We are Subject to Change

Dec 20, 2014 by

          My mind changes by the minute. Ask my best friend. She gets the laundry list of reasons why I think doing something is a great idea immediately followed by the catalog of reasons why it’s not. Opinions, wants, and aspirations are volatile. As we change, they change. Even conventional wisdom contradicts itself. We’re told to live in the moment, but raised to constantly contemplate the future. It starts with one supposedly simple question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

          What.

          The.

          Fuck?

          How the hell are kids supposed to answer that when adults are still asking themselves? Children can’t stay loyal to a favourite colour, and adults want them to commit to a career path? Fuck, I’m 25, and I don’t have a favourite colour picked yet. Needless to say, I could never decide what I wanted to be. In school, each time I had a what-do-you-want-to-be-when-you-grow-up assignment, I gave a different answer. The real one, “I don’t know,” would have resulted in a fail. But why should it be considered failure to not know what you want in the future? “I don’t know” should get a fucking beaming A+ for honesty, self-awareness, and the courage to own it. Perhaps, instead of people being taught to dedicate childhood and early adulthood to later life goals that their future selves might not even want, they should be encouraged to focus on foreseeable aspirations that currently matter to them. What is the sense in trying to forecast your next decade’s occupation based on today’s interests? Interests change, because it’s not just children who are fickle. It’s adults. It’s people.

          People change their minds. For that, they’re often criticized for being uncommitted, but they shouldn’t be. It is natural for interests to evolve with life experience. What I thought I wanted to do as recently as six months ago is vastly different from what I want to do now. Fortunately, unlike when I was a kid being forced to tell my teachers what I wanted to be when I grew up, I don’t owe anyone an answer. I’m already “grown up.” That should mean I get to just be. Really, that’s not how most adults see it. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” taught us to continuously look ahead. It’s exhausting. I’m tired. Aren’t you tired? I don’t know what’s next. I’m more concerned about what’s now, and tailoring it to my liking, because now is what I’m living. Now will always be what I’m living. We can keep asking ourselves what we want to be when we grow up, like we’re still sitting in elementary school classrooms, or we can be adults and accept our grown-up status by optimizing who we already are.

          I wouldn’t be surprised if some people reading this are dreamily idealizing their childhoods, thinking that sitting in an elementary school classroom right now actually wouldn’t be so bad. I’ve heard many adults say that they’d love to be kids again to revert back to a time when they “didn’t have a care in the world.” People with the notion that kids don’t have a care in the world must have forgotten what it’s like to be children – to have choices made for them, to have to sit through lessons on topics that don’t engage them, to be required to predict their futures. I certainly wouldn’t want it. I didn’t even want it when I had it. I wanted to be an adult before I was old enough to go outside for recess. I wanted maximum control over my life, and adulthood was the obvious way to get it.

          When I finally made it to coveted adulthood, it took me some time to remember what I had so easily pieced together as a kid: being an adult means living as I please, not as I was cultured. I think that happens to a lot of us. Ironically, we gain the control, but we lose the sense of possibility. I’m encouraging you to take it back. Being responsible for your own happiness shouldn’t feel overwhelming. To know that adulthood places your happiness in your own hands is empowerment. It’s the freedom to stop trying to answer that ridiculous “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and just fucking live.

 
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