We’ve all heard of Instagram and Facebook stalking, but have you heard of LinkedIn stalking? By definition, it’s a millennial phenomenon where twenty-somethings creep on so many people’s LinkedIn profiles a day that they actually reach the limit and are banned from searching people for 24 hours. Did you know there was a limit to how many times a day you can search for people on LinkedIn? I didn't either, until I became a hardcore LinkedIn stalker. Now I hit that limit once a week, easily. This is an embarrassing truth. If you haven’t guessed by now, when I say “millennial phenomenon,” I mean this is something I do regularly that I'm trying to convince myself and the world is completely normal. (I don’t think it is.) I blame my unhealthy comparison habits. They have shifted from superficial comparisons on the ‘gram to “HOW CAN I DO EXACTLY WHAT THIS PERSON DID TO BE SUCCESSFUL JUST LIKE THEM?!” on the ‘link (new millennial slang, maybe). Perhaps it’s a step in the right direction to be obsessively comparing myself to people’s career successes rather than the looks they were born with, but it’s still generally unproductive to my wellbeing and overall mental health.
This begs the question: What good could this this excessive, neurotic LinkedIn research possibly do for me? Hear me out. There are times when it can be helpful. Sometimes I’ll find someone who has a similar educational background as me doing something that seems fun and interesting, and it instils in me a sense of hope that I too could land such a position. Other times, it can be highly detrimental. Say I come across someone who owns a Pilates studio—this is my latest dream (I am currently working towards my Pilates certification and I love it SO much, but more on that another time). I will try to find this person on LinkedIn, hoping they once had a corporate career and have a well-maintained and recently updated profile, and proceed to analyze their work experience and education to find any and all similarities we may share. I’ll even try to calculate their age based on the year they graduated so I can see how far behind I am (LOL. I am really outing myself here).
Now, say this person worked in marketing for three years, sprinkled with a little business development here and there, and then after half a decade or so of corporate work decided to change course and pursue a career in Pilates. I will then think to myself, ‘hmm, this must be the right way. I should probably get some more business experience to beef up my resume and learn more of the ins and outs of running a business before I even entertain the idea of starting my own.’ I’m sure you can see the red flags here. Why on God’s green earth would someone else taking a longer, winding path to get where I want to go mean that I must also take that route? All experience is good experience—especially if it offers an opportunity to learn more about running a business in this scenario—but ultimately, this person’s path is incomparable to my own, and it’s silly to even think that I should alter mine just so I can do it the same way as someone else. Not to mention that this is a stranger on the Internet and likely someone I have never met who probably lives in Australia. (You know your LinkedIn stalking is out of hand when you’re trying to follow the career path of someone who lives on an entirely different continent.)
After some serious reflecting and journaling, I came to realize that comparing my previous life experience to someone else’s is useless because there is no one way to do life. All this time I thought I was doing life wrong, when in reality, I’ve been doing it right. I’ve been doing it so right. I’ve been exploring, discovering, learning. Sure, I live with my parents and feel lost half the time, but being lost doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. Being lost means I have so many ideas, so many interests, so many different directions I am being pulled in. While that can be incredibly overwhelming and scary, it’s also exhilarating and liberating. How free am I that right here, right now, in the midst of my terrible twenties, as I like to call them, I have endless opportunities?! I am experiencing life in my own way, on my own path, just like everyone else. No two paths can ever, ever be exactly the same. No two people, even with the same goals and aspirations and interests, will ever take an identical route to get to a common destination.
When I stop to think about it, my path has been so beautiful and so unique to me and who I am. I have travelled in Europe with friends, I have travelled in Australia on my own, I have lived and learned on Canada’s most beautiful island (not biased) for nearly four years, I got an education that I value now more than ever, I have worked all kinds of different jobs in restaurants and offices and everything in between, and I have slowly begun to discover the things I love and the things I thought I would love but didn’t. I have made more progress than I give myself credit for. I have had experiences that other people would kill to have. I have done all of this and I am just scraping the surface of what I can and will do in my life. I am just twenty-five. Who says you have to have it all figured out by twenty-five? Who says you can’t live at home and be broke and finding your way at twenty-five? Well, me. I do. I’ve been saying that for years! But I take it back. If I’m wrong about one thing, it’s that. Twenty-five seems like an excellent age to be right where I am. Twenty-five seems like a perfect time to be putting together the pieces of who I am and who I thought I was and who I want to be. I know damn well that I’ll get where I’m going, and it’s going to be beautiful. But right now is beautiful, too. And every experience I go through is leading me to bigger and better things.
So while it’s perfectly well and good to be curious about the career path of someone who inspires you, there’s no need to compare their timeline to your own. Nothing good will come of that. I’m proud of all that I’ve done and all that I’m doing. It hasn’t been easy, but it has led me to where I am now, which is one step closer to knowing what I want and how I’m going to get it. I don’t have it all figured out, and maybe I never will, but I do know this much: If I keep putting one foot in front of the other, keep taking it one day at a time, it will all turn out magically. It will all turn out even better than I ever could have imagined. This I know for sure. (I also know for sure that I will continue to stalk people on LinkedIn to the point of being banned from stalking any further, but it’s all in the name of research and self-development. I do promise to stop comparing myself to these people, though. Or, at the very least, I’ll try really hard not to. Thank you for your concern in this matter.)
I encourage anyone reading this to reflect on all the amazing things you have done in your life. Each of us has had such a unique experience in this human existence, and we should celebrate all that we've done and all that we're doing instead of comparing ourselves to others or feeling like we haven't done enough. I promise if you take the time to think about your beautiful life, you will find so many reasons to be proud of who you are and where you are. You will be thankful for every little thing that led you here. You will find that you have most certainly done enough. And even still, there's so much more to come.