We live in a world where individualism or the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mentality is strongly encouraged. But what if during most of the life you lived you were pulled and pushed by forces you couldn’t control? Perhaps you dealt with things far bigger than you and events you couldn’t have expected like personal health scares, mental illness, tragedy, trauma, or environmental factors like not growing up with the things or people you needed to help equip you for life; let alone adulthood or a career.

Some of us spent our childhoods trying to survive our parents and their vices. Trying to survive, literally, with them. Whether it was having a place to stay for a few weeks, battling an eviction notice or trying to keep up with school materials, even though we knew next week we would have to move. Then later, when we become adults and we escaped or families, the burden to figure out survival came on us. And even more than surviving because of our pasts, we now have a will to thrive and do better than the life that was handed to us.

But society, unfortunately, holds us to the same standards and timelines as they do a student or employee with no such background and complications; as if the playing field was level. Are we all the same? Well, in fact, adversity made us stronger and our desire to succeed stronger, but that doesn’t mean we have all the same tools and access in our tool kit as our well-polished counterparts with less of a background to spring back from. In fact, part of our adulthood might be spent reconciling some of the tragedy we experienced for our own mental health while simultaneously trying to achieve the same things as our counterparts in the same work and school arenas as them. And unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of support for this process along the way. On the contrary, there’s a reinforced value that all people have the same opportunities to achieve as each other, regardless of where we came from, what built us or the amount of obstacles placed before us. This can make us push ourselves even harder without checking up on ourselves, taking care of our health and pacing ourselves at a healthy rate that is good for us; because we are overly concerned with “success”

The truth is trying to build your life based on other people’s standards is bullshit, and so is the “pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” mentality. For those of you who have endured the worst, you will have your time of recovery and learning, and you will also have your time to shine. But you need both recovery and learning to accomplish this and maintain yourself. It takes a village to realize equality of opportunity, and a community of support to both survive and thrive. This means we have to equalize the playing ground for students and families from these backgrounds and create supportive outlets, networks and organizations along the way. And for your personal network driving you, I advise that you don’t internalize the opinions of outsiders, their views of success and their timelines on when success should happen. It will happen when you are ready for it to happen. Many will doubt you but not know the actual real life obstacles you have endured that they, quite frankly, might not have been able to. Remain resilient and know that if you can overcome such great trials, you can most certainly face the things to come.

My name is Danielle I am a millennial caught in the soul-searching, money-gathering, life-figuring-out time that happens after receiving an undergraduate degree in Liberal Arts. I spend most of my time writing poems or blogging through my site “Black Bird’s Song” and my connected FB platform page, The Humanist. Other days I’m revealing all my thoughts, favorite art and poems in a stream of consciousness on my favorite app, Twitter. And on better days I’m making plans for grad school entry, taking care of business, trying to get to the gym and get to work on time. I live a simple life right now, but I’ve faced incredible adversity and have great hopes for the future.