I’ve been going through this existential malaise lately. Who am I, apart from the roles I play for others? What do I really want out of life? How do I actually go about putting that in concrete terms and then pursuing those goals?
You know, the kinds of questions you’re lucky to be able to ask yourself about the kinds of problems that, ultimately, you’re lucky to have.
I’ve been thinking a lot about where my expectations for myself as an adult come from and how they’re gelling with the actual life I have now. So this week’s Monday Listicles about 10 Things As a Child You Thought You’d Be suggested by Wendy at Twisted Domestic Goddess seemed like a great idea.
Perception: I thought adults had all the answers so if I listened up and studied hard by the time I was an adult I’d be a veritable fountain of knowledge, right?
Reality: I studied (a lot). I listened (somewhat less than I should have). I flatter myself that I’m well read, educated, engaged with the world, and generally not an idiot. And I’m pretty sure that saying, “The more you know, the more you realize you have no idea” is true. There is so much to know in this world that only a very few can even accurately claim to have scratched the surface.
Perception: I mean, as an adult I would know everything. So, of course I would be confident. Duh.
Reality: It’s not that I’m an extremely diffident adult, per se. But confidence is way more complex than I imagined. Some days I’m rocking it and feeling supremely self-assured, other days I’m a white knuckled fake-it-till-you-make-it train wreck, but most days confidence is something I strive for and at times attain rather than something I just posess.
Perception: If I knew a bunch and was sure of myself then, of course, I’d have my whole life securely mapped out in front of me.
Reality: I’m a mature, responsible adult who enjoys spreadsheets and childrearing more than spending sprees and benders but is everything in my life nailed down and mapped out? Hell no. That saying, “Shit happens when you least expect it” is true too. Ultimately you can’t take anything for granted and nothing is for sure.
4. Immune to temptation.
Perception: My parents were always like, “Don’t eat too much junk food” and “Don’t stay up past your bed time” so clearly irresponsible, childish things didn’t even tempt adults, right?
Reality: No. Just no. I still want to stay up until 1 a.m. eating ice cream. Some nights I actually do. And now the array of temptations has grown expotentially so I’m kind of lucky it’s just late nights and ice cream.
5. An imposing physical presence.
Perception: Adults are, like, Amazonian, especially when you are 5 year olds.
Reality: Damn you, genetics! I’m 18 kinds of average.
6. Thoroughly undomestic.
Perception: My mom was always doing a bunch of chores. They sure looked like they sucked. So when I was an adult I was going to outsource that mess.
Reality: Sadly, I am also not 7. Rich so living in a full service apartment and eating out for every meal is not an option. Since outsourcing that mess isn’t possible I’ve either do some chores or live in the mess. I pick the chores. Most days.
Perception: As an adult I would be my own woman so I could basically do what I wanted when I wanted, right?
Reality: The older I get the more I realize that our lives are all interwoven. We all need friends, family, and community or else we’d become hermits with our souls dying a slow, malignant death. So I guess it is possible to be totally independent but I don’t fancy becoming the unibomber so I guess I do have to consider others in my decisions.
9. Put together.
Perception: What with 1. – 8. going on am I going to be driving around town in a car that hasn’t been washed in a month with my hair pulled back in bun because yesterday got so out of hand a shower didn’t happen? No way. Not me.
Reality: Yes. Yes me. That’s exactly what I’m doing on many, many days.
Perception: You do your responsible grown up stuff, you achieve your goals, and then you’re just happy, right?
Reality: I’m not unhappy. And I have some very happy moments and like my life. And yet… I still feel like I’m missing something. This existential malaise sets in periodically and I have to actively deal with it and push for happy. That’s the thing about happy, I’m finding: you don’t just get to be happy like you get to be tall or have long hair. You have to actively pursue happy like you do raising a kid or having a career. You aren’t entitled to it. You have to make it happen.
All in all reality does not match up well with the perceptions of a very young me. And that’s okay. It would be kind of weird if that were generally the case because then half the people I know would have ponies. So I guess the question becomes where do I want to be next? Because even though I’m an adult hopefully I’ll never be done growing up.