So What Are You Doing With Your Life?

April 12th 2013

Story originally written and experienced: April 28th 2011

She was quiet.

And I knew why..

In fact.

I remember the day exactly.

We were walking home. The 4 of us.

Penny, Lana, Hallie and I

These are our faces (Olive- Lana - Hallie - Penny)

These are our faces
(Olive- Lana Hallie Penny)

From a birthday dinner that was located not so far away. We lived together, the 4 of us. Spent most of our moments in between 18 and 22 living in this college utopia measuring success by a 4 point scale and filling our diets with canned corn and cheese.

Might have been some mild vodka involved.

Some vodka may have been involved…

It was weird. Honestly, it was. Thinking about it. All of it. Being over. The hook ups. The projects. The pizza. Photographing chaps playing the saxophone – absolutely shirtless  – whilst we were dressed to the nines in ninja attire.

So this happened.

That happened.




Graduation gowns were just a 3 short weeks away and debauchery and part-time jobs were due for a meet and greet with “no longer acceptable.”

At least that’s what we were told.

With                                    each                              passing                            step

Lana went on about her new apartment she was going to move into in just a couple of months! Penny said she wasn’t going to be around much this week with her final project and all. And I told them that I couldn’t believe I was moving to New York City soon!…With no one else. Just me. But I was excited! Really, I was…At least I think I was.

And Hallie was quiet.

And I knew why.

We rounded the corner to our college abode and with each passing steps towards our house


We noticed 2 small elderly women sitting on the porch.

Our porch.

Not theirs.

The same porch we spent many a nights performing classy college activities for all of Church Street to see


Nothing but class


One was a small, Spanish woman with black crinkled hair, a rose-colored  sweater and a turquoise necklace that cascaded down her neckline. And the other was a mid-sized Columbian woman bundled in a emerald green cardigan and a mismatched scarf.

We didn’t know them.

Not at all.

We slowly walked up the stairs to our a college house and the 4 of us looked at each other before we finally asked them what they were doing there. And…Could we help them with something? Were they lost?

The old woman in the rose-colored sweater told us that they were walking by our house not so long ago, saw our door swinging off the hinges and decided to stop by and  fix it. Then after their good deed, they were tired and decided to “reward themselves”  by sitting on our porch.

Our porch.

Not theirs.

We grinned in amusement and told the women to enjoy themselves, and that we’d be inside.


The woman in the rose-colored sweater stopped us. Told us to stay for a while. Let’s chat. Why not, right? How old are you? What are your majors? Are you graduating soon? And if so,

What are you going to do with your lives?

II  We paused  II

Exchanged eye contact again… and silently agreed to appease the two women with spontaneous responses.

Lana went first. Told them that she was moving up north soon. To a new apartment. With a new job. It was for a marketing firm, you see and she was really excited. Really, she was.

The two women nodded their heads. They even clapped a little.  Said “Good for her. They wish her all the success. And her parents must be very proud.”

Penny went next. Told them she still had another semester left to go. But planned to graduate one semester later. But only so her design portfolio could be everything it could be.  And more. For future employers to admire, of course.”

The two women nodded their heads. Even clapped a little more. Said “As long as you don’t waste too much money staying in school, you’ll probably be better than all the rest. Good for her. Her parents must be proud.”

I went after Penny. Told them I was moving to New York City. In one month. To work for Oprah magazine. What was I doing for them? …Working in fashion. But I want to be a writer. Eventually. If I can do it, that is.  But yeah. We’ll see what happens. “

The two women nodded their heads. Clapped the most for me. Told me that New York City was an incredible place, and I was working for an incredible company.  And “Great for me. I’m sure you’ll go far. Your parents must be so so proud.”

 Then they looked at Hallie.

And she was quiet.

And I knew why.

They asked her. What about you? What are you doing with your life?

Hallie looked uP from the ground. Told them that she didn’ t have a job yet. She was still searching and planning on moving to DC after graduation, you know, to better her chances. Just in case –

The two women starting laughing instantaneously.

