Great Social Expectations

Isabella Walker

October 16, 2019

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Last summer, I found myself out to breakfast at a favorite Chicago neighborhood spot, unable to concentrate on anything but the list of event to-dos in front of me. Engagements, weddings, housewarmings, bachelorettes, bridal showers, birthdays, promotions, puppies, baby showers, moving…it felt never-ending. As one event finished, all energy would go immediately to the next. When I wasn’t working, I was ticking tasks off a list. And when my own list was momentarily paused, I was listening to others talk about their lists. 

This is likely typical of life in your late twenties, as friends and family start new lives and invite you to join in their celebrations. However, in such an exciting time, you may not realize that you’ve wound up putting yourself on the back burner. As you rush from event to event, drafting another thoughtful way to say “Congratulations on X life achievement” mid-cab ride, you probably haven’t even realized that all of the celebrating could leave you empty.

Of course, being a part of such events is a privilege and an honor. It can be easy to forget your own needs as you swallow another glass of champagne and dance the night away. It can be a really good, fun thing. You cherish the memories with friends and family and truly want the celebrations to never end. After all, isn’t celebrating one of the best parts of life? But, like any good overextension of energy, you burn out. The planners burn out. Even those being celebrated burn out. But why does nobody talk about it?

How can we, as a culture, have created all these milestones and events and not talk about the toll they actually take? Sure, we hear about the terrible stress that can come with wedding planning or buying a home, yet we rarely mention the mental and emotional process of coming to such decisions. We push ourselves away to push forward with The List. Sometimes in these processes, we can wind up even pushing away those we want to celebrate with.

So, how do we solve this? As an attendee (and, on the other side, a planner) of many such events in the past few years, I had my moment of reckoning as I sat at breakfast, exhausted, making yet another excuse for why I would not be practicing yoga that week. “I have the bachelorette and then a bridal shower and wedding the next day. There just isn’t time,” I said, lying to myself. It’s a lesson I find myself needing to relearn most days. You have the time, yet you aren’t prioritizing it. How do you find a way to prioritize yourself in such a demanding time?

You take it step by step, knowing that it can feel (and maybe be) impossible to keep yourself #1 through it all, but grasping onto it when you can. While I’m still struggling to learn the lesson myself, I’ve found solace in knowing that it can be a time of celebration and care.

Later that evening, I walked the 25 minutes to my yoga class, and for one glorious hour, I was free of the pressure of The List. I started saying no to things that didn’t require my presence and sent a gift in my place. And finally, I started talking about it.

Isabella Walker, is a content strategist for Instagram/Facebook. She previously served as the Digital Director for Illinois State Comptroller Susana A. Mendoza. Her freelance work has been published in Refinery29, The Everygirl, Chicago Social Magazine, and The Chicago Sun-Times’ Splash. In her spare time, she sits on UNICEF’s Next Generation Steering Committee board, travels, and practices yoga.

Isabella Walker


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