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If there’s one rule you should live by, it’s don't compare yourself to the people around you. We’re all different, right? But as a 25-year-old finishing a master's, interning at a magazine and working as a barista, I’m at times left wondering if I’m as successful as I should be at this age.
Talking to a friend in one of those D&Ms you have when you feel like nothing is going your way, we wondered if we’d done enough with our lives. We’re educated, so that’s a plus, but after that we weren’t sure what else to count.
Our sporadic income? Our non-existent house? Our Instagram followers? Is there an age we should be in our dream job or at least have our foot in the door? Or is success just about us being happy and content and loving what we do? (In which case, we’re totally killing it).
Feeling a little deflated and at a loss for answers, I looked to the following for guidance:
I started searching for successful women to emulate; someone to make me think “ah, that’s what I’m supposed to do.” Beyoncé was the obvious choice and also clearly off the cards. I don’t sing. But Mia Freedman and Vera Wang are both in their own versions of
a fashion job. They’re also both intelligent and inspiring women.
Mia was the youngest editor of an Australian women’s magazine at the age of just 24 (younger than I am now). Vera Wang, on the other hand, didn’t start designing wedding dresses until after her own wedding at 40 (heaps of time for me).
But just like these two are different, so are the times. As well as working hard, there’s the added pressure of a solid education, years of experience and in many industries, that pesky social media presence.
It’s not about what you know but who knows you, duh. So I turned to my socials for guidance.
Flicking through Instagram, you can pretty much define success as the following: fancy dinners, flash holidays, designer clothing, a glamorous job with even more glamorous work events, a tight knit squad and 1000 followers to watch it all.
All wonderful but kinda shallow, huh? So at a measly 280 followers and scraping together coin for lunch, I’m left a little disheartened.
Next I turned to uni friends. At a similar age, with similar qualifications and similar interests, they’d form a decent marker of where I should be, right?
I have one uni friend who’s in the same position I am: educated and at a loss with life. But she’s also engaged and just got a new job.
Then I have this other uni friend. She’s just been hired by a well-known magazine in Sydney.
I never knew her career goals were similar to mine, and for her to already be kicking goals in her career makes me wonder why I’m moving so slow.
Ah Google, always the reliable one. A quick search of “What should I have achieved by 25?” returned fears and insecurities similar to my own.
One girl went so far as to express that view that atop a high-paying job, a house and a serious relationship, she also needed a “moderate level of fame.”
A research report told me I should already be engaged by now. This same report also told me I should have had a full time job by 19. Does working in a café for my gap year count?
What I really took away from the all-knowing internet was that we were born into a damn competitive generation and that we should try and be happy, healthy and just do you. Plus you should also skydive, read books, buy great clothes and learn how to cook. Easy peasy.
After comparing, Googling, scrolling and stalking old friends, I’m still at a loss for that ‘age of success’.
I’m hoping the timeframe is something we set ourselves, based on how much we want a goal and how hard we work. Not where we rank compared to others.
As for what defines success? I guess I'm still working that out. At least I've had work published in a national magazine. Surely that counts as a moderate level of fame?
This feature was originally published in Fashion Journal issue 155. You can read the full issue here.