I've seen the Ashton Kutcher video from the Teen Choice Awards show up on my Facebook newsfeed over and over again. I finally had a hot second to watch it this morning as I was getting ready. I had no idea what to expect, but... I loved it.
A little bit of background here: I really love Ashton Kutcher. I think he's cute and funny as an actor. And this boy I had a crush on in high school looked just like him so that might have contributed to my affection towards Ashton. It's really clear that Ashton Kutcher has a serious business-savvy brain too. I mean, he was WAY ahead of the game in terms of Netflix. (Yes, I was one of those people who prayed that "The Beautiful Life" would gain more traction and get more episodes!)
Anyway, I loved his speech.
If you haven't watched it yet, I really recommend it:
All three messages are ones that I 100% agree with.
But the last one about "building your life" is something that really resonates with me.
You're supposed to take this class to get into that college.
And you're supposed to have this GPA to get this interview to land that job.
And you're supposed to wear this.
And you're supposed to act like that.
And you're supposed to have a great time.
And you're supposed to get married.
And you're supposed to have a family.
And you're supposed to do a lot of things.
What are all of these Supposed Tos? Who came up with it and why do we all feel compelled to follow it?
For a long time, I did all the Supposed Tos. I took the tests I needed to take in middle school to get into the hardest math class. I was friends with the girls that I felt like I needed to be friends with. I only signed up for the classes that would "help me get into college." I wore the jeans that everyone wore and the graphic tees that everyone bought. I was spending a lot of energy just keeping up with the Supposed Tos.
It wasn't until my junior year of high school that I realized there might be other options out there besides the Supposed Tos. It was really quite a difficult time for me. One night, I'm pretty sure it was 3 in the morning, I was still awake doing math homework. I had been super depressed– actually depressed– for a few months. But that night I just broke down. I was not happy. And I just kept thinking in my head that this was not a way to live. Just because I was good at math didn't mean that I should dedicate my life to my calculator and calculus. I didn't have time for the things that I loved and when I could fit it into my schedule, I was horribly exhausted and couldn't enjoy it.
Really after that night, which was definitely a mixture of depression and exhaustion, I knew I had to just take back control of my life.
The Supposed Tos were controlling my life and I wasn't making any real decisions. I was following the path. But what happens when you follow the path? You end up in the same place as everybody else. What fun is that?
I took a second look at who my real friends were. I spent time evaluating what I really wanted to do. I set out on a mission to discover what it was that I enjoyed doing! I knew in my heart that I would end up at Georgetown so that's the only school I applied to (I know, that's definitely not a Supposed To!). I went off and did my own thing. Following my intuition and my interests equally.
By the way, paving my own way wasn't always the easiest thing in the world. I definitely had some lapses, like my freshman year at Georgetown. (I tried doing what you're "Supposed To Do at College," like I was following some College 101 for Dummies guidebook.)
Even with that giant lapse, there are still times when I think it would be a lot easier if I was following the Supposed Tos, but the payoff of figuring out your own way– building your own life– is too great. It's too sweet. It's too rewarding. It's too fulfilling to ignore.
I get emails all the time wanting to know exactly what classes I took in high school, what I majored in at Georgetown, how I got my job, what the "secret sauce" to my blog is, how I stay active, what I eat for breakfast, how to have exactly what I have...
Then, on the other hand, I get a lot of criticism from people saying that they're frustrated that I'm not doing what I'm Supposed To. You're not Supposed To be able to afford to live on your own right out of college. You're not Supposed To start a business when you're 19. You're not Supposed To get a job if you haven't had eight internships. You're not Supposed To essentially work two jobs. You're not Supposed To be frustrated with dating. You're not Supposed To dress the way I dress.
But that's completely not it.
I have the opportunities that I have now, not because I did what I was Supposed To... but because I paved my own path and built my own life.
I can guarantee you that if you do exactly what I do, then you will still never be satisfied. And I can guarantee you that if you do what you're Supposed To do, then you will also never be satisfied.
Building your own life isn't just about playing around and making spontaneous decisions and being reckless. There has to be purpose to what you're doing. Not necessarily any one end goal, but purpose is essential.
The path less traveled is an adventure.
be smart, be thoughtful, be generous.
PS I think it's definitely serendipity that I watched this video this week of all weeks. I mentioned that this has been a week of opportunity and it truly has. None of this would ever be possible without the hard work and not following the norm. It's worth all those uneasy "Omg what am I doing?!" feelings.