Doing what’s expected of you is pretty straight forward really. You get born, kicking and screaming, and have a few nice years. Then you’re meant to get an education, punctuated by the first loves that leave you damaged for the rest of your life, as well as periods of promiscuity (frowned upon by society generally, but tactically encouraged everywhere you look). Then you start a career, find an acceptable partner, acquiring a house, child, and Waitrose loyalty card along the way. Then you retire. That’s it, The Invisible Timeline.
Well done you’ve finished life. The end. Thank you very much.
(Please die without costing the NHS too much)
There’s a lot of pressure to basically stick to the above timeline, but for most people that just isn’t the reality. Life doesn’t work like that.
The only bit which is fixed is the ‘be born’, even the kicking and screaming is optional. Although the chances are regardless of anything else you’ll kick and scream a lot throughout life.
From there you’ve not got a lot of choice about getting an education, but everything else is up for grabs. Why waste your formative years breaking your heart, or your most energetic mental period getting a career? By extension, why waste the time when you’ve gained the most knowledge and wisdom, sitting on a beach, doing crosswords and waiting to get put in the hearse. It seems pointless to think you’ve spent a lifetime becoming an interesting person, and then you let it dwindle.
Blair decided to aim to get 50% of people qualified to degree level. Being such a lovely round half of the population, you’ve got to assume that the number itself is arbitrary. Just another soundbite. A soundbite all the same which has left a generation of graduates wondering what the fuck they need to do next. There’s never been an attempt to make 50% of jobs graduate appropriate. Instead you’re bound to find people scrabbling for the jobs which match their education.
Those who don’t manage to fall into the lap of a magic graduate program inevitably feel like they’re struggling to live up to the expectations of the invisible timeline. While those who do, are finding themselves under-challenged and inevitably also feel they’re not managing to live up to the timelines expectations.
So subvert it. The job you’re made for, the love of your life, and death will come when the times right. If they come at all. You probably won’t be able to buy a house, you might not get the Waitrose loyalty card, and you might find you don’t get married till you’re 50. But maybe that’s for the best. The Waitrose card, property, and young love are luxuries our parents had. They’re not luxuries we need to have, so let’s not act like they are. Thanks to the housing crisis we probably need to stop treating ‘owning a house’ as a realistic goal.
The other option is sticking at any job that promise’s career growth, marrying someone so you don’t have to go to weddings alone, and inevitably getting a divorce which messes your children up.
Keep living, enjoy whatever you’re doing. It might not be your ideal job, but there will be people you work with you like, opportunities for entertaining anecdotes down the line, and a lack of responsibility you’ll crave eventually. (If you still can’t find a silver lining just quit).
Copulate madly, or enjoy being alone, till you find someone who makes you want to stop doing both. It might push back having children, but that’s better than messing them up by brining them up in a house where all the love had been replaced by resentment.
The other side is without a partner you probably can’t buy a house. Shame that, but ‘staying together for the deed‘ is significantly more cynical than ‘staying together for the kids’.
My timeline at the moment is about taking a risks, and why shouldn’t I. I’m 23. I’ve no children, no mortgage, and therefore no worries. Worst case, a long suffering relative has to take me in for a bit.
Mundanity can be a form of greatness, but it very rarely is the catalyst for it. Look around at the older people you know. The ones you think are doing ‘it’ right. Have they stuck to the timeline? Probably not.
So what’re you worrying about, subvert the timeline. Keep learning, keep loving, and keep finding the silver linings. That’s my timeline, and if it doesn’t work for you ignore it too.