Where are you going with your life? It's a question I've been asked a lot throughout my 25 years of existence - albeit phrased in different ways.
When you're little, you're often asked what you want to be when you grow up. Then, throughout school, you're asked what subjects you want to study and which ones you'd like to drop. Next up it's what you want to do at college and what degree you want to pursue when you leave. And if it's not a degree, then it's choosing a career path or an apprenticeship.
It goes on and on and on - until the moment when, even though you've landed your dream job, people are still asking you: "So, what's the next step?"
Then, and especially if you're female, you get asked the personal questions such as: "Are you dating anyone?" And if the answer's yes, it's shortly followed by: "When are you moving in together? When are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids?"
This constant questioning is the norm. I get it, that's life, that's how it works. But I feel like this way of thinking needs to be questioned sometimes because, to be quite frank, it's not something that works for everyone. It certainly doesn't work for me.
Recently I was thinking back to a conversation I had with my dad when I was in my late teens. It was shortly after my uncle had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. He was just 40 years old at the time and had left behind my aunt and their two sons, one of whom hadn't been born yet. It was at this period of time that my dad said to me that it didn't matter what I did in life, as long as I was happy. He said there's no point waiting around for the next best thing, or staying in a job that makes you unhappy, or holding off on buying something you really, really want (as long as you can afford it).
"Because at the end of the day Tash, we might not be around tomorrow," he said.
It might seem sombre, but this little chat really stuck with me - and now it's resonating more than ever. Just recently I found myself consumed by a cycle of questioning whether I'm earning enough for my age, whether I should have bought a house by now (because a lot of my friends have), whether I should be thinking about getting married (because so many people in my age group seem to be getting engaged right now), and more.
But all of these questions cloud the important things like the fact I love what I do, I love my life and the people in it, and that I'm actually very, very happy right now with the way things are. It's sad that I got so worked up that I had to actively remind myself of this.
You see, by constantly striving for the next best thing all the time, I believe us humans can get into the habit of losing sight of the wonderful things in front of us.
When we worry and spend time stressing over the future and what we should be doing next, it's really no wonder that stress and anxiety levels among kids are through the roof. Meanwhile those who are retired report the best wellbeing levels. Coincidence, much?
Surely there has to be a link between this need to be focusing on the next big thing and increased stress and anxiety levels. I mean, you can't possibly be happy if you're constantly fretting about what happens next, can you?
Don't get me wrong, being driven and knowing what you want is important in life - it's what helps people succeed and do great things. But it shouldn't get to the point where achieving or finding the 'next big thing' dictates your life to the point of unhappiness.
So if you've entered 2017 piled with worry about whether you're doing the right thing, right now, in your life. Please... don't.
Live for the moment, focus on what makes you happy, and the rest will come along soon enough. And if for whatever reason none of us wake up tomorrow, at least we can say we enjoyed the ride.Suggest a correction