the facade of “having it all together”

(and the dangers of running on the hamster wheel of life)

Nancy Chen
Feb 24, 2017 · 3 min read

When I was eight, I thought by the time I was a teenager, I’d have a perfect boyfriend, perfect skin, perfect grades, and the perfect style. I thought I’d have it all figured out.

When I was thirteen, I thought by the time I was seventeen, I’d be my high school’s star swimmer and would be starting my freshman year as a Stanford pre-med student. I thought I’d have it all figured out.

When I was nineteen, I thought that by the time I was twenty one, I’d have found a job I love, that I’d be living life to it’s fullest extent. I thought I’d have it all figured out.

But the truth is, can we ever have it “all figured out”?

I’m twenty one, and while people ask me how I have all my sh*t together, ask me how I can manage to do everything, the truth is, I have absolutely nothing figured out.

Some days, I’m trying to hold myself together and that’s the most I can do. Some days, I feel like I’m f***king awesome and I can rule the world. Most days, I’m somewhere in between and feel stuck on the hamster wheel of life.

We’re all running on the hamster wheel, but why does it seem like some people aren’t?

We get so lost in the day-to-day, so exhausted from the “should do” and “have to do” that we lose ourselves and our passions somewhere in the process.

We tell ourselves that future us will have it figured out, as if somehow, magically, five years in the future we’ll figure out how to push aside these petty responsibilities and learn to live the way we’ve always wanted to live.

But then that birthday rolls around and we realize we’re nowhere close to having it all figured out. Sure, we’re older and wiser, but do we have it all together any more than we used to?

It’s that feeling of walking into an exam unprepared, of winging it during an interview or a presentation. Of hey, I’m just going to go into this and do the best I can and hope it all works out. Not saying you’re going into it blind — you do have your brain and your experiences after all — but that you’re going into it less prepared than you would like.

Personally, I think it’s accurate.

Because can you ever prepare yourself adequately for your own life?

From my own experiences actually winging it, that’s how you learn best. From stepping into the sh*tshow and making it less of a sh*tshow, you learn. You pick up the pieces and leave them better than they were before.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok to not feel prepared for your own life, because you don’t know what’s to come. What’s less ok is feeling like you’re perpetually running on fumes, that you’re racing to keep up with life but life’s not slowing down to let you catch up.

My greatest fear is that I’ll die on that hamster wheel, that I’ll die thinking, “By the time I’m XX I’ll have it all figured out,” and really, having nothing figured out.

It’s less of wanting to feel like I’m complete, and more of wanting feel like I’ve lived without regrets or wasted time.

So what did those people who “have it all figured out” do to get off that hamster wheel?

My theory is that most of them are just like me. That they have the beautiful facade of having their life together while they may still question what exactly they are doing with said life.

Maybe they don’t feel like they might explode at the seams sometimes, or wish that life would stop for a brief moment so they can just breathe, but my theory is that no one is perfect or knows it all. It’s more of a comparison of who has their sh*t together more.

P.S. And really, life stops for no one.

So stop thinking about your future self.

Stop thinking that future you will have it all figured out, because the truth is, you probably won’t.

Instead, start being your future self. Do the things you’re passionate about and let go of what you’re not. Improve, learn, rest, repeat. Be you you want yourself to be.

Nancy Chen

Written by

wellness blogger | psych/human behavior nerd | email marketing @perfectketo | I get weirdly enthusiastic about productivity ideas

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade