I swear, parents must have a secret club or something that they all attend to right before big events in their kids’ life. I mean, it seems too much of a coincidence that they all end up saying the same exact things most of the times. For instance, who hasn’t had a parent (doesn’t even have to be yours) tell you, almost right before you head out to university to ‘make sure you enjoy it as much as you can because these will be the best days of your life‘. Right? Well, it may seem innocuous, but these are the type of phrases that actually hurt more than they do any good. Let me explain.
I went to university with pressure. I was not one of those teenagers who was counting down the days until they could finally leave their past behind and start from scratch somewhere else, somewhere where they could be ‘free’ for the first time (I’m not sure where this dramatic teenager came from, but we’ll just go with it). I personally feared that freedom. I didn’t want anything to do with it. I had everything I wanted back home so why on earth would I want to leave? But then again, if what they said was true, I had absolutely nothing to fear.
For the sake of anyone reading this, let’s just say that things didn’t go as planned and my university experience didn’t turn out to be that great in the end. And to be honest, that would have been just fine if it hadn’t been for that stupid little phrase. ‘Remember these are the best days of your life, Elena. Don’t fuck it up’. I just couldn’t shake it off. Even though I would try to convince myself that those words were utter bullshit in my case, year after year, I would still hold on to the hope. Granted, this hope was shrinking by the minute and clearly overpowered by an increasingly big sense of failure, but it was there nonetheless. ‘What’s wrong with me?’
When I said that those words weren’t innocuous, I didn’t just mean it because I think they set unnecessarily high expectations for clueless teenagers as they set out to go to university. What people don’t realise is that once that bar is not met the first time, it unfortunately doesn’t just magically disappear from one’s head (I wish). It’s had time to dig its way into a tiny little comfortable nook deep inside our brains, so it stays there, just waiting to be met someday. And it’s impatient. Yes, the nook’s comfortable, but what about that bar? Aren’t you a little curious? Eager to see what it feels like to be there? Or even better: what it feels like to be on the other side? I mean, people say it’s great, so it must be.
And so the search continues and the pressure keeps piling up, just as your expectation rises exponentially. ‘Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life’. I mean… No. Just no.
Unless you’re really lucky (in that case, how did you do it and from what planet did you come from, can I move please), your twenties should be filled with trials, errors, ups, downs, lefts and rights. It should be a time exclusively reserved to figuring things out. A time for dreaming big while constantly bumping into reality, which coincidentally always seems to be in the way of great plans. I have been postponing the ‘best days of my life’ for years. Now hear me out, I am by no means saying that my life isn’t great as it is or that I’m not fortunate to have the things I have. This is not about that. It’s about never being content, no matter what. I mean, how could you when your standards are that high? Think about it: the best days. Why couldn’t it just have been a simple ‘you’ll have a great time’ or ‘things won’t be as bad as you imagine them to be’? No. It had to be the best days, and on top of that, the best days of your freaking life. How about that for starting things off with realistic expectations? How in the world could you top that? You can’t. And in fact, you shouldn’t.
Imagine no one would have told me such thing. I would gone to university, clueless, with fear, hoping for the worst (as I usually tend to do), and I would have come out with a friend for life and a degree. Not bad, right? I’m not saying you always have to hope for the worst. That doesn’t help much, trust me. But hoping for it to be the best of the best is not ideal either.
Words are dangerous. They stick, just like memories. So if you’re a parent reading this, first of all, take this lightly – I tend to over-exaggerate when I write – and be careful. Things are always better and easier in hindsight. Your kid’s not there yet. Let him or her figure it out for him/herself.
And yes, I just finished this post giving advice to parents. Sometimes I honestly make myself laugh out loud, or as the cool kids from 2011 would say (which by this article you’ve all guessed it definitely wasn’t me): “LOL”.