It’s 2019 — the top two highest paid celebrities are women, there are whole marches and movements dedicated to the power of females, and there are more women in Congress than ever before (let’s hear it for the ladiesss!!). So why, oh why, are we smashing through glass ceilings and demanding equality, but still dealing with such intense societal pressures? It’s because there are some traditions and beliefs that are so inherent to society that sometimes we don’t even know to question them — one of these beliefs is the idea that we have a specific timeline to follow. But what happens when the timeline — degree, marriage, children — doesn’t work out as expected (because it never really does)?
Three of our editors are sharing their experience with the pressure to stick to a timeline, in order to bring awareness to the unfair expectations that are put on our shoulders by society, loved ones, or ourselves. We are going to be the new generation that writes our own rules, and decides to do things our way. But in order to do that, we have to recognize the timelines we give ourselves first.
One of our favorite girl crushes, Katie Couric partnered with the global skincare brand SK-II for the latest #ChangeDestiny campaign, inspiring women all over the globe to follow their own dreams and rewrite their timelines. We were inspired by the powerful video exploring women’s dreams and how they clash with loved ones’ expectations.
Watch SK-II’s video to learn more about the clash between dreams and expectations for women, and read on for our own perspectives and how we’re ready to do things differently.
My mom and dad married each other at the ages of 21 and 24 respectively — a fact I knew in my head from a very young age. And while they have never put a certain pressure on me to follow the same timeline they did, I remember growing up having the thought that “22 is about the age when you get married.” Not only that, but both my mom and sister met the men who would become their husbands when they were each 17 years old — another fact that I’ve subconsciously carried with me for years.
Both the milestones of ages 17 and 22 have come and gone, and I’m no closer to marriage now than I was then. Again I say that no one in my family has ever placed pressure on me to align with their own timelines — but it’s easy to feel that you’re doing something wrong (or missing out on something) when you don’t follow a pattern.
Unfortunately, the timeline in my head depicting when I should get married has nothing to do with what I grew up wanting or what I see and want for myself — instead, it focuses solely on how others see me. I put pressure on myself to get married sooner rather than later because I never want anyone to see me as unworthy, pathetic, or as damaged goods — things I would never say about anyone else unmarried, but that I frequently allow myself to think about myself. When I see other women living out their career dreams, forming friendships, traveling the world, and doing other things independently, I applaud them — but worry that others wouldn’t applaud me for doing the same.
It’s important for me to remember and to hear from other women that we are all in this life together — we all want to support each other and lift each other up as opposed to tearing down each other’s choices. As quick as I am to praise other women for embracing a life of individuality and independence, I should be even quicker to praise those qualities in myself. I may or may not get married some day — but that decision should be and will be based on what I want, not on what I think others would respect.
While I haven’t felt the same societal pressures from culture like these women in the video discuss, and I am #blessed with parents who truly only want me to be happy (whatever happiness looks like to me), there’s still no escaping “the Timeline” (capital “T”). My Timeline comes in the form of an inherent desire to have children. Like, if I could have 10 kids, I would. I’d be like that little old lady who lived in a shoe and had so many children she didn’t know what to do — some girls dream of being CEO, I dream of being a nursery rhyme.
However, I still want the dream career that lasts a lifetime, and I still want the Happily Ever After with a marriage that sweeps me off my feet before children ever become a part of the picture. Add that on top of ongoing reproductive problems that have instilled a consistent anxiety that my fertility journey won’t exactly be a breeze, and my window of time, even at a young 24, doesn’t exactly seem so wide.
I feel very fortunate that I’m in a healthy, happy relationship, much younger than I ever thought I would be. My boyfriend and I are very much on the same page about pursuing our individual careers and lives for the time being, but there’s still the anxiety of the uncertain. Sure, it feels like “forever,” but in the chance that it doesn’t work out, does that mean I have to start over? As young as I am and as much life I have yet to live, I can’t escape the nagging thought in the back of my mind that there’s a timeline I need to stick to in order to start a family. It almost feels like I need to not only be “on time,” but be ahead of time in order to make that anxiety go away. And being “ahead of time” or even just “on time,” will probably never happen like it should.
Is it just me, or is it painfully apparent to anyone else that men don’t really have the same idea of “Timeline,” if for no other reason than they do not literally have a biological ticking time bomb? SK-II’s video reminded me to be aware of the pressure I put on myself to follow a timeline, and try to separate my dreams from my own expectations. I may not become the little old lady who lived in a shoe, but I want to enjoy my 20s with a little more faith that everything will happen when the timing is right — not “right” because it’s the next notch in my Timeline, but “right” because I’m actually happy.
Back in my 20s, I had a life plan that would determine my happiness. I would figure out my career, get married, and have a baby by the time I was 30.
My career was just starting to come together at 29 when we launched The Everygirl, and I struggled financially the next few years while we grew our website. I was already failing. This video spoke of timelines and milestones: a degree, a marriage, and a family. I can relate so much to these young women who feel pressure to reach those milestones by a certain age. There’s so much pressure to do the things society tells us will make us complete.
The self-imposed timelines killed me for most of my 20s and 30s. Some days, I felt great about where I was; others, I felt like I’d never figure it all out. Whether it’s reaching a certain point in your career, owning a home, buying that designer bag you’ve wanted for forever, starting a family, or gaining more Instagram followers, there’s always something we want or think we need in order to be happy — in order to be enough.
When these things don’t happen exactly when we think they should – which is often how that works out – we’re left feeling “less than” or incomplete. In an age where we can follow thousands of people we don’t know on social media, seeing how good we think everyone has it can be really damaging. The engagement and baby announcements, weddings, vacations, designer clothes, and often curated moments are a small piece of the puzzle – a glimpse.
I was a victim to the pressure. Learning to let go of timelines was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I got married at 35 had a baby a few months before my 36th birthday. The way my life turned out is exactly what I was afraid of, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything happened years after when I thought they should, but I learned so much along the way. I grew a company, traveled, and figured out who I was before finding someone to commit myself to — before taking on parenthood when I had so much growing up to do.
I forged my own path. I wish I had worried less, embraced where I was, and that I knew everything was going to be better than OK.
How does SK-II’s #ChangeDestiny campaign resonate with you? Leave us a comment below.
This post was in partnership with SK-II, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.