Why Mid-Twenties Anxiety Feels Like A Race To The Finish Line

My name is Chantal. I am turning 26 in a week, and last year, I graduated from a prestigious university with a Masters in Sociology. I have had work and volunteer experiences raging from youth work to employment counselling to gender advocacy to disability support. Yet, I am struggling to get where I want to go in life, which has made me feel anxiety.

At just 25, I’m stuck.

Now, I know what you might all tell me: relax. You just graduated a year ago. Things take time. Yes, I have heard that a thousand times, but I distrust those who tell me this, who don’t have the higher education experience I do. It might sound snobby, but studying for over 6 years and feeling you need to succeed is a slightly different experience. It is time and money, and it could all be for nothing. I feel responsible for landing the perfect job. My student loan is getting heavier.

My anxiety is mounting, and the clock is ticking.

I am also working in my field, which is something people like to remind me of. Yes, indeed, I am gaining great experience, but I want more. At 25, I see people getting prestigious awards, holding ‘Senior’ titles, being interviewed on the radio about their expertise, coordinating successful NPO events, managing departments, or working in the exact company they wanted to. I’m not doing any of that, and feel like by 25, I should be.

People have children at 25. People get married at 25, and people manage entire organizations at 25. Why not me?  Yes, I have only been working for 11 months since I graduated, but I am constantly comparing myself to people who also recently graduated and somehow got ahead.

As someone who experiences high-functioning anxiety and who grew up with a mother who felt that nothing was ever good enough, I put a dangerous amount of pressure on myself to do well. I am incredibly ambitious, but I can’t seem to get where I want to go. What do my friends have that I don’t? I have always gone above and beyond to do what others couldn’t during their studies to set myself up for a good future.

Why does it feel like none of my effort mattered?

Why does it feel like I could have gone out drinking instead of staying in working?

I get frustrated when I see people with less education, less experience, and less passion than I have living comfortable lives with the salary I want. I have been living like a student for 7 years, and I’m tired. I’m so tired of living within my means when I put the work in to live the life I want.

I want to buy a fancy pillow at Homesense because it matches my decor.

I want to be able to buy myself treats without subconsciously screaming “Nooo!” in the back of my head.

I want to be proud of my LinkedIn title or have people sound impressed when I tell them what I do for a living.

Does this make me sound shallow? Sure. But I worked for it, and I want it. My mom says, “Only rich people do that.”  I have no intention of being rich, though; I just want to splurge on the name brand shit sometimes. I want to feel proud of where I am in life.

It’s not as though I don’t have what it takes. People win over me every day. They finish first every day because of politics or because that dream company simply liked them better. People may have connections you don’t know about; people may have worked harder than you when you weren’t watching.

I’m finally trying to stop constantly comparing myself to other people, and start only worrying about my own path. But, in an academic institution where competition breeds success, it’s hard to unlearn the way I grew up.

I know I will get where I want to be eventually, but I want to get there faster.

Nothing has ever come easily for me, and this is no exception. Maybe, it’s not a good idea to meet all your goals by 30. But maybe, I’ll never be happy with where I am; always experiencing anxiety, wanting to do more and be more.

I’m working on knowing that I am enough; right here, right now.. Just know if you’re reading this, you’re not alone in your defeat and discouragement. Keep going. You will get where you want to go eventually.

Featured Photo via datageekette

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