The woman in the mismatched scarf told her that she needed to “Hurry up!” Everyone else was already snatching up the good jobs. What have her parents said? Are they worried? Is she worried? Time is running out you know. “

No one really said much after that.

And once again we told them to enjoy our porch, and that we’d be inside.

 And as soon as we entered the house

Hallie headed  >>>straight for the red and green striped couch.

And I remember following closely behind her. >>

And I remembered asking her if she was okay. And remembering that this time,

She wasn’t so quiet.

She told me that she was trying to find a job. Really Olive, I am. But nothing was working out. Not yet, anyway. It’s not like she hasn’t tried. She’s applied to hundreds of places. And nothing seems to be working out…at least not yet. And you know what else she hates? She hates that it’s the only thing anyone even asks her these days. That the pitied looks were getting old and the “Don’t worry! it will all work out!” comments were feeling entirely too routine. That she wants to succeed, of course. Mostly for herself but also because, the social consequences and judgments that come with the alternative, just didn’t seem worth it.

That pursuing any other route outside of direct deposits, big bonuses and romantic stability – was a frowned upon contract.

And I remember seeing her face that day. Only because I had seen it many times before and after that. But not only from her.

From a lot of people.

Like the time Charlotte told me she was getting married. And we were 22. And how later that night on that same red and green striped couch. I told my friends. And then they made that face. But then they said “I can’t believe she’s getting married so young! That’s crazy! I don’t think I’d ever want to trade places with her. What is she thinking??” Forgetting that, she was probably saying the exact same thing about us.

That she was exactly where she wanted to be.

And we were too.

And her relationship timeline was none of our business

And our relationship timeline was none of hers

That believe it or not. The 32 year old graphic designer? Who works in my neighboring office? Is absolutely gorgeous. And absolutely charming. And absolutely single. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. And if you can believe it, just for a second.

That the two spectrums of the relationship timeline

Really can yield the same amount of happiness.

Just as long as each person.

Is standing on the side they want to be on.

 And there was my other friend Tom. Greeted with a pool opportunity at the brim of his graduation. But he was going to pursue med school. Eventually. But not now. Why? Because he didn’t want to. Not yet, anyway. In fact, Australia sounded a whole lot more appealing and selling his soul to a lifetime of work  seemed a little  bit sweeter if only postponed for just a little bit.

And everyone judged him.

At least they wanted to.

But as Tom reveled on the sands of Sydney, he couldn’t help but think

He was financially poorer than most of his friends.

He had significantly less stability than every single one of them

And he didn’t have one single health insurance card to his name


He was exactly where he wanted to be.

And so was I. As his friend. Who dived into the corporate world 5 days after I graduated. Mostly because I wanted to. But partially because stability, financial graces and the pursuit of dreams, really were my cup of tea. And how. Believe it or not. Tom and I were living two incomparable lives. With the same amount of happiness. But only because

It was on our terms. Our timeline. And our decisions weren’t stapled to a form of explanations or promises

Just a post it. That said:

life schedule

And I remember telling Hallie that day. Before we knew she would work for one of the top firms in the entire country. And have her own office by 24.

If she thought people would be less stressed about professional and romantic stability if expectations weren’t involved. The expectation to “make something of yourself” to “Find the right person! And fast.” The expectation to be just a little more put-together than the person happy houring next to you.

That maybe the pressure wouldn’t seem so heavy, if we spent less time-consuming ourselves with the progress of others and rather, just finding our own damn place on the spectrum.

Because I can promise you that happiness and success? Exist in more places than one.

And just because you don’t find it in the same place. Doesn’t  make it any more, or any less.

All you have to do, is be content and proud with where you found it. And when you found it.

And finally I told her to please not forget that:

How she scheduled out her life was her own damn choice.

That it was her life.

Not theirs.

That there are very few people who claim they don’t feel the pressure of what they should be doing. Especially in comparison to others.

But there are even fewer people who actually mean it.

And how we should be that few that do.