Don't Let Life Become A Race You Didn't Sign Up For

by Kirsten Corley

We all get caught in this race we call life.

While we are in college, it seems like life's most vital task is to graduate on time. At least in my family, there seemed to be no other option than that.

Even if it meant a semester of six classes all while playing volleyball, being in a sorority, working a part-time job, having an internship and participating in clubs, I would rather do it all than risk not having enough credits to graduate on time.

Eventually, I did it; I walked across the stage when I was supposed to, and I got my round of congratulations. But, was it that vital to finish college in four years? According to societal pressure, yes, absolutely.

If I didn't, I felt like I would bring shame to my family and everyone else I knew if I didn't cross that finish line when I was supposed to. Eventually, I got to thinking, 'So what?'

One day I got a phone call from a friend as she told me, "I don't know when I'm going to graduate; my parents are going to kill me." I was the reassuring voice that said everything would figure itself out.

I told her to focus on the classes she had in the moment, and the future would be there. If she needed to take classes over break to achieve her goal, she could do that.

I told her that if staying for another semester is within reason, then she shouldn't let family pressure and pressure in society influence her or make her feel bad about herself. At the end of it, she will have still graduated, and that is the real achievement.

Often we get caught up in this race for which many of us didn’t even sign up. Then, once you graduate, you deal with another hurdle: Now what?

As someone who struggled and saw my friends struggle prior to graduating, it's a sensitive subject.

Not because we don't try, but because at least for myself, I don't settle. I have always been very clear in what I want in life; I have always had the drive to pursue it.

I have never wanted to just take the first job that came my way. Could I have? Yes. Would it have made me happy? No.

This is your life, this race you are running. Yes, there will be spectators along the way trying to dictate where to go, what to do and how to live your life, but you are running your own race.

It's the same thing I told myself when I ran the Atlantic City full marathon; I channeled everyone out, and I didn't see the person running past me.

It was a race for me, and when I crossed the finish line, I crossed when I was ready. Finishing felt great, and when I finished, I never asked, “What was my time?”

You get a metal regardless, and a diploma received a semester later looks the same as it would have if received months earlier.

Life is the same way; I know plenty of people who did what they were supposed to, like graduate on time or take their first job offer. I get Snapchats all the time with captions like, "Hell," or "I hate my job."

No one should hate what they do. This is your life and your future; do not settle for anything anyone throws at you just because society dictates what is normal and acceptable. You define that yourself.

I guarantee those people who are leading the “right paths” are not all happy. I think John Mayer said it right when he sang, "I just found out there’s no such thing as the real world/ just a lie we have to rise above.”

So, to everyone reading this, if you fear your future or you feel you are in a race you never signed up for, stop running. Reevaluate what you want.

To anyone who is in a job they hate, be grateful for the opportunity you do have, and while you work, use it as motivation to find something else to do.

Do not let society dictate your life, and don't succumb to pressures that you should be on a specific path. Be brave enough to get a little lost along the way; it is only then will you discover your own path and your own happiness.