Six years into a successful career in PR, with amazing friends and family and my sweet dog napping next to me, I have a lot to be grateful for. I have always been driven, and am proud to say I’ve worked my butt off to get where I am today — from my professional position to my Toronto apartment and my rescue pup, Moose.
That’s why I was pretty shocked to find myself on the eve of my 28th birthday in tears. Not happy tears. More along the lines of, “What the hell am I doing with my life?” tears. Granted, some of this could be credited to the bottle of rosé I’d just enjoyed with my boyfriend, or the fact that I was ovulating. But there was something else: in the weeks leading up to my birthday, it felt like all my single girlfriends had announced engagements; and my married ones, pregnancies. Never major priorities before, I found myself feeling frantic — career success and personal accomplishments aside — was I behind?
The thing they don’t tell us about our late 20s is the way our lives will look vastly different from the friends we feel so close to — and how to navigate this free of comparison. I thought I was too smart for the comparison trap — Instagram and social norms be damned. Well, here I am, and I’m sure I’m not alone. If you too are the token career woman in your friend group, here are some of the things I’ve found really helpful to ground me in what is truly fulfilling at this time in my life:
Try something new
Not as in, trying on wedding gowns. Find a way to connect with other like-minded women in your community who may be experiencing similar uncertainties and anxieties. You will probably be surprised to find the number of female-focused workshops and networking events in your area that can really open doors — even if it’s just a door in your own mind. This may sound daunting, but I promise if you attend just one, you’ll be glad you went.
Reflect on a ritual that brings you joy
Something that you only need yourself for. We tend to feel “too busy,” but time to truly unwind on your own can help declutter your mind and validate the things in life that truly matter. This can be as simple as making a coffee, doing a workout, or writing. Do something just for you, on a regular basis, that has no expected return or outcome. What you gain internally just might surprise you.
Chuck the five year plan
Goal-setting is second nature to us career-focused gals, but it may be time to hit pause. If you’re feeling the immediate pressure of “keeping up,” your detailed roadmap to 40 may be compounding that pressure. As someone who was admittedly measuring my self-worth by the way others perceived my success, this moment of comparison made me realize it was time to take a step back from my goals, whether personal, professional, or financial. This doesn’t mean you’re back to square one or that those goals will change. There is true value in taking time to think critically about what brings you true fulfillment each day, and letting those goals fall into place or adjust naturally according to that fulfillment.
Your late 20s are weird: you don’t feel young but you don’t feel old, everyone is officially on very different life paths, and you’re realizing all the complications your 6-year-old dreamy self didn’t know existed. You’re going to be just fine — be brave, and let your happiness look different from your friends. It’s worth it.