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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Buyer

#79 How do I know if I'm Falling Behind?

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

My friends and I went to one of the more popular bars in Seattle to celebrate the third 25th birthday of the friend group. The other two friends (couple) that are 25 announced that they’re moving to Boston for a dream job. I’m incredibly proud of each of the successes my friends are experiencing, and excited to see what comes next for everyone. However, as I watch friends change jobs, move in with significant others, get engaged, buy property, etc, I can’t help feeling as though everyone is making progress while I’m falling behind. When I think about age 24-26 on paper, it makes sense that people around me are making real life changes. If I thought 23 was difficult, I had no idea what was in store. Looking back, ages 22-23 seems like it was adult pre-school or summer camp. Working, paying rent and feeding myself was enough to be ahead of the game. Suddenly, this is the bare minimum. I’m supposed to find time and energy to do my taxes, negotiate rent, and figure out how to buy a car? On top of everything else I already need to keep up with? How is that fun?

I worked so intensely the last few weeks that I spent the entire following weekends sleeping so that I could do it all again the next week. I’ve allowed myself to fall into a constant state of being overwhelmed at work, and left no time beyond barely keeping up with life outside of work. As much as I want to sit here and complain, I know the answer. I want to keep doing my best and contributing at work, but I need to do a better job of protecting my time and taking care of myself, even if it means doing a little bit less so that I can create time and energy for things such as getting a car. Even though I’ve known this for a few weeks, I’ve allowed myself to break the boundary of keeping some energy for myself. If I want to continue at this pace, I need to find a way to take a step back and take care of myself, even if it means getting my next promotion a quarter later.

I’m incredibly fortunate for my quality of life as 24-year old, but time is an increasingly scarce resource, so it makes sense to invest in a car so that I can be more efficient with how I travel. Great. Now, how the hell do I go about actually obtaining a car? Or car insurance? I can’t keep saying that I’ll do it another day, because days keep passing by. This is the beginning. Parents somehow find time to make 4 sets of doctors’ appointments, register for soccer practice, and taxes? Sure, I might feel like I have energy to spend time with my future family after work, but where am I going to find the energy for the administrative stuff?

When I write it out this way, it feels much less overwhelming. It’s not that I actually want to do any of these things, but I’m better off grabbing life by the horns rather than letting it pass me by. Rather than being paralyzed by the anxiety of keeping up, I should start running so that I don’t even have a chance to think about falling behind. I guess all I’m saying is that I have to stop feeling bad for myself or complaining and redirect the energy into actually getting it done. Do I get to throw a temper tantrum after I get it done?

As for keeping up with life outside of work in addition to all of these things, something isn’t working. I shouldn’t feel paralyzed at the thought of leaving my desk to go to the gym. It’s better than procrastinating work to go to the gym? How do I get myself to care less? I know that the company doesn’t really care about me. I’m some analyst that produces reports and creates budgets. In their eyes, any analyst can do the same thing. That’s fine, that doesn’t bother me. As much as I love where I work, I do what I do for my own career development more than anything else. I need to remove 20% of the pressure before I spontaneously combust. I’d rather learn how to take pressure off then to put pressure on, at least. If anyone has a magic method, I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll try to act like less of a headless chicken?

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