I have always felt very intensely the opressive sense of time. My perception of life runs along a very straight line, with various check points dotted along the way to track how happy I ought to be according to whether or not I have achieved these “goals” in the alotted time given to me.
I’m beginning to understand that these aren’t my goals. They are simply an imaginary and unattainable perception of who I should be according to who everyone else already is. The pressure rose signifantly upon turning 20. Suddenly I was watching everyone around me as they got internships and boyfriends. The excuse of “oh, but, I’m only a teenager” is no longer valid, and I choke when I have to tell people I’m 20. I feel like I have been pushed upon a million checkpoints that I am unable to fulfill and I’m rapidly running out of time to do so.
I feel like a failure.
And isn’t that ridiculous? Where is this time going to run away to? It’s as though I’m waiting for a whistle to blow and someone’s going to drag me off the pitch, look at my pitingly, and sigh: “Well, at least you tried, sweetheart.”
In fact, there are no checkpoints. There are no boxes to tick or levels to complete. I think this is an aspect of our society that is getting increasingly drilled into our brains. We swim and swim and swim, reaching each milestone, finishing every race, until eventually we look up to take a breath and it’s all over, and all we have done is swam in exactly the same direction as everyone else.
When I was 12, home-schooled and blissfully unaware of The Timeline, a friend of my parents turned to me and asked – so matter-of-factly I automatically accepted him as The Great Authority of my life choices – “Do you think it’s about time you went to proper school now?”
Maybe it was. But maybe the idea that there are set times to do certain things – not to mention a”proper” way of doing them – is the reason we will always be chasing something else, and I will always feel behind.
I have had a recent change of heart in what I want to do in the future, and have also felt increasingly that my friends are achieving more than me, both in terms of their personal and academic life. My timeline is cracking, it is twisting from it’s arrow-straight line and dipping into unchartered territory. The checkpoints are fading and expanding away from each other and the future looks far less organised now. This is liberating.
This is terrifying.