Maybe it's time to celebrate a wider variety of life choices.
Once upon a time, there would have been a certain set of milestones that everyone would have been expected to reach in life; maybe a degree, getting a certain job, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house and having a baby or two. While for many these factors are still important, there are more and more people who aren’t interested in some or any of them. Some don’t ever want to get married, lots of people don’t want children, and choosing to opt out of these traditional landmarks and celebrating is not to say they’re not still doing amazing, memorable things, or accomplishing achievements worth shouting about.
But when parties and Insta posts are reserved for the traditional ‘big ones’ what’s left for those who have no interest in them at all? A big problem with living for certain milestones, like marriage, kids, a house or whatever, is that you’re missing out on the magical moments in between. It’s like working all week and living for the weekend, a delayed sense of gratification that then results in a slump. What if you don’t ever get to these points you’re wishing for? Or your plans change and these no longer become something you yearn for? Or even if you do achieve them, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.
The other issue with these types of milestones is that for many, it would seem there’s an age at which you feel you need to reach them. How many of us once said as teens that we wanted to be married by something like 26? If we benchmark an age for certain ‘achievements’, not reaching them by then can seem like a failure, when it was nothing but a self-imposed marker to begin with.
While you can, of course, be open to the idea of the traditional milestones, it’s important not to feel you have to tick them off – because once you have, what have you left to look forward to? If you don’t, will you feel “less than”?
It’s also so important to not act like once you’ve achieved these things you’re sort of ‘done’ because contrary to popular belief, life can be long when you’ve made huge decisions simply to reach a goal. With all this in mind, I propose that we learn to celebrate more than marriage proposals, and highlight the other positive, joyful parts of life that deserve a look in too!
How great are great friends? They’re there for you when things go wrong, celebrate with you when things go right, and everything in between. Whether you’ve been friends since school or met a little later in life, it’s so important to appreciate and celebrate good pals. This is why I propose a ‘Yay, we’ve been friends for ages’ celebration. Just like a wedding anniversary or a couple’s one, we should get together with our besties and mark the joy that is friendship with something special. Whether it’s a sappy Instagram post and a Spa day, or it’s as simple as taking a moment to text your pal and tell them you appreciate them. While friendships can be complicated, they don’t come with the same pressure as marriage or other life events and instead, friends come along with you on your journey of other milestones, and that’s pretty special.
Once upon a time a woman was pretty much expected to get married after secondary school and be a stay at home mum. In more recent years, women were expected to wear the graduation caps because it was a cap on their education while men didn’t. Now, women are going on to study Masters, PhDs and other courses and training throughout their lives. There is no longer a cap on our education and we can go back and further our education or change up our field altogether any time at any age. Each of which is worth marking and acknowledging!
One of the biggest ‘milestones’ expected of women is for them to have children. This can put huge pressure on those who cannot have kids, as well as the many who don’t want them. Expanding a family doesn’t have to be solely in human form, as anyone who has a pet will know. Bringing a dog or cat into your life can bring huge joy and without being dramatic, can really change your life. As we know, a pet’s purpose is essentially to love you unconditionally and pay you affection – that’s definitely worth celebrating.
Whether you had a health scare, a concerning diagnosis or a procedure, getting good health news can be such a weight off our minds, and it can mean so much when it comes to the future and so many aspects of our life. So it’s certainly worth celebrating. Some people throw parties for being a certain number of years cancer-free, and I love this idea. You can apply it to smaller health victories too because as we know, your health is your wealth. So whether you mark it in a small way, like being appreciative and talking about it to friends and family or have a day out to celebrate, it’s important to remember that being happy and healthy is a hugely important milestone.
Travel is one of the greatest joys in life and more and more becoming a huge part of people’s lives. While once upon a time a woman was expected to settle down by a certain age, many are now planning incredible trips around the world along the way. Making a big trip to somewhere out of your comfort zone can bring new experiences, new perspectives as well as joy and confidence. What’s not to love? We need to start celebrating our trips and visits to different countries as something empowering. This really just means appreciating the freedom we now have to go anywhere in the world, and even marking the trip with a little anniversary every year to celebrate the time you saw somewhere else amazing in the world. It doesn’t even have to be a month-long trip to Thailand or a year in Australia, it can be a weekend in Berlin or a week in New York. It’s something magical you’ll always remember so why not celebrate it for what it really is – a significant memory.
There are hundreds of other milestones that aren’t the traditional ones we were once all expected to achieve. It totally depends on who you are and what’s important to you, so this means that just because it’s not celebrated by everyone or popular in movies and films, doesn’t mean it’s not a hugely significant part of your life. Maybe a breakup with the wrong person is one for you, or going to an event on your own, maybe even learning to cook, or drive or ticking off something else you had on your bucket list. The first time I came to work on my dad’s anniversary was a milestone to me, becoming an auntie is set to be a milestone for me too, and moving to Dublin on my own was a big one. For you, they may be nothing like this and instead some bigger things, and some smaller things. Whatever your new life milestones may be, remember that it’s all personal to you, and just because it’s not a hugely celebrated mark in society doesn’t mean you haven’t achieved something amazing.