Sometimes you set out to be something in life and it doesn’t work out. I can tell you this from experience. I can tell you this because I’ve been a retail worker and a babysitter and a nanny and an assistant and even one of those people who rings your doorbell and tries to get you to support political movements you don’t actually care about.
Let’s make it clear that I didn’t actually want to do any of those things.
Basically, I’m in my twenties and I’ve had a lot of jobs. I have a degree that was preceded by a great college experience and a lot of knowledge but was followed by an alarming amount of student debt and passions that wound up morphing into something entirely different than what they originally started as. I spent years studying to become something I ultimately decided wasn’t for me once I was finished. Hence all of the random jobs I worked because money is a thing and we need it to survive.
And all of that is fine. When we’re young, like teenager-young, we genuinely believe we have everything figured out. That life can’t throw much more at us than what we’ve already seen and experienced. We believe the responsibility of figuring out what we want to do with our lives is totally manageable when meanwhile the biggest decision we’ve been allowed to make thus far has been what to order as a hot lunch on the cafeteria line. But we’re given the responsibility regardless and we take it willingly. All we want is freedom, to be taken seriously. We run with what’s expected of us and try our hardest not to fuck it all up. Usually, it’s not until we look back on our experiences that we realize we thought we were steering a ship we barely had any control over.
I’m not saying we’re all morons or that there aren’t any twenty-somethings who know what they should do once we get to that age when we’re supposed to be actually “making something” of ourselves. I’m sure there are tons of people my age who have the whole adulthood thing figured out. Who have fulfilling jobs with great benefits, a 401k they actually contribute to and a savings account they don’t use as a backup for when they’re short on the rent because they spent too much during an online shopping binge. I’m not saying millennials are useless and spoiled and clueless about the realities of the real world.
What I am saying is that I’m still not one of those people who have it figured out. Like, at all.
What I’m saying is that I’m now officially in my late twenties and still go through phases like I’m a fifteen-year-old girl. I still can’t cook and have, at this point, an unreasonable aversion to anything green on my plate during meals. I don’t have a day job that I find totally-fulfilling and my apartment doesn’t have a dishwasher. I still find myself insecure about my body and am overly reliant on social media likes and follows. And when I look back to the goals of my younger-self, I discover that past me thought I’d be way farther down the line of success than I actually am at this point.
I still struggle. I go through creative plateaus and sink into deep valleys of disappointment. I get frustrated at myself for not working hard enough, for not meeting personal deadlines and for putting so much emphasis on my outer shell when I should really be making myself happy rather than everyone else. I have a long way to go as a person. I still make stupid mistakes and say things I almost immediately wish I could take back.
But the truth is, I’m not sad about any of this. I don’t wish I could go back in time and change the decisions I’ve made. I don’t wish I could time travel and realize what I really wanted to be a writer rather than a therapist. I don’t wish I could take back all of those hours of studying and worrying and stress. I don’t wish I hadn’t worked all of those shitty jobs and I don’t wish that I hadn’t made all of those mistakes I’ve made while traveling along the path that brought me here.
I really hate saying that because it sounds so incredibly cliche, but it’s true. Even if “now” isn’t where I thought I’d be at this point. Even if “now” is sometimes a difficult place to be. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m this age and still don’t have it figured out, but then I remember that my experiences have taught me that “figured out” is a myth. Because as we grow older, we realize that we’re definitely not the only ones who are winging it while pretending we’ve known what we were doing all along.
The facts are that life can be hard and work sometimes suck. That things don’t always work out and we sometimes have to start over from the beginning when all we really want to do is quit. But there’s also so much more that creates the bigger picture that we’re a part of. We just have to keep reminding ourselves. Reminding ourselves that the sun always appears in the sky each morning, no matter how badly we messed up the night before. That our dreams may change and morph into something new, but they never disappear, which is really pretty awesome when you think about it. That getting older doesn’t mean we’re running out of time, but that we’re learning new things about the world, about those around us, and about ourselves.
I’m not completely where I want to be, but I’m closer than I was five years ago. I’m closer than I was last year. In the end, I’m closer than I was yesterday. So no, I’m not sad that I’m not where I thought I’d be by now. Really, I’m just grateful that I keep getting the chance to try again.