What is today’s white picket fence?

“I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. Show up more often” – Brian Tracy (Inspirational Speaker)

I think we have all been in the position, where we ask ourselves, where do I want to be in 5 years? When do I want to be married, have kids, move away from home? No matter your gender, it’s something we have all definitely chatted to our friends about or thought to ourselves at least once! But what really is the norm? What is todays ‘white picket fence’? I know for myself, I have faced my fair share of obstacles throughout the past few years, which have allowed me to regroup my thoughts on my future, and maybe think about it more realistically this time.

I am now a second year student, studying Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University, and I love it. One, I never thought I would be a second year (those who know me will understand my struggle) and two, I never thought I would be doing something I love. I’m a 21 year old student, who has stumbled through the past 3 years of her life, struggling to find ‘where I belong’. When I left school, I got accepted to Queens University to study Business Economics, if you knew me you would have known that this would already be setting me up for a fail! Being the eldest in our house, getting accepted to university was an incredible achievement. I knew from day dot that the course wasn’t for me, but I just didn’t have it in me to tell my parents that I had decided to drop out. I would sleep all day to avoid them (and uni), drive to Belfast to pretend I had gone to class – you name it. I did anything and everything to avoid the real issue… my happiness! I would go to Belfast, and stay for the week with my friends, trying to avoid the reality. It had gone so far, I had got myself into a terrible state, where I wouldn’t even leave the house, worrying about what people would say about me if I told them I was no longer in uni. I finally plucked up the courage and told my parents. They weren’t too happy, but they knew there was something which was making me as unhappy as what I was and were glad I had figured it out. The ultimate Beauty School Drop Out you could say.

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So, I started thinking about what to do next. From knowing I wasn’t happy in my previous year, I spent the next year making friends, going to out, going to parties, and ensuring I had a good year of ‘uni life’. So much so, uni wasn’t even in the equation. I promised myself that I would never be as unhappy as I was in my first year, but I didn’t do much to make myself happier. I got myself a job in Belfast and stayed up there for weeks on end, rarely coming home. I got myself into a bit of a rut, doing the same thing every day. Going to work, not having class, going out (every night)… it just wasn’t a healthy way of living. Having days with literally £2.87 in my account, and worrying about how to buy groceries to do me until Friday (we’ve all been there). Using the oven as a hairdryer and my iron as straighteners… I may have failed at uni but this gal wasn’t failing to impress. It’s a lifestyle we can be very easily sucked into when in the company and I most certainly had my fun, but it is definitely behind me!

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Last year I went to America for about 4 months and it gave me a while to ponder. I said to myself that when I come home, I would re-apply for university and get ‘my life together’. I completed my first year of CAM last year, bought and insured my own car and am now in my second year and applying for placements as we speak. A few years ago, I was more worried about what everyone else had to say about my situations, and how they would react to the decisions I had made. I would panic about not graduating with everyone else and worry about not being the same age as people in my class. There wasn’t a thing I didn’t over think and make a bigger problem in my head.

It goes without saying; we all face our obstacles in life, no matter how big or small. They are important to us and it’s the way we deal with them that matters most. Go with the flow and do what makes you happy. Don’t let others influence what you do unless you know it is for the best, your only fooling yourself  in the end. The old Émer maybe didn’t deal with her problems in the best way – but hey, I’m only human and there is certainly no point kicking myself.

I may not be graduating at the same time as my school friends and I don’t plan on getting married anytime soon either. The way in which we portray things and other people’s lives on social media makes us challenge our vision of a ‘white picket fence’ every day. Seeing pictures of our friends, who are graduated, living in other parts of the world, having kids or even engaged, shouldn’t make you want to wish your life away. That’s just where they are supposed to be I guess! I’m content with where I am, and I’m pretty sure I’ll get to where I need to be in time… but I am in no rush! It’s my first time living this life, and my last, so whatever it may throw my way, I’ll deal with it when it gets here. It’s very easy to get sucked into living our lives ‘for the gram’ and worrying about how other people interpret the decisions we make. Instagram is the preview, not the full movie don’t forget.

It’s hard not to care (it’s the world we live in), but it is important to live your own life, whether you’re in the slow lane or fast lane. You’ll get there, and cheers to that!

Émer xxEmer2

Found this cool video which summarises all of the above and includes the things I once should have told myself. If you have a few minutes it is definitely worth the watch!

Émer Stinson is a 2nd year BSc in Communication, Advertising & Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @StinsonEmer and on Instagram: @emerstinson