I’ve kept in touch with my best friends from college, even though our lives have taken drastically different routes. One is getting her masters in biomedical engineering. One just returned from overseas where she worked as an au pair and traveled. One is building her career in marketing. And another is advancing in the world of graphic design, toying with starting her own business. We live all over the country—at one point, all over the world. Our different paths and geographic distance, however, have been no hindrance to our relationships with one another.

I’m proud of my friends for staying away from the safe life and instead taking on new adventures whole-heartedly. With adventure, however, pain, letdowns, and drama undoubtedly rear their ugly heads.

After a week wracked with pain and difficult situations, one of my friends asked me, “Does life really smooth itself out when you have a good job and the love of your life?”

This question caught me off guard and made me really reflect on my life. My immediate response was a resounding YES! But, I’ve had a good job and that same love of my life since I left college. And, it has certainly taken me a while to create a stable life—or “smooth” as my friend would say. The three years since college have been rocked by uncertainty, heartache, and, at times, regret.

As I thought about my friend’s question, playing it over and over in my head, I realized that my life isn’t smooth and theirs rocky. Instead, for the last three years, I battled myself, fighting the need to make compromises. I finally accepted that I can’t have everything and focused on achieving the things most important to me: stability, love, and a fulfilling career.

To have this great job and amazing lover, I’ve given up having friends or family nearby to lean on, my relationships with others are strained compared to what they once were, I hate the city I live in, I have no spare time to enjoy life, and my life has become a monotonous example of adulthood.

(It would take way too long to discuss my path to a stable relationship [maybe I’ll address that in another post someday], but I will discuss the work part of my friend’s question…)

I truly do have an amazing job—one that challenges and inspires me. I count myself blessed for the opportunity. But with it comes great sacrifice. I spend almost 12 hours of my day commuting to and being at work—much more when it’s a particularly busy time at work. Because of the time commitment it requires, I’ve lost the time to do the things that once defined me. I haven’t touched a paint brush in years. My Nikon is perched on top of my desk, practically untouched. And I can’t remember the last movie I was able to watch without falling asleep half-way through because of sheer exhaustion.

Meanwhile, I hear stories of my friends learning and performing salsa dancing, going to the theater, redoing furniture, and editing photos and creating beautiful invitations. For that, I can’t express how much I envy them. As much as it pains me, to get to this stable life, I’ve lost a part of myself. My priorities have changed, and I compromised part of who I am to create the life I want. While I’m happy with my decisions, I still truly miss participating in the activities that calm me and make my soul at peace.

In a book that I’m reading, the author writes “there are so many different ways to be 26.” When I look at my friends, I know that there are so many different ways to be 24. No way is better than the other; they are merely the result of different choices. We each have different priorities, and because of that, our lives are lived under different circumstances. Each of us has given up something, but gotten something different in return.

Although our lives were so similar just three years ago, we have pursued different parts of our lives that lay hidden during college. Today, we are five women who share common memories and a common bond of the past, as we carve out our individual paths for the future.

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