I always loved those "choose your own ending" books. Even at the age of 8, I liked the idea of being in control of my decisions, fictional or not. They were better than the books that told me how things ought to end.
My precociousness faded a little once puberty hit, and I started listening to all the usual subscriptions for life, including keeping my actual subscriptions to seventeen and YM magazine, which always had articles on, "How to Make Him Like You by Changing Yourself." ...I'm pretty sure that was the actual title. I mean, every so often they'd have a girl power post, but it would quickly fade into the background amongst the articles on new fall trends and Britney Spears' abs.
I started learning early that I should start comparing myself to others. This process has continued ever since. And it happens to most of us, and not just to women. We see someone getting married, having babies, getting a promotion, moving abroad, etc. and we feel it in the pit of our stomachs. Why aren't I in that place? What is the matter with me? We silently replay these questions in our heads.
Thankfully, 8-year-old Ashley always swims to the surface of my deluded mind during these times, and reminds me of what I knew all along: I am exactly where I should be at this time and this place in my life. It's my own damn story, anyway! Furthermore, I am extremely pleased with where all of my friends are, whether it includes babies, marriage or new cities. Besides, what's the purpose of a bookstore that only carries one story? How boring that would be! We were made to have many different endings.
I turn 28 in a couple days, and I am content with where I am: single, living in London, completing a Master's (eek!), following my dreams, and...choosing my own ending. And we're not even to the end, yet.