When I was little, I thought grown-ups had it all figured out. I thought everyone over the age of 18 knew exactly what they were doing, and the world was a simple place. Everything was black and white, right or wrong, good or evil. Now I’m 27 swimming in a world of gray, and I have no idea what I’m doing.
The good news is, I don’t think anyone really does. And if they seem like they do, odds are they’re just pretending. Which is still more than I can say, I can’t even pretend like I know what’s going on. I’m a lost baby giraffe and it’s written all over my face.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I have been asked that question probably about a billion times. At least, it feels like it. And I’m not special here, I know everyone has been probed for their plans for the future, but for people who have a plan, that question is a whole lot less annoying.
The thing is, this question also gets so much worse the older you get. It’s like, impending doom. When I was a kid, and people asked me what I wanted to be, I viewed it more as, “What magical dream do you want to accomplish a billion years in the future?” Because, in my sweet little innocent, obnoxiously naive brain, the world felt like it was full of endless possibilities. Adults told me all the time, “You can be anything you want to be.” So, I believed them. I could be an actress like the kids on disney channel, or I could just decide to be a doctor or lawyer, and BOOM, I’d have a career. What is years and years worth of academic torture and crippling debt anyway?
Even in high school, when the question started to be asked more frequently, and more seriously, I guess I just sort of assumed I would just figure it all out.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
I was just following the steps, doing what I was supposed to do. There was kindergarten, then elementary school, then jr. high, high school, and college. All of those steps were laid out so clearly, it was the obvious path to travel on. But because I had this clear path to follow my whole life, I failed to realize I would have to make my own decisions one day.
I figured an adult path would just show up and take me down the road to career, marriage, and success. No one fucking told me there wasn’t a clear and obvious road map after college. Did everyone just assume I knew this is how it worked? That I knew what to expect? I did everything I was supposed to do my entire life, only to graduate college and have this clear path I’d been following disappear into thin air. All the sudden, the path was just gone. Like adulthood is this open field with no roads or direction or answers. You just wander around and hope you can figure out where to go and how to get there. And the choices you make at this point in your life, will likely define the rest of your entire future.
It’s too much pressure and not enough preparation. I was thrown into college with a long list of majors to choose from, some of which I didn’t even know where a thing, and told to decide what the rest of my life was going to look like. All at the dumb, confusing age of 18.
What’s most frustrating to me, is it seems like such a small percentage of the population is doing what satisfies them. So many of us panicked and found any job that would pay the bills while we suffer in silence and console ourselves with glasses of wine on weeknights.
The good news is, nothing is set in stone. I’ve only been out of college for 4 years and i’ve worked in almost 7 different industries, if you count gainful unemployment. And at least I’ve crossed some possibilities off my list after finding out I completely hated them. For me, it’s all about baby steps.
It’s still comforting to know that I was very wrong as a child. The truth is, nobody knows what they’re doing. We’re all just trying our best to make it work, and not completely fail at life. And even if things don’t go the way we want or expect them to, at least we’re not alone in the giant pathless field of adulthood.