The Supposed Tos

I’ve seen the Ashton Kutcher video from the Teen Choice Awards show up on my Facebook newsfeed over and over again. I finally had a hot second to watch it this morning as I was getting ready. I had no idea what to expect, but… I loved it.
A little bit of background here: I really love Ashton Kutcher. I think he’s cute and funny as an actor. And this boy I had a crush on in high school looked just like him so that might have contributed to my affection towards Ashton. It’s really clear that Ashton Kutcher has a serious business-savvy brain too. I mean, he was WAY ahead of the game in terms of Netflix. (Yes, I was one of those people who prayed that “The Beautiful Life” would gain more traction and get more episodes!)
Anyway, I loved his speech.
If you haven’t watched it yet, I really recommend it:
All three messages are ones that I 100% agree with.
But the last one about “building your life” is something that really resonates with me.
You’re supposed to take this class to get into that college.
And you’re supposed to have this GPA to get this interview to land that job.
And you’re supposed to wear this.
And you’re supposed to act like that.
And you’re supposed to have a great time.
And you’re supposed to get married.
And you’re supposed to have a family.
And you’re supposed to do a lot of things.
What are all of these Supposed Tos? Who came up with it and why do we all feel compelled to follow it?
For a long time, I did all the Supposed Tos. I took the tests I needed to take in middle school to get into the hardest math class. I was friends with the girls that I felt like I needed to be friends with. I only signed up for the classes that would “help me get into college.” I wore the jeans that everyone wore and the graphic tees that everyone bought. I was spending a lot of energy just keeping up with the Supposed Tos. 
It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I realized there might be other options out there besides the Supposed Tos. It was really quite a difficult time for me. One night, I’m pretty sure it was 3 in the morning, I was still awake doing math homework. I had been super depressed– actually depressed– for a few months. But that night I just broke down. I was not happy. And I just kept thinking in my head that this was not a way to live. Just because I was good at math didn’t mean that I should dedicate my life to my calculator and calculus. I didn’t have time for the things that I loved and when I could fit it into my schedule, I was horribly exhausted and couldn’t enjoy it.
Really after that night, which was definitely a mixture of depression and exhaustion, I knew I had to just take back control of my life.
The Supposed Tos were controlling my life and I wasn’t making any real decisions. I was following the path. But what happens when you follow the path? You end up in the same place as everybody else. What fun is that?
I took a second look at who my real friends were. I spent time evaluating what I really wanted to do. I set out on a mission to discover what it was that I enjoyed doing! I knew in my heart that I would end up at Georgetown so that’s the only school I applied to (I know, that’s definitely not a Supposed To!). I went off and did my own thing. Following my intuition and my interests equally.
By the way, paving my own way wasn’t always the easiest thing in the world. I definitely had some lapses, like my freshman year at Georgetown. (I tried doing what you’re “Supposed To Do at College,” like I was following some College 101 for Dummies guidebook.)
Even with that giant lapse, there are still times when I think it would be a lot easier if I was following the Supposed Tos, but the payoff of figuring out your own way– building your own life– is too great. It’s too sweet. It’s too rewarding. It’s too fulfilling to ignore.
I get emails all the time wanting to know exactly what classes I took in high school, what I majored in at Georgetown, how I got my job, what the “secret sauce” to my blog is, how I stay active, what I eat for breakfast, how to have exactly what I have…
Then, on the other hand, I get a lot of criticism from people saying that they’re frustrated that I’m not doing what I’m Supposed To. You’re not Supposed To be able to afford to live on your own right out of college. You’re not Supposed To start a business when you’re 19. You’re not Supposed To get a job if you haven’t had eight internships. You’re not Supposed To essentially work two jobs. You’re not Supposed To be frustrated with dating. You’re not Supposed To dress the way I dress. 
But that’s completely not it.
I have the opportunities that I have now, not because I did what I was Supposed To… but because I paved my own path and built my own life.
I can guarantee you that if you do exactly what I do, then you will still never be satisfied. And I can guarantee you that if you do what you’re Supposed To do, then you will also never be satisfied.
Building your own life isn’t just about playing around and making spontaneous decisions and being reckless. There has to be purpose to what you’re doing. Not necessarily any one end goal, but purpose is essential.
The path less traveled is an adventure.
be smart, be thoughtful, be generous.


PS I think it’s definitely serendipity that I watched this video this week of all weeks. I mentioned that this has been a week of opportunity and it truly has. None of this would ever be possible without the hard work and not following the norm. It’s worth all those uneasy “Omg what am I doing?!” feelings.
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A HUGE round of applause for this post, Carly! I wholeheartedly agree with every single word. (Now I need to find a moment to watch that video!)

Jessica Joyce

I was definitely one of those girls (and friends with a lot of them) who HAD to do everything perfect in high school because it all leads to college and beyond, right? I, too, somehow had a revelation early on that that didn't matter. It's great that you can tell people that we all don't necessarily have to follow the path that we were taught at a young age. Life really is all about strategic thinking, instead of being linear…which is why I wanted to start my OWN blog.

