25 Under 25… or not

May 14, 2016

I realized something yesterday.

I’m 25.

This really shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me seeing as I’m many months into my 25th year, but this thought hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’m 25.

When I was 13, I made a list of my big dreams and taped the piece of yellow, legal paper to my bedroom door. You should know that I love lists. I’m one of those people who loves the feeling of crossing something off a to-do list. So, making a list at 13 seemed like the only reasonable way to plan my life.

From what I can recall, it included the following:

  • Graduate from high school with straight A’s
  • Attend the University of Wisconsin – River Falls
  • Walk a red carpet
  • Write a book
  • Win a Nobel Peace Prize
  • Run for Miss Red Wing
  • Become best friends with Taylor Swift (this was at the top of the list, might I add)
  • Be listed on Forbes’ 25 under 25 list

I was a strange 13-year-old, I know. My dreams ranged from the need to have a deep personal relationship with Taylor Swift to the Nobel Peace Prize. Some might say that was a tad too ambitious at my age considering the fact that I didn’t entirely understand the significance of the Nobel Prize, but that thought never crossed my mind. “Too ambitious” was never a real thing to me then… and the moment I start believing it is, is the moment I start taking jewels out of my crown and, personally, I like how sparkly it is. But I digress.

As I think about that list, it’s funny to point out the goals I actually crossed off. I didn’t graduate from high school with straight A’s, but I walked a red carpet in Hollywood before I turned 18. I have yet to meet or form a strong bond with Taylor Swift, but I did attend the University of my choice and graduated with honors.

The last bullet, however, is what struck me yesterday. I will never be listed on a 25 under 25 list. I am no longer under 25. To be completely honest, I mourned the death of that dream for a moment yesterday. It’s a strange feeling to realize that something you wanted will never become your reality. I was disappointed in what I haven’t done with my life when I thought about what I wrote on that list. Then I had to ask myself one very simple question: why did I want that?

I remember seeing that list from Forbes (I think) and knowing that it meant something to be a name in that article. I cannot, for the life of me, tell you the name of one of those young adults who happened to appear on that list when I was reading it, but I wanted it because I thought it was important and I wanted my life to be important.

Now, as a young woman, I know those lists are a combination of two of the most valued parts of our western, American culture: youth and achievement. We value youth for the beauty and vitality it presents us with and America is built on the idea that if we work hard enough we’ll achieve the “American Dream”. I still have my youth and I still have my entire life to achieve whatever I want, however big or small.

No, I will never be on a 25 under 25 list. That 13- year-old girl would probably be disappointed to learn that her name would never appear there. However, that 13-year-old girl has grown into a woman and the woman she is now has a different list of goals.

Now, instead of pursuing those outlets that seem filled with vague implications of fame and a false sense of importance, I have one question for myself: what do I REALLY want?

I’ve had multiple opportunities to meet some of the amazing women who have actually been featured in articles about their accomplishments. The one thing they all have in common: they’re not doing it for the attention. They have a mission, a calling, and the attention their accomplishments garner just gets in the way of doing what really needs to be done.

Now, it’s time to write a different list. My goals have changed a bit in 12 years (as they should) and I’m no longer in my adolescence. It’s time to let my dreams evolve. I physically threw that list away about a year ago but, based on the feelings I experienced yesterday, I was still carrying them with me.

So, it’s time to ask: what do I want to do with my life? What do I want in the next year? The next five? The next ten?  We can’t control life but we can set intentions and create a plan. That second step is the most important. We can dream all we want but our dreams will live in our imagination unless we put a plan in place to make them happen.

I challenge you to sit down today and think about this for a second. What do you REALLY want to do? WHY do you want it? Write it down and work at it. Every. Single. Day.

I may never be on a 25 under 25 list, but I still have some big plans for this life of mine and I’m just getting started. And yes, becoming best friends with Taylor Swift will still be on my list!


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