Playing By The Rules Didn’t Do Me Any Favors — Now I Make My Own

I thought I was doing everything right. I built an amazing life for myself with a great career, an amazing group of friends, a supportive family, etc. On the outside, it seemed like I had it all, but it just didn’t feel like that to me. I eventually decided to stop playing by the rules and make my own — and I’ve never been happier.

Romantically, I never let myself have any fun.

The rules tell you that you need to find someone, fall in love and get married — that hooking up is wrong if you aren’t in a committed relationship and you shouldn’t be with someone you don’t see yourself marrying. So whenever I was interested in someone or just wanted to make out with them because they were sexy AF, I would force myself to have feelings that weren’t actually real. I would trick myself into thinking I wanted a committed relationship so I wouldn’t feel bad for what I was doing. Then, when things ended, I was heartbroken by a person I just wanted to have fun with in the first place.

I wasted way too much time on crap that didn’t matter.

College years are supposed to be the best of your life — finally out of your parents’ house, a whole new dating scene, a heightened social life — but I thought if I indulged in the fun my peers were having, it would screw up my whole plan. So I didn’t, and I graduated with good grades and no memorable experiences. Looking back, I wish I would have traded some of those hours studying to have a social life, go out on the weekends, and enjoy the college experience.

I traded adventure for a desk job.

Still, I thought I was doing it right. I was following the rules, and on paper I was doing pretty damn well. I graduated college with honors and landed a well-paying job in my area of study — but I hated it. Sitting in an office all day, surrounded by walls and ringing phones sucks. After you graduate college there are endless possibilities of where you can go and what you can do. It is the time to experiment with your options, find out what you love and try new things so you don’t settle for something you will regret. I went straight to regret.

People thought I was a stick in the mud.

You would think those who have reckless fun are the ones with a bad reputation, and that may be true. But being a goody two-shoes, my reputation wasn’t one I wanted to claim. I was the rule follower — boring and unadventurous and  “no fun.” They may not have gotten the best grades, but everyone loved the “partiers.”

My social life became non-existent.

As you can probably guess, this reputation didn’t help my social life. People will stop inviting you to go out on the weekends if your answer is always no, that you need to study, or have an important meeting in the morning. Yes, it’s good to be responsible, but friends are literally the best part of life, so it’s important to balance your priorities.

I was terrified of taking risks.

Following the rules leaves no room to experiment, go off the straight path, take a risk. When something new or unknown would present itself, I would quickly push it aside, even if I was curious and wanted to try it. (Hence the reason for that lovely reputation.)

I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be.

I wasn’t a happy person. I was jealous, angry, and a little bit bitchy. I envied my sister who was on an Australian adventure. I was cold to my co-workers because I didn’t enjoy my job. But none of it was their fault. It was because I decided to follow the rules, but I didn’t like where they were taking me.

I wasn’t living the life I wanted.

It was hard for me to accept the fact that my plan had failed me, that following the rules caused me to miss out on so many awesome experiences, and there was no one to blame but myself. It was a sobering realization. But I don’t regret the time I wasted playing by the book because it taught me how not to live my life, and it helped me get my priorities straight and figure out what is really most important to me.

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