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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Do you ever feel like you’re behind in life? That you’re a pace behind everyone else in a marathon? That you’ll never reach the finish line of success? I’m here to tell you that you are not alone. 

Your late teens and early twenties are probably the most confusing years of your life, contrary to popular belief. Yeah, your awkward middle school years of puberty might have been rough, but pretty much everyone seemed to be doing all the same things at the same time.

There’s a routine, a schedule to life up until that point. Go to school, excel in classes so you can get into a good college, succeed in college so you can get a good job afterward, but what happens after you secure a good job? Work for the rest of your life? If this seems daunting, just know the change of this routine can start today. 

Once you get older, you’ll start to realize that maybe you don’t want to go to college immediately after graduating high school. You’ll see all your peers at their first college party as a freshman, but maybe that’s not what you want to do. And that’s perfectly fine. You can work, save up money, travel, go to community college, do what you want to do and do it with a purpose.

These are the years that you can branch out and experience the world and try things you’ve always wanted to try. You can go hike the Appalachian Trail or take a road trip across the country. Maybe you’re not ready to leave your house, and you want to stay home and take classes at the local community college for a year before leaving town. It may seem like everyone else in your grade has moved on, but chances are, some of them are thinking the same thing. 

You might look around and see your classmates graduating college in the spring and realize the major you selected four years ago when you were a freshman isn’t actually the right fit for you, and it took you this long to realize that. That’s ok too. It’s better to recognize that and change your major and take a few more years of college-level classes than graduate into the workforce just to work a job you can’t stand. 

This is the time in your life to not worry about what other people think of you. Chances are, they’re thinking the exact same thing as you. Am I on track? Am I behind? Is this what I want to do with the rest of my life? Have I rushed through this? This is the time in your life to stop comparing yourself to others and start being your own best self.

If that means taking the beaten path rather than the path that’s most worn, take full advantage of it. I’m here to let you know that it’s ok to take a gap year before college, that it’s ok to take that semester off for your mental health, that it’s ok to change your major, that it’s ok to quit your job and start a new one. Don’t let society hold you back from living your life at your own pace.

Claire Early is currently a senior at VCU. She is studying mass communications with a concentration in public relations.
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