Growing up is weird. It’s this messy struggle of wanting to take new risks but missing what once was, wrapped up in uncertainty and tied nicely with a ribbon of the pressure to succeed (but on society’s terms). At any given time, I feel in a sense both very young and very old. This is exacerbated by big life events, random things of a nostalgia-inducing nature, and having to make my own doctor’s appointments. A little while ago I celebrated my 23rd birthday, before flying back to my hometown to surprise a childhood best friend at her bridal shower, then headed straight to work from LaGuardia airport on Monday morning. It made me feel as if the past and the present were pulling me in two—the person I was and the person I am becoming. But I suppose the paradox is that we will always be one and the same?
I’m not sure why it feels like there is a right and wrong way to find yourself in your early-to-mid twenties, but there is this perpetual existential pressure to have soared to the top of my career, bought an apartment, and traveled the world by the time I’m 25. And if I don’t, a massive anvil will plummet from the sky and squish me where I stand—Wylie Coyote style. Obviously, both of those scenarios are a little ridiculous, but so is this pressure we place on ourselves. I have to give myself a metaphorical shake every now and again, shouting “You have THE REST OF YOUR LIFE to accomplish these things.” Especially since what that list looks like tends to vary from day-to-day.
I know people whose lives are panning out down the straight and narrow exactly as planned, as well as those who set off down one path only to find themselves on another. Some who are too lost and paralyzed by the great “what if” or too hung up on the “what was” to even put one foot in front of the other. As for myself, I mostly know what I want (and don’t), and where I think I would like to go—but the getting there is a giant question mark. I still have days where I’m gripped by the unshakable fear of having made the wrong choices, and if I should have stuck with what I once thought was the rest of my life.
I grew up with horses, to the the extent that being on a horse can sometimes feel more natural than walking. But about halfway through college, I set aside my lifelong passion to chase the idea of a dream. It sounds very daring, but it was a decision based in dread. One of my greatest fears is to be old and tired with a list of things I wished I had tried, and I was afraid of going my entire life doing something I already knew I was good at. I wanted to taste the challenge of forging a career in an epic city and see if I had what it took to live my cliche and make it in New York as a writer. To fill my life up with newness and excitement until it brimmed over. Since I’ve always been an act-now-think-later sort, I’ve set off crashing through the undergrowth, basing choices on gut feelings and believing (really hoping) that I will end up where I am meant to.
You can be damn sure I’m breathless, although whether from exhilaration or exhaustion is debatable (chasing daydreams is surprisingly hard work). I’m tired all the time and I’m not even sure what path I’m actually on- but my gut still seems to think we’re headed in the right direction. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a good cry when I was back at the barn because I miss it so much. It also doesn’t mean I didn’t make the right choice.
We owe it to ourselves not to let preconceived notions of the right and wrong ways to find our path through life stop us from chasing everything we’ve ever wanted. Worrying about what we’re supposed to do is paralyzing, while chewing our nails over whether or not the choices we’ve made were the right ones will leave us tip-toeing hesitantly through life, peering over our shoulders. The way I see it, all you can do is go for it. All fixating on the what if will do is rob us of opportunities to create the will be from the what is. Trust your path, even if you can’t see it right now. At the end of the day we’re all out here together, hunting for breadcrumbs from the universe.