When I graduated high school, I thought of myself as finally free. High School always seemed very juvenile; I felt like an adult trapped in a teenage body. Throughout my academic career, I was always the teacher’s pet; I was wise, practical and worked extra hard because I was labeled “special needs.” However, according to my bullies, peers and a few “teachers” (who shouldn’t be teachers), I was the ugly, fat, “special” Muslim girl.
My desire to prove them all wrong drove me to be a great student in high school. They could keep badgering me all they wanted to, but no matter what they said, I was never going to see them again once I graduated. After graduation, I felt like the queen of the world. Finally, my time arrived to get life started! In my 18-year-old mind, it went like this: community college, meet a guy, get married, and have babies by the time I was 25 (I was naive, to say the least).
By the time I was 25, I earned my associates degree in liberal arts, which took me four years because I had to work full time to get through school. My dating life was nonexistent, and by the time I was 24, I realized that in our ever-changing, expensive world, I needed to pursue a meaningful major that provides financial security.
After some soul-searching, I realized that nursing was a career worth the student loan debt; it would ensure stable income while providing an essential resource to society. This excited me and scared me at the same time. Why? Getting into nursing school is a huge challenge, and according to society’s timeline, my clock was running out!
I felt majorly behind. It didn't make any sense to me at all. I was the practical one, the smart one, the one who worked two jobs while in school…and I didn’t have my life together yet. It was such a blow to my confidence that at age 25, I wasn’t stable enough to move out on my own, not in love, no real social life, and not pregnant. Despite how hard I worked, it seemed like my life was not going anywhere.
My dream wasn’t to become the next superstar; my dream was to feel safe, loved, and secure within myself…not an unrealistic desire to have. The pressure to succeed intensified as every birthday passed me by. What silenced this growing self-hatred was a horrific event that I wish to God never happened.
My best friend in the whole world lost her husband. Her son, whom I loved as if he were my own, lost his daddy. Only then did I realize how precious our time is. One of my dearest friends left this world too soon, leaving a wife he adored, and his son who he loved more than anything.
With tragedy comes great perspective because you realize that no one is going to care about when you start a job. No one is analyzing when you’re going to move out or buy a house. What the people in your life care about is how you treat those who loved you and whom you loved. No one is going to care to remember what kind of car you drove or how much money you made. So, what does matter? What kind of person you were to your family and friends. The memories you created with your loved ones.
After his sudden passing, I no longer cared about meeting these life milestones, because if turning 100-years-old means: I have witnessed my future children prosper, my siblings prosper, their children prosper, my parents retire happily, all while enjoying the good moments sprinkled in between, then I am happy.
While still important, jobs, money, and material things come and go. The world does not care if I move out at a certain age. I’m not a loser because I didn’t start a career in my 20s. I am not worthless because life didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. Just because my expectations weren’t met does not make me a loser. Life happens. Period.
The worst thing anyone can do is sell themselves short. Do I have days where I don’t live by this? Yes, because I’m human, and life naturally gets frustrating. But I know that I am working very hard to get to where I want to be. Without a doubt, I will get there, no matter what the calendar says. There's no judge or jury I must make happy. There is no fine that needs to be paid because I’m not a nurse just yet.
My best advice for getting through a quarter life crisis, or a crisis at any time in life, is very simple: Do not expect life to go your way, and be kinder to yourself for things out of your control. Of course, keep hustling to get to where you want to go, but celebrate the fact that you’re still going!
Don't neglect the loved ones in your life that have always been in your corner, because you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. Health and family first…always! Live life to the fullest and celebrate every birthday. You’re still here and that’s a blessing. Though it may not seem like it right now, one day you’ll look back and say to yourself I did THAT!
Written by: Ameny Daif