Different – not better.

Since getting married months before my 21st birthday, I have quickly jumped from milestone to milestone at a pace more rapid than many of my peers. I did what I needed to do to push my graduation date up to December 2016, accepted a post-graduation job after a successful summer internship, and my husband and I recently purchased a dog and our first real house. Some of my close friends jokingly congratulate me for “adulting so hard,” for achieving many of the “traditional goals” so early.

But the truth is, I often see differences between the choices and lives of my friends and peers as beautiful expressions of freedom, individuality, and personality.

I have multiple friends who see marriage as an outdated custom born out of a societal need to legally oppress and control women. I appreciate their perspective and their strength as women whose aspirations and self-worth are independent of their romantic relationships. I have friends who are planning on moving across the country to bet it all on a career that they have been dreaming about for years. I admire their hope, passion, and willingness to venture into the unknown in search of greatness. I know people who are applying to graduate programs, and am inspired by their desire to further their knowledge and their confidence that they can use their education to change the world.

People around me are doing amazing things, taking leaps of faith, and following their dreams with more heart and well-intentioned ambition than I had ever thought possible. I vehemently oppose the idea that there is some structure, some socially constructed timeline one must follow in order to be successful, to be happy, or to be “right.” So to all my friends out there doing their own thing, standing up against social injustice, contributing to research on obscure topics, congratulations; to all my friends falling in love, with their best friend, with their significant other, with their job, or with their studies, thank you for your passion. To all my friends living paycheck to paycheck, trying to make a difference by being a good person in a world threatened by bigotry and inequality, keep it up. We need you all, and there will always be someone cheering you on.

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson