As soon as I finished school, I got myself a full-time job and worked my ass off. Most of my friends did that over summer too, so we were all in the same boat there.

But, when they started to cut down on their hours and spend their pay on new laptops and textbooks in time for the start of uni, I bought a plane ticket instead.

I spent the next several months backpacking across South East Asia along with thousands of other kids on gap years. I ate my weight in street food, fell off my motorbike, got drunk off questionable spirits, chased a few sunrises and even met a few people that I still call friends now.

But like all good things, it came to an end and eventually I had to head back home. Travelling was my first real taste of freedom and being back in Aus I felt tied-up; bound by routine and the normalcy of where I lived.

Worst yet, all my friends were in the midst of uni exams and we barely had time to see each other. I was bored with nobody to hang out with, and when we did, all they ever talked about were uni readings and a bunch of other school-related things I neither understood nor gave a shit about. They were talking about internships and summer school and Nietzsche and GPAs and I was not about it, not in the slightest.

Even though I wasn’t interested in their flash cards and hours of lectures, the real problem was that I felt like I was being left behind.

It felt like all my friends had gained a few steps on me–that they were getting closer to their goals and all I did was spend half a year messing around on various beaches. It felt like they all grew in one particular way and I couldn’t relate to them anymore; we had totally different priorities now.

Thankfully, this all turned out to be all bullshit. As the years went by it transpired that hardly anybody stuck to the same, singular path. Some people dropped out of uni and found a job they liked instead. Others changed degrees or switched to studying a VET course or doing an apprenticeship. Lots ended up travelling and even took time out of their studies to do so, just like I did. There were even some that stayed on to finish their degrees right away and jumped immediately into full-time work and that was cool too.

What was important for all of us to see is that everyone is doing what’s right for them. I wasn’t being left behind, because to be left behind implies that there’s only one possible road to success and that everyone has to be tracked according to this.

Instead, people are doing their own thing and going at their own pace to get where they want. There’s no need to be competitive or to compare progress against others, because everybody’s journey is different, and so are their goals.

In the meantime, I’m just doing what feels right for now and that’s worked out pretty bloody good so far.