Your Friend, Jess

Lucy Cross

The whole serendipity thing is scary (especially as I just watched that movie last night!) and this post has definitely come at a very serendipitous moment for me! I've just reached a massive 'Supposed To' in my life and I didn't "take the path less travelled" because I was too scared and I already regret it. So I'm going to make sure that I learn from the experience that I have chosen, but this post has made me realise that I have to keep on building the life I dream of at the same time, so thank you SO much for making me realise that!!

Lucy x

Kimberly Topolewski

My Mom sent me the Ashton video and at first, I was just like "oh yeah, whatever. Another video from Mom.." But then I watched it. And maybe it's just because it's that wonderful time of the month…. but I teared up a bit. For one, I love Steve Jobs – I think he was an insane, creative, schizophrenic visionary and I feel so motivated by everything he did. Two, I'm really glad Ashton used the platform (literally) of the Teen Choice Awards to tell kids that they need to work insanely hard. And keep working hard. And to not expect anything.

I had moments like you had in my life where I sat back and went "Why am I doing this all!? What is this for? I hate this, am I doing it just to please parents/teachers/etc???" But I've always been one to do things my own way and I think that's helped me navigate from the Supposed To's.

carelessly graceful

Rachel Medlock

As much as I enjoy your posts on cute clothes or the many other topics you cover, I LOVE this type. Your writing really shines in this post, and I couldn't agree more with the message. Thank you for the reminder!

Suppose Anything Goes


There's a little something we say in the counseling world, thanks to psychologist Albert Ellis, "Don't should all over yourself." It always makes people laugh because it sounds like you're cursing, but it is SO true! Shoulds or supposed tos lead us to disappointment and feelings of failure. The word "must" does this to us too.

Don't get me wrong, I still feel like I should be doing something a certain way, but like you, it definitely eased up when I gave myself permission to do things my own way, even if it didn't make sense to everyone else.

Alexandra Steinmetz

This is a really smart and thoughtful post (or as Ashton would say, sexy). I've struggled with so many of the same issues, especially being on my own as an adult, and I think it's important to remember to build your life. Huge round of applause to you!


You are honestly so inspirational, I cannot wait to see you continue to succeed and follow along with you're accomplishments! Keep it up!


You really are inspiring. I had a major breakdown my junior year of high school as well and it really made me reevaluate a few things. Thanks for sharing!!

Zoe Diaz-McLeese

I love this post! You are always so inspiring. I loved Ashton Kutcher's speech as well, and the part that really resonated with me was when he was talking about what is sexy. Thank you for sharing! (:


I love this post! And definitely needed it today. It's so hard having all these expectations and these "supposed tos." I'm always up late at night, wondering if it is all worth it and if it is really me. Most of the time, it's not what I want. From on now, I am determined to do the things I want, work hard at the things I want, and pave that road to the future I want. It really is all up to me to achieve my goals – even if the pathway there may not be exactly what I'm supposed to do.



Ashley Cameron

Carly, this is a spectacular post and reminder. I especially loved the "The path less traveled is an adventure. be smart, be thoughtful, be generous." It truly hit home for me. Your words reminded me why in less than a week I'm about to move halfway across the world for a year to volunteer and give back to those less fortunate than I. People constantly ask "why?" or "what are you going to do when you get back?" People don't understand why I would quit a job and leave my apartment to live minimally. You would say it is not a "supposed to" thing to do for a 23 year old. But this is what I call building a life, an adventure, experiences to help me grow personally. Everyone needs to be reminded to not just live by going through the motions everyone tells them to make. Thanks again for the reminder and putting your voice out there.



I love this post. It's very inspirational and I must say that I agree with you. You have to do your own thing, do what makes you happy and not what everyone else expects of you. The way I see it we only have one lifetime to enjoy the things we do, so we shouldn't waste that…

Kathleen Walpole

Absolutely loved everything you wrote! I changed my mind on a lot of life decisions before I graduated college last year, and everyone said it wasn't supposed to be like that. But, I'm the happiest I've ever been!


LOVE LOVE LOVE. I'm glad Ashton made that speech, especially at the Teen Choice Awards, because I think there is a whole generation of young people out there who feel like they are "too good" for a lot of things, including working a job (any job). And I'm thankful for the whole "be smart because smart is sexy" part because I cannot even tell you how many times in my life I have wanted to tell people "newsflash: swag won't pay your bills!"


Kate C

It's so funny you posted about this today – just this morning I read 'The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness', a super short Tim Keller book, which is about just the same thing! It's really changed my perspective on doing-what-you're-meant-to-do and about how we can get worried about what people think of us. I totally recommend it and think you'd love it! x


Carly, I really agree with this post! I feel like I'm "supposed to" go to college- which is a BIG one- but the truth is that I'm not sure if it's for me…

Catherine R.

