When I was your age…

Photo: Anna Mattsson

When I was your age…

By: Charline Wolf

11th of May 2022

Before I moved to Sweden, I had a talk with my grandma. About how she was proud of me for moving countries, but had never been sure I’d actually pull through with it. And about how she had never done a big move like that. And then she told me:


“You know, when I was your age, I had a one-year-old child.”

She didn’t say that in a regretful way, as if she wished she had done different things at twenty-two, it was merely a comparison of different life-situations. But it stuck with me as a moment where I realised that something is expected of me by my family. Somehow, having children one day seems to be the default expectation.

Having grown up with parents that never really had an issue with nontraditional timelines and encouraged me to explore what I want to do, I find myself in a privileged position. I hear my peers talk about the pressure they receive from their families and friends, not only about children, but about life in general: success is measured in academic grades, living situation, and relationship status, leaving so many of us to wonder:

Is there a timeline that I’m supposed to follow, and if I don’t hit the mark, am I a failure?

I know it’s easy to feel that way, but sometimes it’s worth looking at older people who didn’t follow the rules that society laid onto them. In high school, I had a teacher who, after retiring, went back to university, because he had always wanted to study psychology. A couple of students in my programme have kids and are in their late thirties or older, but decided to come back to university.

I think doing what is right for you leaves you with pretty cool stories.

That being said, it‘s not easy. A fellow student told me she has to write her assignments at night to be able to take care of her kids during the day. And maybe that is why people imply that you have to follow certain timelines in the first place: society is laid out for these timelines, and following them makes life easier. 

Your family and friends probably don’t mean to hurt you when they impose their expectations on you. They just want to see you succeed and be happy. But the notion that straying from traditional expectations makes you inferior or unhappy needs to be stopped. Life is not a race and you don’t have to rush through it checking boxes. How do you define success for yourself?

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