grow up

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When we’re little we’re encouraged to take lessons, join teams, and make friends. We get to school and are thrust into a foreign environment of learning and social interaction. And through this carefree exploration we begin to discover what we enjoy, what we’re good at, how we interact with others, and what kind of people we want to be. Then one day, almost without even noticing, we are indifferent to our surroundings. We stop enjoying the experience and we begin to look forward to something else. We want freedom and independence. We want a life of our own choosing and not that of our parents or our teachers. But what happened to that blissful period of endless possibility? Where did it go? It should have warned us, or at least said goodbye.

Perhaps if we were never forced to focus our attention, we would forever bounce from one idea to the next and never accomplish anything. There are piles of books about dinosaurs, trains, and the solar system still stored at my parents’ house that would certainly support that theory. I sometimes worry that my overexposure to social media has turned my brain into a malleable piece of clay and I’ve become gullible and impressionable. After every movie that I see, I experience a blissful 24-hour period where I am convinced that I have found my destiny. In my years, I’ve thought about being a Musician, a Sketch Artist, a Geologist, a Paramedic, an Accountant, a Flight Attendant, an Actress, a Historian, a Food Critic, a Chef…. but I am none of those things. I am the restless child that wants to play and learn and discover; I am the student who aches for independence and freedom; I am the adult looking back and wishing for more time to figure out my life.

The first time I remember being asked what I want to be when I grow up was in the third grade, at age seven. We were assigned to decide on a profession and present it to the class. What am I going to be? Do I really have to decide right now? Not being able to handle the pressure, I resolved never to return to school. When tears and stubbornness failed, I eventually had to explain about the project to my parents. They helped me to throw together a last minute video presentation on a profession that they took less than a minute to choose for me. But I don’t want to be a Secretary! I was reassured that I would not be expected to follow through with this hasty decision, then I was sent back to school armed with a video and a note to hide my confusion and shame. Whew, thank goodness that’s over with.

Having never really discovered what I would like to do with my life, I chose a logical path with a high success rate in employment; a Secretary – ahem, Administrative Assistant. In the defense of Administrative Assistants everywhere, this is not an easy job. It is stressful, low paying, and often completely thankless. And so by casually deciding to take this route as if it were an easy and temporary one, I inadvertently disrespected Administrative professionals everywhere. For me, working in an office was a lot like being in a play. Going into work was not appealing to me, but it was necessary, and so I played the character. I befriended my coworkers, I went out of my way to make the boss happy, and I was wonderful over the phone and in person. I smiled and carried on as if I was exactly where I wanted to be in the world. That was my biggest mistake. There are a lot of people who are unhappy with their jobs. They go to work because they must and they continue on with their lives. I’d been fake. I’d pretended. I was exhausted.

One day I was daydreaming about what I would do if I could press the rewind button, put myself at any point in my life, and start again from there – where would I go, what would I do differently? While that’s a fun game to play, the lengthy and detailed answer to that question is not important. What’s important is that I started to realize that I am still capable of doing a lot of the things I was listing. So what’s stopping me from doing them right now. I’m not young and the possibilities are not endless anymore, but I’m certainly not dead. Time may be something that I have wasted in the past, but isn’t looking back and scolding myself for having wasted time just as bad? Wouldn’t it be more productive if I were to allow myself the courtesy of another round of carefree exploration? Yes, yes it would 🙂

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