A couple days ago I was scrolling through my Instagram feed before bed. I don’t remember why, but it was all innocent enough; a puppy picture here, a yummy looking salad there, Chrissy Teigen’s latest post of Luna. And then I went one scroll too far and ran into a photo that stirred something inside me: a picture of a high-schooler achieving their Broadway dreams.
My initial thought was simple: Why is a 17 year-old achieving something I’ve been working towards for years and probably won’t have until I’m at least 10 years older than they are? While the idea of someone making it big while they’re young is a little more common in music professions (nearly every number one hit these days is by some one age 18-21), it’s not unheard of in nearly every other profession as well. Even the Olympics, an exciting celebration of culture and unity, have been a startling reminder of our increasing age, with the average Olympian being only 26.
As someone in her mid-20s, I know I’m not old. But even with that realization, I ‘m surrounded by peers who are also having to face the reality that there will always be someone younger than us achieving what we want while we’re in the process of working our butts off for it.
So. Since deleting Instagram, never listening to the radio, and abstaining from fawning over Chloe Kim seems a little extreme, how do we deal?
Realize there always has been and always will be someone younger.
The truth is that there has always been someone younger achieving what we want, but in the digital and social media age, we’re faced with that truth on a daily basis. Child prodigies are everywhere, from music, to science, to sports, to MasterChef Junior. The difference tends to be that we’re now at an age where we know what we want, and the green monster has a tendency to creep in whenever we find someone who already has something we want. But the realization of this reality, and the acceptance of it, can often be the first step in helping us to move on.
Unfollow anyone who causes anything but joy.
While deleting Instagram as a whole might feel extreme for you, unfollowing people who make you feel jealous or inadequate is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Social media can often be a thief of joy so instead of constantly having to tell yourself to “get over it,” just hit unfollow.
You’re an adult and you’re allowed to decide who you want to see on your social media and who you don’t. If it’s people being successful in your field regardless of their age, great! If it’s all family and friends and dog videos, that’s ok too.
Keep doing the work.
While it may seem like some people get everything they want without having to lift a pinky finger, at the end of the day, most of us are in college working our butts off to live our dreams post graduation. Know that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
If you’re doing what you love, or doing the work in order to do what you love, keep going. If you’re not, you also have the power to change that. At the end of the day, you may never have a number one hit on the radio, or be the editor of Cosmo, or win an Olympic medal, but hard work does always pay off even if it’s not always in the ways we expect.
No matter how old or young you are, keep dreaming those dreams and keep doing the work. Your life path is yours and yours alone.