This was an AWESOME post. Simply brilliant.

One of my favorite quotes says this: "You are the architect of your own destiny. This life is yours; don't waste it. Live your life with no regrets."

LOVE this post, and this blog. 🙂

Brandy Drake

Love, love, love this post! I start my last year of law school in less than two weeks, and believe me I'm faced with millions of "supposed tos." I've discovered that every "supposed to" that I turned my back on has lead me down a much brighter and happier path in the long run (even though it is hard to realize that at the time).
I was "supposed to" go away for college like everybody else, but instead I went to small private college about thirty minutes from my home. Not moving away for college allowed me to spend every precious moment with my grandparents who passed away my junior and senior year in college. When applying for law school, I was "supposed to" only go to a top tier school and be involved in moot court, etc. I chose a small school, again. While it has been difficult, (it's law school after all) I've been able to network with attorneys in the location I want to ultimately practice in. There's so many "supposed tos" associated with being a 20-something, and it's more stressful when you've put your life on hold to earn a degree. I'm probably "supposed to" be engaged or married to my boyfriend of five years (who's in law school as well), judging by the engagements and weddings that pop up on my Facebook news feed.
So many people, especially teens and 20-somethings are so worried about what they are "supposed to" do, they often lose track of what they WANT to do. Sometimes I get lost in worrying about what I'm "supposed to" do, but I remind myself that I am the author of my life story.

Kassie Hoffmeister

LOVED this post. Very relevant to my life right now as I enter Grad School. I'm definitely the type of person to have a plan for everything, very early in the game. So "supposed tos" are extremely common to my vocabulary. However, I have started to discover just what you synthesized here, build your own life rather than shaping yours to "fit society" and what you think you're supposed to do to get that ever envious life you yearn for. Because what works for one person, might not work for you. Your body, personality, background and lifestyle are never going to be the same so the variables won't be consistent with that coveted life. Thank you, Carly. Great post!


This post could not have come at a better time for me! I've had so many people giving me advice for college but a lot of them the "supposed tos" and most of it not really what I really want to build for my life, although so much of the advice comes from genuine well wishers. Thanks for always being such an inspiration!

xo Tia

Caroline Lindey

I recently just posted about the same video. I didn't get the chance to see the Teen Choice Awards Live, but the next morning everyone was raving about this video. I think more Hollywood stars should talk about Hard Work more often in their speeches.

xo Caroline

Keelin S.

THIS is why you are one of my idols. I love that you aren't always afraid to admit that you don't always have it together all of the time, that you work your butt off and always try to push through. It would be an honor to meet you one day! Thank you for this, I did the same thing as you, I started a blog after a tough freshman year but your posts always help me start my day well you totally show me that hard work pays off! So thank you for all of your inspiration!


such a great message. i know WAY too many people stuck in this 'supposed to' funk. the worst part is they think that if they do what they're 'supposed to' they'll be happy in the end. wrong. not only that, they're so unhappy on the way! life is an adventure that we all need to enjoy on a long, winding road of supposed to's AND NOT supposed to's too!


Thank you so much for this post and for posting this video! It reminded me that I don't have to do what everyone else is doing. You are such a great inspiration to young people!


Stephanie Bush

This could have not come at a better time for me Carly! I am 23, and battling these Suppose To's in life, I'm suppose to know what I want to do in life, Im suppose to already be done with college, Im suppose to be out on my own already. Thanks for your inspiration! I really enjoy reading your blog, your one of the few that don't just post about fashion but you post about life and how to survive it.

Thank you for this

Julia D.

I don't think I can even begin to respond to this. I'd seen Ashton's speech before this post and absolutely loved it, but reading your input made it that much better. For some reason hearing a non-celebrity recount their journey to success and building a life makes it that much more tangible. Congratulations on everything you have accomplished so far Carly. You should truly be very proud of yourself.


Carly, I just wanted to leave a comment so that, even if you don't read it, I can somehow thank-you for all you've done for me. After reading a few of your posts, I was completely inspired to take control of my life and work harder in school and MAKE something more of myself than just the lazy girl I always was growing up. I'm studying for tests/quizzes in school (I'm only a senior in high school) and really just becoming an all around better person because I've finally found the motivation I need to get up and work for what I want. I always just assumed everything would fall into place for the life I wanted, but after reading many of your posts, ESPECIALLY this one, I've really come to understand that I have to WORK for everything I want in life and that it won't just get handed to me. I've really began thinking and planning ahead for my college/career and am so appreciative that I came across your wonderful posts! Thank-you so much again for inspiring me to be the best version of myself that I can! Muah!! <3


This post spoke WORLDS to me. Such an encouraging, truthful perspective on life, especially on a post written 7 years ago, which I’m as I am reading now, is roughly the same age you were when you wrote it. Thanks for sharing your experiences and walk through life, making some of the tougher realisations and days just a little easier knowing we’re not alone. xx