I dread conversations with ‘adults’ these days. I use the term loosely – since by all intents and purposes I suppose I am chronologically an adult myself – but I don’t really feel like one. I am truly terrified at the prospect of making monumental, life-altering decisions. Maybe no one feels entirely okay with this and the vision of being an adult that we have been sold is not exactly true. Maybe none of us really ever have our shit together and maybe that is actually okay.
I’ve managed to keep an orchid alive for over a year and it re-bloomed with an extra stalk which caused immense delight. I call her Molly and I love her very much. When Molly resurrected from the dead I felt a bit grown up, especially since my last cactus (supposedly the easiest thing to care for) died. So maybe I am getting better at this whole ‘adult’ thing. Ever. So. Slowly.
My worst kind of ‘adults’ are the ones I have known since childhood, because the inevitable question of “What are you going to do when you finish your Masters?” always rears its pokey little head. The question is posed with eyes full of wonder and the expectation of some brilliant answer. When I reply, somewhat unsure, perhaps a small stutter in my voice, my fumbled response always elicits disappointment and then, even worse than that, interrogation.
Feeling a little lost, deciding what you want to do, dabbling in a few projects and exposing yourself to different career paths, is not a response most ‘adults’ like. It unsettles them, confirms to them that you have no direction and generally posits you as a failure. As my father informed me when I expressed my disdain at this way of thinking.
“What do they want you to do? Work from 8-5 on the railways and receive your gold watch after 40 years of service?”
Well, despite not having the faintest knowledge of working on the railways (and the utmost respect for people who do), symbolically, yes. People like you to fit into a box. They like to define you by what you do, as opposed to who you actually are. To most, it’s far more important to examine your accolades than to care if you’re the kind of person who jumps over ants on the pavement or stops on the side of the road to help a stray cat.
People who fit into boxes are safe. Easy to define. Not volatile and perhaps, make it easier for all of us to accept the dreams we never decided to follow. When we all conform to the strict regulations of 9-5 life a sense of security is offered and the fact we maybe didn’t follow the path less travelled or the song that was in our hearts, is easier to swallow. There is safety in conformity.
The last occasion where I was interrogated about my future plans was at a family lunch. At this point I felt a bit like Bridget Jones when she attends the ‘Smug Married Couples’ dinner party (and no, not just because of the gaudy Christmas jumper!) She is met with contention and horror at the fact that a thirty-something could still be single.
I think this clip rings true for every awkward dinner party ever where the spotlight is on you and you are forced to defend yourself somewhere between the gazpacho starter and the beef stroganoff main.
Thank goodness for Darcy stepping in to defend Bridge in this moment (and then proceeding with the second most magical moment in filmic history where he tells Bridge that he likes her “Just as she is”…)
The first is obviously in ‘When Harry Met Sally’ when Harry confesses his undying love for Sally Albright and not-surprisingly, also accepts her for exactly who she is. (Note: Key to eternal and ever-lasting movie like romance is unwavering acceptance it seems!)
But sometimes we don’t have gorgeous Darcy or the ever so charming, yet slightly nutty Harry Burns in our corner and sometimes we have to save ourselves and be our own cheerleaders.
The scene is humorous (and casts some light on the idiocy of couple-dom making a person whole) , but it once again highlights this obsession we seem to have with telling other people how to live their lives and shunning them when the tune of their drum, is different to our own. I know I have done it. We all have. Judged a person’s life choices or lifestyle because it is different to our own. But having been in the firing line of a lot of judgement recently, I want to challenge myself to be a bit kinder, to both myself and to others. To accept those around me for exactly who they are and in turn accept myself. I think that is the key to accepting others. Before you can even begin that pretty big task, you have to accept yourself.
For so long this unknown space has terrified me. The fact that I don’t exactly know where I am going or who I want to be has caused me extreme anxiety, but perhaps it’s time to use that space as a playground for creativity.
Perhaps it’s time to acknowledge that while I haven’t got it all together, I am getting there. Maybe the uncertainty, the butterflies, the confusion and the experimentation is all a part of this crazy little thing called life and maybe it’s okay to be unsure, a little broken and a little wonky.
As a good friend once told me, “All the best people are a little bit squiggly.”
Maybe it’s time to embrace our squiggles and our scars. It’s okay to not know who we are just yet and to figure things out as we go. As Tolken wrote so eloquently, “Not all those who wander are lost.”