Don't Let The Social Clock Dictate Your Life

Don't Let The Social Clock Dictate Your Life

Pressure to hit traditional milestones is stressing out an entire generation.

How many times have you had a family member at Christmas pester you about bringing home a boy/girlfriend? She’ll nudge you in the arm and whisper “So, you got anybody back at school you’re thinking about getting serious with? You know it’s about that time.”

Or, you’ve heard a girl in her late 20s worry about her biological clock or be told that she best get to having babies soon. Social norms and expectations follow us everywhere, especially down South where I grew up and currently attend college. We’re taught from an early age about all kinds of manners and standards. Kids are taught what’s gentlemanlike and ladylike, what is appropriate to wear to this social event or that one, what is acceptable to talk about and what is prohibited to strictly behind doors. We know the rules. We also know what people think of others that don’t always follow these norms. It is a lot of pressure as a young adult.

Assessing all of these rules and considering the many ways the world wants you to act is immensely confusing at times. Not to diss manners, they serve their purpose and I'm grateful to have them. But I think that as we age we are introduced to so many different situations that weren’t always covered at home, or in some places structured and attended — etiquette class and all those social norms can be overwhelming. Responding to others appropriately is difficult, even harder is dealing with the way others view and respond to your actions because, in reality, everyone is taught a little differently.

Twenty to 30 is a rough place. We're supposed to be doing this whole figuring-ourselves-out thing. "Figuring ourselves out." That's a broad statement, huh? Yeah, it's a broad task, and I believe the hardest part is the pressure to get ourselves together as quickly as possible. We constantly feel like we're in a time crunch, and one of the biggest battles us growing adults face is the one against the social clock.

Professionally defined as the “conscious or unconscious consensus that dictates when events should occur,” social timelines can differ among societies but, in all, are the outside pressure to complete a life task in a certain time span. We internally stress and judge ourselves for not living up to these expectations set by family or society. Majorly, we don't even realize we're doing it. As humans, one of the focuses of our lives is to fit in, not necessarily to blend, but to find our niche. It is our internal desire to belong. We want to have a city, a friend group, a workplace in which we can identify and mesh well with. Even those who boast about being an “outcast” typically find other “outcasts” to socialize and agree with. This social clock (and its pressures) is just another hindrance to our ability to find the perfect place in society.

And, it is furthering our divide. Those who have accomplished a specific item off of life’s checklist in the correct age range are deemed well-adjusted, while those who work slowly are considered lagging. In addition to the everyday tasks of trying not to offend people, trying to look presentable in public, trying to foster social relationships, trying to be politically correct, trying to be kind, and trying to be smart we all have to try to be timely, too. We work quickly to find that perfect degree so we can graduate on time and land that perfect job. We search for that perfect soulmate in our early 20s so that we can get married and start that picket fence family — as if our generation doesn’t have enough on our plate and our fair share of judgemental finger pointing.

I bring all of this up to say that it’s crap.

It doesn't matter. It’s ridiculous to have to worry about a metaphorical timeframe. I’d say it is part of why some of the older members of this planet are a bit unhappy. We’re rushed into things. We’re pressured to marry someone because they’re “good” and the time is right. We’re pressured into taking a job offer right after college because it’s appropriate. We aren’t encouraged to travel, or to ponder, or to learn things that can’t be taught in a classroom. Substance isn’t valued — standards and traditions are.

So what do we do about it? We stop letting it bother us, and we stop allowing these constraints to consume us. We continue to value traditions and respect where we came from, but remember that there is room for new in our lives. We quit searching for the perfect spouse and search for ourselves. We volunteer to help others and not to get service hours for our resume. We stop planning our lives and we live them. The best things in life take time to grow and flourish, and we are worth investing our time in.

Invite powerful thinking into your life and refrain from doing something simply because it's the norm. Whether it is traveling, reading, relaxing or going to church, find what helps you feel solid in who you are as a person. Make these activities part of your schedule. If you can't finish your college education in four years, that's OK. If you don't want to get married or have children until you're 30 (or at all) it is OK. Take your time and spend it the way you see fit, not the way society thinks you should be spending it. One of the most encouraging things for me is to look for testimonies of successful people. For example, the founder of Amazon was working at McDonald's in his 20s, Tina Fey was working at a local YMCA, and J.K Rowling and Mark Cuban had both recently lost jobs.

What all four of those people have in common is that, in time, life worked out in their favor. It didn't just happen, they had to put forth an effort. They also had to be willing to put in the time. Stress incites more stress. Relax, breath deep and stop watching the clock before time is up and you've missed everything.

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.

Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.

Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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To The Friend Who Truly Understood My Depression And Anxiety

Thank you for everything you do.


Dear friend,

When I started having issues with my anxiety and depression, everyone seemed to pull away. They all wanted space from me, they all said I was changing and I needed to get better. I know I needed to get better, but everyone pushing me didn't make me feel any better or more supported. It made me feel as if I was some sort of problem or issue, and as if I was too broken and damaged to be viewed as normal. They all made me out to be a bad person. But you, you never did.

When I started struggling, you made me feel supported. You voiced your feelings in a way that made me feel as if I was supported and as if you had been through what I was dealing with too. You made me feel heard and understood.

When I started medication for my mental health, you checked in on my reactions to the meds every day. You made sure to keep up with me and keep updated on how I was doing. Since day one, you have made your love and support for me abundantly clear. You have listened to me rant and rave about everything and anything I can possibly rant and rave about. Every decision I have made to help myself and my mental health, you have supported, even from afar.

You have always had such a handle on the best way to be here for me and the best way to unconditionally support me. You validated my feelings while simultaneously telling me they were wrong. You encouraged me getting the help I needed without making me feel as if I was an issue or as if I was a problem.

You've always been one of my biggest supporters, my biggest role models, and best friends. You truly understand my struggles and never cease to amaze me with your unending support.

Thank you for everything you do, and thank you for being you.

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