in audition tapes, and creating music. Through his ambition, I began to realize that the path you choose is driven by what you think matters the most. We’re both chasing our dreams through strategies that work for us. The main difference between my friend and me is our types of motivation. Because he dropped out of school, his need to stay internally motivated was higher than mine. Having a school routine forces me to be productive within a particular structure which is why I admire the independence of his self-guided work ethic.
Letting negative thoughts fester in your brain breeds a feeling of resentment towards yourself and your friends. I want to feel a sense of pride in my friends’ accomplishments. I want to celebrate their wins as if they were mine. I know they would do the same for me.
I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of this year to finding peace in my path. As an artist, I’m learning how to be comfortable with my distinct style choices. If I’m going to create a brand identity for myself, then it needs to reflect who I am in the most authentic way possible. Having friends succeed in their industries should encourage me to keep working hard and excite me if I ever get to work alongside them.
There’s no right or wrong way to grow up. Trust me, if there were a manual for getting through this weird pothole in life I’d have it memorized. If I started basing my life choices around those of my friends, where would the authenticity be in that? Reminding myself that we all have individual goals and various ways of reaching them assists in breaking those comparisons. I would hate to fall into a cookie-cutter routine where I don’t feel confident in my personal decisions. Trying to compare your life to someone else will never do you any good, especially when it’s your friends. Friends are meant to be your cheerleaders, not your competition.