Cornered at a party this weekend by someone from my high school, I found myself not caring when he was unimpressed by my post-college plans.
Though I've gotten used to the various reactions elicited when I tell people I don't know what I'm doing after graduation, I found myself not caring even more than usual in this particular instance. Perhaps part of it was the social situation I found myself in and the increasingly late hour, both of which increased my level of not caring. Or maybe it is just another symptom of senioritis.
Either way, I found myself feeling surprisingly proud of my reaction. Progress.
Of course, while the basic social instinct to care about what others think is almost impossible to get rid of, it is something we all can – and should – work on. According to psychological theory, the desire for our decisions to be accepted by others, which leads to feelings of approval, is instilled in us as a basic need. It is something we have literally grown up on. But instead of "yolo," the new mantra of our generation needs to be something along the lines of "do what's good for you."
This can be applied to almost any situation at this time in our lives. In light of the recent viral article "23 things to Do Instead of Getting Engaged When You're 23," and the varying responses that have popped up on news websites and blogs in response, it is evident we need to stop worrying about what others think.
Stop comparing the progress of your life to others.
Who cares if someone gets married at 23? In fact, one of my best friends is getting married right after we graduate in May at the ripe old age of 22.
Would I want to be in her place in only three months, about to commit myself to one other person for the rest of my life? No, I absolutely would not, and the thought of that kind of commitment right now is actually terrifying. But it does not mean that I don't think her and her fiancé will not be blissfully happy, nor have a successful marriage. That's not up for me to judge, nor does it even really matter what I think anyways.
Just because it is not right for me does not mean it is not right for her. And really, who am I to judge whether it is good or bad for her?
The same goes for anything you might be doing which is outside the norm of acceptable societal constraints.
Perhaps it is taking an extra year to graduate with your degree because you changed your mind about your major a couple of times. Maybe it is deciding that you want to graduate college and then just be a server at a restaurant and write books on the side that may or may never get published. Maybe it is even about unabashedly loving Katy Perry.
In the end, it really doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. You are the one that has to live with your own decision, whatever it may be. You are the only one who lives with the high ride of success or the slow grind of failure.
As I told my young Padawan (high school freshman) cousin, the minute you graduate high school, those people stop mattering.
College isn't quite the same, since the friendships you make are more likely to be based on commonality rather than being forced in the same classrooms together for years, but the same basic principle applies. They matter, but only in the context of their friendship, not what they think of your decisions.
Most likely, your support group knows you better than almost anyone else. Talk to them, let them counsel you, and even bounce ideas off of them – but make the decision on your own. Let it be wholly and authentically all yours.
If there's any doubt about it not being what you want, don't do it. And if you know it is absolutely what you want, but everyone thinks you are crazy, undoubtedly do it.
As they say, the haters are always going to hate, but if you're happy, then it doesn't matter. Your friends and family aren't the ones living your life – you are.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at email@example.com.