I, like many others, have spent my entire life wanting to be older.
I hated being a kid. I craved independence from the day that I took my first step. I sought for freedom from the moment I took my first breath. I always wanted to have more choice, more independence, more opportunity, even more responsibility than I was awarded at such a young age. The joy of childhood was in some ways lost on me because I simply wanted to get it all over with and grow up.
When I finally reached adulthood, it did not disappoint. The day I turned eighteen was perhaps the best day of my life. I was finally considered independent in the eyes of the law and I wanted to take full advantage: to rush into adult jobs and grown-up apartments and serious relationships. My quest to be older didn’t stop after childhood and to be honest, I’m not sure if it ever will. I always have my eye on what’s coming five, ten, twenty years down the line. I am future oriented and that’s an asset in so many ways. But it can be also disadvantageous.
The problem with obsessing over the future is that we never really get there. We turn twenty-five and start planning for the year we turn thirty. We get the job of our dreams and immediately fixate on that next promotion. We live eternally in the future and never in the now. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing – until occasionally when the present catches up and forces us to realize that we’re not living ten or twenty years in the future. We’re living now. And every now and then we get blind sighted by desires that are entirely typical for the age we’re at.
This is a friendly reminder for all future-oriented individuals that it’s okay to simply be the age you are.
When you’re young and you’re free, you don’t have to have it all figured out. You’re allowed to be a little unsure. You’re allowed to be a little bit lost. You’re allowed to work a job that isn’t your dream job or date someone you’re not sure you could marry or waste time at a hobby you enjoy that isn’t necessarily taking you anywhere career-wise. Not everything has to have a clear, long-term purpose. You’re allowed, in some ways, to simply be the age you are. To enjoy the ride. To figure it out as you go.
You’re allowed to date without worrying too hard about where it’s going – to enjoy someone for their presence and not their future husband or wife potential. You’re allowed to kiss a few strangers and have a few flings and go out with someone for the sole reason of they make you laugh and you kind of want to see them without clothes on. You don’t have to think so hard about all of it. Some things are allowed to be instinctual.
You’re allowed to not date at all. You’re allowed to enjoy time on your own and plan your life alone and change those plans when and if it becomes necessary. You don’t have to grow preoccupied over your compatibility with others or what that date with that guy from last weekend really meant – you’re allowed to simply let people come and go as it makes sense. You don’t have to be putting yourself out there when you’re not really feeling like doing so. It’s okay to be alone if that is what you want. It doesn’t mean you’ll end up that way indefinitely.
You’re allowed to get out of your comfort zone. You’re allowed to strap on a backpack and go travelling while everyone else is getting married and promoted and popping out babies. You’re allowed to take that job that you aren’t sure about because it might be a good opportunity, even if you have to move across the country to take it. You’re allowed to jump feet-first into things that are a little uncertain. You are young enough to bounce back if it doesn’t work out. You are old enough to deal with the fallout of your misjudgments.
You don’t have to live your life based on a careful, outdated timeline that you set up for yourself when you were too young to ever know better. You may not be where you thought you’d be at twenty-five or thirty-five or fifty but maybe you’re altogether better because of it. After all, the best parts of life are the unplanned bits – the people or the projects or the passion that interrupt your plans without apology and take your life by storm.
Because that’s the irony of growing up – maturity is not derived from following a pre-decided timeline with precision. The moments that truly test and challenge us are the unexpected ones – the ones that force us to stretch and alter ourselves in ways that we truly did not plan for. These are the moments that grow us the most. They are the times that reveal our true character.
The irony of growing up is that in order to do so authentically, we have to stop trying so hard. Experience comes to us most fully in the moments that we do not expect and that we deal with entirely greenly. We fumble our way through so many of life’s pivotal moments and, frankly, we ought to. We cannot plan ahead for the things that truly matter. We cannot map out the moments that will change us because those do not happen in the future. They happen in real time, in our actual, tangible lives. And they alter the future correspondingly.
The moments that truly grow us up are the ones that happen when we’re least expecting them. And the final irony is that they are so often the moments that make us feel intensely, insurmountably young.