Whether it’s debate parties at the local bar, discussions in the office, or just turning on a TV bombarded with political ads, the upcoming presidential election is everywhere and living in Washington makes it impossible to escape.
Throughout the campaign trail, Mitt Romney continues to ask the American public, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” Politics aside, I find this to be a great question and one that everyone should ask themselves about every four years regardless of whether you are of voting age. This question becomes even more relevant to us twenty-somethings as we are going through so many changes and transitions.
A previous roommate and close friend of mine recently expressed how different her life is now from two years ago when she lived with me. She lives with her boyfriend, has been promoted at work and her general sentiment toward going out on weekends has changed. All of this made me think about my own life.
Four years ago I was living with two of my close friends, surrounded by the excitement of being in DC during an election with a candidate – Barack Obama – who promised hope and change. I had a good job in Human Resources and I was “living the dream” with a set of loving, fun, single girlfriends.
Today, I am in that same great apartment (two roommate rotations later) with a better job in Human Resources and wonderful supportive friends. I was single then and I am still single now. On paper my life might look identical, but a lot has changed.
Sure, I pictured myself in a serious relationship by now. Yes, I assumed I would be living on my own or perhaps be a first time homeowner. Of course, I hoped to be making more money than I am making now.
But life doesn’t always unfold the way you imagine. And honestly, I don’t think I would trade everything I have learned in the past four years for the seemingly perfect life I had previously envisioned.
Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about life, love and myself. Am I better off than I was four years ago? Here are some lessons I’ve taken away from my experiences.
My love life has had its ups and downs in the last few years. Up until about four years ago, all of my relationships had been positive and loving. They all had ended – in my eyes – on good terms – mostly due to bad timing.
I had my first bad relationship (and real heartbreak) within the last four years. The warning signs I learned from that relationship and the reflection I have as a result are monumental. I learned when to have patience and when to walk away.
After that experience, I tried to speed up the process, or maybe just provide myself with entertainment, through a phase of serial dating. It was a surprisingly healthy, but exhausting, exercise in figuring out what I really want out of a partner and what is good for me.
I am more prepared now to accept something that might be right.
A few years ago, I was laid off. I was so upset to see my position eliminated, and not just for financial reasons, but because I loved it so much. Luckily, I was offered another position within the company. However, I was underemployed and bored. As someone who needs fulfillment at work, this was one of my hardest years.
Naturally this situation made me question everything about my career choice. Was I in the right profession? Was my decision to leave the culinary world a year earlier the right one? I had never had to continually put myself out there and get so much rejection.
During that time, I learned how to stay positive when I really wanted to give up, to not take myself so seriously, and most of all, I learned about perseverance.
I learned that my entire professional identity does not have to be defined by my 9 to 5, but that it can be defined by my side projects as well. For instance, I have a catering and personal chef side business. I’ve now expanded to having a couple of clients and small catering gigs along with volunteering at a local soup kitchen.
I’ve had a good life these past four years, but I’ve definitely made some mistakes that have taught me some significant lessons.
I have learned a lot about my personality and what I need in my life to stay balanced. Surprisingly it has taken me four years to realize some basic things like that a stressful day can be cured with a run on the Billy Goat Trail.
I will always give back to my community. It has never been a waste of time to get to know bartenders. I crave having a full plate. And I am incapable of settling. Ever.
Although my life might not be what I pictured four years ago, I am better off now than I was then. I am richer with lessons I have learned along the way and better as a person with the relationships I have developed.
Where were you four years ago?