The Cool Pressure


I detest the process of moving. The packing and unpacking gives me an unnecessary amount of anxiety. Even though this weekend will mark the seventh time I've moved in the past 6 years, I still haven't acclimated to the concept. Moving constantly reinforces the feeling of being unsettled, which leads to doubts about the future that I'm not ready to grapple with.  In the South, there is a general level of expectation that you will reach certain milestones in your twenties. Graduate college, marry soon after, find a nice entry-level job, save and purchase your first home, and begin to pop out the children. I'm not saying that everyone follows this path, but there's a level of security attached to having your life plan mapped out for you, so the ideology becomes engrained at a young age. One of my friends describes this way of thinking as the "cool pressure", aka the social expectation that we must abide by the status quo to fit in.

Moving every year has been the nagging whisper in my ear, reminding me that I still don't have it all figured out. Ross and I don't know where we want to live, when we want to "settle down", or if our five year plan is going to look the same tomorrow. I understand that, to many of you, my anxiety about this may seem trivial or unfounded. After all, I am only 24. However, I would venture to guess that every single one of us has an area of our lives in which we feel the cool pressure. Maybe you are a college graduate who's gone back to school because you still don't know what you want to do job-wise. Or, you decided to become a mom long before any of your friends, and you feel left out of the parties and vacations. Maybe you're like me, and you are probably years away from planting your roots somewhere more permanent than a two-bedroom apartment.

The truth is, the cool pressure in our lives is an illusion. It's the reminder of an expectation that we held too tightly and did not meet. Part of being an adult is learning that everyone's life is going to follow a unique trajectory, so we will all hit our big milestones at different times, and that's okay. If you live constantly awaiting the next phase of your life, you'll miss out on your current season. Instead of feeling crushed by your lack of certainty, examine the areas where you are feeling discontent or pressured to be more or do more than is feasible. The sooner you start to call your doubts out of the shadows and into the light, the more you will be able to own your choices and lean into your current blessings.

The best way I have found to shake off my expectations is to speak them out loud. Grab a cup of coffee (or three), and find a friend who will openly listen to your worries. I guarantee that they will have a lot more grace for you than you will have for yourself. Sometimes, the best way to break the cool pressure is to realize that everyone feels it; you aren't alone, and you aren't expected to have it all figured out.

Photo credit: Ashley Glass