Take it from me — “life” checklists are pointless.But we’ve all got ‘em, and at some point, they all look like this:
Be born. Build skills. Go to elementary school. Make friends.
Become that star athlete or the lead in the play. Be popular.
Get into college. Learn what fun really is. Introduce alcohol.
Get serious about dating. Take on soul-sucking internships.
Graduate. Find a job. Find an apartment. Build one’s dream career.
Find a life partner. Have kids. Raise kids.
Retire. Die happy.
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Now, no one ever hits all these milestones in a straight line…
…But there is also the very real and increasing risk of getting lost altogether.
I would know. I got engaged at 19 and distinctly remember one particular conversation with a friend:
“I am so happy to have already figured this part of my life out. Now I can really focus on my career and take some time before starting a family.
“I am so lucky.”
Four years later, I was living back at home with mascara running down my face trying to land a waitressing gig.
Seems like I was missing a key milestone from my important to-do list:
Accept that checking off a milestone never means it’s actually completed or everlasting.
That’s why Buzzfeed and Elite Daily and The Muse checklists of everything you should have accomplished by age 30 or 35 or 40 really bum me out.
Like this one: “35 Things to Do for Your Career by 35.”
Not only am I supposed to have met my husband, started saving for retirement and childcare, and have found out what it is I ultimately want to be doing and where I want to be doing it, but now this list is telling me I’m getting my career all wrong, too?
Even if it does make some good points.
According to this list, I’ve accomplished less than half of what I should have — and I’m more than two-thirds of the way through to becoming 35.
Sure, I’ve managed to accomplish some pretty important checklist items, such as knowing what I’m good at (edgy writing), knowing what I need to work on (being overwhelmed) and what my absolute non-negotiables are when accepting a job offer.
I’ve also managed to keep in touch with people I can trust and convince experts in my desired fields that I’m worth mentoring.
Learning how to negotiate, delegate, say no and get comfortable giving and getting feedback has certainly helped, too.
But I’ve also stretched my career limits and have done multiple things that have scared me only to have been met with failure and disappointment.
And the rest of what I’ve “checked off,” well, it all seems a little superficial: perfecting a LinkedIn profile, creating a to-do list system, sending killer emails, etc.
This career-oriented to-do list makes me feel like I’m missing out on some of the most important stuff, and frankly, it’s freaking me out.
Because I thought I was already working hard.
Of course I’d like to do something that I’m really, really proud of — but my autobiographical Oscar-winning screenplay doesn’t have an ending yet.
Of course I’d like to have the time to compile a Pinterest-worthy portfolio of my best work — but in doing my best work, I never seem to find a moment to do so.
And of course I’d like to have a better understanding of myself — at what point in the day my energy is at its peak, how many hours of sleep I really need, what skills I should learn to better myself and the world, etc.
But as this checklist points out, I’m not even sure I have a great idea of what I don’t want.
So here’s what I propose.
Older generations — stop saying that millennials are just looking for participation trophies. We’re struggling to even just comprehend and complete these so-called checklists that you probably never even bothered to write down.
We’re not demanding — we’re just worried that the futures we’re working toward may never happen for us, despite our best efforts.
And millennials — stop it. Stop writing and reading these checklists.
We’ve got better things to be doing with our lives.
ALSO ON THE NJBIZ “MILLENNIAL MINDED” BLOG:
Why you should rethink a no-pet policy at the office
The Target millennial memo: A management how-to? More like a how-not-to
Millennials: A product of baby boomer missteps