I've been making active attempts to be a better person lately.

And I don't necessarily mean a kinder, more charitable person - though I'm sure that I could always improve in that regard, too. That isn't my focus right now though. No, my focus is much more inward - it's on making myself stronger. On making myself more capable.

After high school, I think that that's something that I struggled with a lot - strength, I mean. Graduation was honestly a terrifying thing for me. It was this huge transition - coming from this one thing that I had known all my life, this dependant child status, to being an adult. To being responsible for my own life and future. I think that I shouldered too much of that burden too quickly, came to expect too much at such a young age. From the moment that they handed me that diploma, I felt like I had to have it all figured out. Had to have the well-paying job, had to be well on my way to accomplishing my dreams, had to be surrounded by trusted friends, had to be working on a loving and faithful relationship that would inevitably result in marriage. It was all too much to expect, of course, but I didn't realize that at the time. I didn't realize that the things I wanted were supposed to come over the course of a long, happy lifetime, rather than being handed to me with that little piece of paper, congratulating me for nothing more surviving four years of education.

So with all those expectations on my shoulders, naturally I accomplished none of them. I didn't even know where to start, and that made my self esteem slip rapidly away. I was a failure, I figured, because I didn't have a job, I had trouble making friends, I wasn't in a relationship, and with all of that weighing me down, I couldn't muster up the motivation to work toward my dreams.

And to make matters worse, I perceived myself as being the only failure I knew. Everyone that I graduated with was leaving me behind, I noticed - many of them were dating. Many of them got into well-paying jobs that they found fulfilling. Some of them even got married and started having kids. And there I was, not doing anything, contributing nothing to my life. I was a waste, I figured. My entire life was a waste. Sometimes, I even wondered why I bothered to stick around at all, when clearly, my life wasn't going to amount to anything.

But it's been nearly three and a half years since graduation, and I've learned a lot in that time - mostly about myself, and about the people around me. I've learned that everyone who I thought had their life together really doesn't. I've learned that we're all - young and old - somewhat lost in this world, wandering from place to place, doing whatever it takes to keep our bodies alive and our souls happy, and that's okay. Maybe there doesn't need to be some grand moment where we finally piece our whole lives together like a puzzle, stand back, and understand it clearly. Maybe life would be boring if there was.

But, honestly, a lot of what I've learned comes down to just being honest about the sort of person I am. For example, I'm not the sort of person who enjoys parties, and that sometimes makes it difficult for me to make friends. And that's okay. I'm also someone with anxiety, and that might mean that I have to face more fear than other people do. And that's okay. So long as I remember that and adjust my thinking around it, it doesn't have to be a hindrance in my life - I can still chase my dreams and be happy, even with anxiety. And you know what, I'm really picky when it comes to dating - truth be told, I don't even know if I'm at a place in my life where I currently want to date. And that's okay.

Everything that I thought made me a failure, everything that slowed me down and kept me from my happiness, it's all just a part of me. It's just something that I need to learn about, need to adjust myself to, need to keep in mind when planning my life. A lot of it is stuff that I didn't plan for, because when that big, mysterious They tell you what sort of life you should lead, they fail to mention things like anxiety, or lack of interest, or simply not being ready for certain things. Those don't fall into the common narrative of a person's life, which, really, when I think about it now, is a good thing. I'd hate a common life. I want a life that's entirely my own, one filled with my personal quirks, my own personal demons, my own personal triumphs. And I'm trying to get to a place where I'm okay with that. I'm trying to be strong enough to lead my own life.

And, to be honest, it still sometimes scares me. I still wonder what will happen if I fail - or, even worse, if I succeed. But the thing is, I don't know the outcome yet. It could be something terrible, something crippling and terrifying, or it could be my greatest source of happiness in this lifetime. Maybe it'll be both. I won't until it comes. All that I can do is march bravely forward, ignoring that voice that tells me that this is too uncertain, and I can trust myself to find the strength I'll need to figure it out as it comes.

Published by Ciara Hall