I Thought I’d Know What I Was Doing By Now

I used to think that Grown Up was a destination I’d reach when I hit a certain age. That being Grown Up was synonymous with knowing. Every birthday, I would face my candles, close my eyes, and wait for that feeling of instant wisdom.

That sense that I was done inching up the metaphorical tape measure of life.

Even when I was a child, I used to look enviously at high school kids. They, like other Grown Ups, just seemed to know. They knew math and knew how to rule the school. But when I got to high school, I realized that 10th graders were just kids in awkwardly large bodies. They had dreams and convictions and opinions, but they had no clue what they were doing.

I figured they just weren’t grown up enough.

So, when I was in high school, I turned admiringly to college students. They just seemed so sure. They knew their majors and they led their lives with autonomy. But when I got to college, I realized that college students were just high schoolers in awkwardly large bodies. They had control over their schedules and were a lot worldlier, but they also had no clue what they were doing.

I figured that they, too, weren’t grown up enough.

So, when I was in college, I realized that maturity and being a ‘real person’ meant being an Actual Grown Up (Actual Grown Up status was applied to people who sighed or hesitated before revealing their age). They who were married. They who had careers. They who had successfully raised children past the terrible twos.

Because they all just seemed utterly secure in their knowledge of what was and what would be. It seemed they really knew.

And there were those rare moments when I, too, felt that clarity. Those times when I knew exactly where my life was heading and how I was going to get there.

Like that time I sat inspired in a gap year program in Israel – absolutely sure that I was never going to go to college (Note: Now getting my second bachelor’s).

Or that that time I started college – absolutely sure that I was going to be an Occupational Therapist (Note: Studied something entirely different).

Or that time I got engaged – kinda sure that in 5 years time, I’d probably have 6 kids (Note: Still single).

During those moments of knowledge, I felt at the top of the world. Like I had finally gotten the hang of life. Like I could finally say that I was an adult: a fully-capable, living-out-my-potential, independent, firmly-rooted, mature, functioning member of society.

Like I could finally make my parents proud.

Until my plans didn’t work out quite the way I had expected and, once again, I had no clue what I was doing. I was a Still-Growing-Up, after all.

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But the more I spoke with the Actual Grown Ups of the world, the more I understood that although it seems like others have their lives on track, absolutely everyone goes through periods of having absolutely no clue what they’re doing. Of being lost. Sometimes, they are just as confused as those 10th graders.

Because life is not what you expect. Life is not what you plan.

Things that are facts will reveal themselves to be fiction and ideas that you took to be fantasy will come true. Friends who you knew would always be there will fade away, and people who you did not know existed will be there for you in times of need. Confirmed business deals will fall through and career opportunities will sprout into your peripheral vision.

It will all change in an instant. Many times.

And you will make decisions and then, if those don’t pan out, you will make new ones. And you will do the best you can with what you have.

And you will make mistakes. And you will learn from them. And grow.

And it may hurt. Because even Actual Grown Ups experience growing pains. But that’s a good thing. Because that means you’re getting somewhere.

Often, people think they’re only valid if they know. We all covertly glance from side to side and it seems that everyone else does.

But no one really knows what they’re doing. Everyone is just trying as hard as they can. And that’s ok.

In fact, it’s more than ok. Those random, unexpected periods of not knowing what we’re doing are why we’re here. They’re why life is hard and easy, and complicated and simple, and challenging and rewarding.

But most of all, those periods of growth are why life is beautiful.

Please G-d, may we be blessed with clarity in all of life’s decisions. But when we’re not, may our continued Growing Up be not be in a way of growing pains, but in a way of growing stronger.

And yes, by this stage in my life, I thought that I would know what I was doing. And some days I do. And some days I don’t.

But I’m looking forward to refiguring it out.