When I think back to being a little kid, it’s all wrapped up in dog kisses and the swish of horses’ tails and a flurry of blonde hair. Some things leap out in vivid detail, while others are almost completely faded away—but one thing in particular that always stands out is that I never wanted to grow up. Never. Not when I was five, not when I was 13 (and honestly, not even now at 21). While all my friends seem to hurl themselves through life, I’ve always hated change. Yes, I’ve learned to embrace it some ways (if anyone wants to take a year off to trot the globe, hit ya girl up), but I’ve always hated changing from one stage in life to another. If Neverland was a real place, I would be there in a heartbeat.
So, that said, I’ve got a pretty big state change looming on the horizon. Fingers crossed, I’m graduating in a year and heading off into the big kid world of adulting and sensible pants. And I’m [bleeping] terrified. To the point that I can’t even have a “So what do you think you’ll do next” conversation without working myself into a panic and being really quite unpleasant. I’d love to just put it in a little box and close the lid and pretend it’s not happening (because that always works really well). I’m aware that, in reality, I will need to start figuring things out and making some decisions sooner rather than later. And this has caught my inner child completely off-guard.
I grew up with horses, and I always thought I’d grow up and be a jockey, or a circus performer or compete at the Olympic Games. As I started making forays into the world of fashion and dressing less like a colorblind monkey I thought that, perhaps, I could be the next Anna Wintour. But no matter what, I always thought I’d have a little more time to come up with a real plan. Part of me still wants to run off and be stunt rider for Game of Thrones, but the other part is her father’s daughter and needs some sort of real plan. I mean, how hard can it be, right? You take your passion and work your ass off and, if you are patient and diligent, eventually good things will happen. That is—if you’ve found your “thing.” But what do you do if you genuinely have no idea what you want to do with the rest of your life? If you can’t just pick one “thing” to go after?
I’ve been told so many times by many people (parents, professors, advisers, even close friends—you name them and they’ve probably told me to be sensible at least once in my life) to just get a job that pays your bills, then figure out how to chase your dream or whatever. They’ve told me that I will be a far more appealing hire in the future if I get a big kid job for six months, then run off to do my Eat, Pray, Love thing before settling down to something. I can see that, and honestly, that aspect of things is less frightening. Allow me a moment of egocentrism, but I like to think I’m a fairly useful, competent human being. I have absolute faith in my ability to get some job that will make ends meet.
But what if that’s it? People go their whole lives working a “meh” job and paying their bills and telling themselves they will live later. That—the idea that I will go my entire life just making ends meet and never finding a dream job or seeing the world or living a life that gives me goosebumps in the hopes that “Oh well, I’ll be sensible now and wild later” is my very own personal nightmare. So many of my friends are fortunate enough to have the rest of their lives pretty much planned out, from the time they graduate, to the career, to the baby names, and are so content with that picture. I, on the other hand, feel like I’m being pulled in so many different directions that I could pass as a Ramsay Bolton torture victim (seriously, if you don’t watch Game of Thrones yet, reevaluate some priorities please).
Some days I do sincerely wonder if there is something wrong with me, because if I’m honest, I know that just getting by and having a white picket fence will never be enough. And isn’t that supposed to be the goal? Domestic bliss and good health insurance and living the American Dream? So what if I don’t want job security (sorry, Dad), or a mortgage, or a big white wedding? What if I want to do something with my life that will replace a cup of coffee in the morning? What if I want the prospect of getting up and doing what I love every day to be more invigorating than caffeine could ever be? That is something I am barely willing to admit to myself, let alone say out loud. My inner control freak wants to know what’s next, but when I get down to the nitty-gritty of it, I know that knowing what’s next for the rest of my life will bore me.
I also realize that, at this point, I possibly sound like some spoiled little brat who doesn’t know what the world is like—that some people struggle to get one meal on the table a day, if they are lucky enough to have a table to put it on and a roof over their heads. Who am I, over here in my charming, air-conditioned apartment, to be whinging on about not wanting to be bored? So please, people of the internet, let me elaborate. I am very, very lucky, and I know that. I have wonderful human beings in my life, and kickass parents, and no—I have never wanted for any of my basic needs. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t worked my ass off; nor does it mean that I have disillusioned fantasies about roughing it in some whimsical little European hostel while drinking absinthe and having epiphanies about the meaning of life.
But yes, the way I grew up has impacted what I want to do with my life. I was brought up to be curious, and kind, and independent, and to try really, really hard even when you don’t feel like it (won’t lie, still working on that last one). I always wanted to do everything my own way, to do everything for myself, by myself. So, perhaps this is just the quasi-grown-up version of that? To go careening across the globe, finding things out for myself? In a sense, following this itch, this push to just take that extra step a little closer to the edge of the cliff, would be a way of staying true to the rambunctious little kid I used to be.
When you’re little, you’re fearless, because you don’t know any better. You haven’t been hurt. As we grow up, we wrap ourselves in our hurts so as to never feel that particular pain again, to “learn from our mistakes” and grow up. And eventually, when you’ve pulled so many painful memories around you, you can’t move. You are paralyzed by the fear of being hurt, of doing the wrong thing, messing up the timing. You forget that it’s not the end of the world. When you were little you whirled through collecting bumps and bruises and it was no big deal. So maybe we should all stay a little more true to the children of our past—let go of a few hurts, be a bit braver, a bit more curious.
So I think that’s what I’ll have to do with myself. Get on with things, without waiting for a contingency plan. I know if my parents are reading this they are cringing right now—and who knows, it may (probably will) come back to bite me in the ass. But I still choose to be terrified and fearless, simultaneously. To let go of a few layers of hurt, and start moving again, to stay true to that tiny, brave little girl who thought she could do anything she decided to, and keep looking for a little electricity. Just because you don’t necessarily have a passion nailed down to chase doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go find something that makes your hair stand on end. You never know—you might surprise yourself.
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