Happy Friday, lovely reader! How are you? Shall I stick the kettle on?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that we don’t know what we’re doing. This applies to all aspects of life, including Zumba classes (left step right step turn step jump step trip over your own shoelace step) and the bigger questions like “where is my life going?”, “how do I find happiness?” and “will I ever achieve my goals?”
I had a small meltdown this week about those questions – although it turns out that Zumba is actually a lot of fun, and it’s ok to fudge your way through the trickier moves – and turned to a friend of mine who is in a similar position, i.e. in his mid-twenties with a passionate desire to succeed but no clear idea of how to do so. When we boiled the issue down to its essentials, we decided that no one knows what they’re doing at our age, and that we’re not really supposed to. This made me ask another scary question: “when are we supposed to know what we’re doing?”
We have all been brought up to believe that the older, wiser and taller people around us know what is going on: teachers, parents and older siblings have all made it clear to us that they can be trusted to know what they’re doing. This led us to believe that one day we will know what we’re doing, too. But when is this elusive day of understanding? At what age should we be waking up and saying to ourselves, “I’m pretty sure I’ve got the hang of this ‘life’ thing now”?
I have friends my age (or thereabouts) who are teachers, home-owners, paramedics, married, producers, in possession of a pension plan, and even parents. They are, as far as the world is concerned, sorted. But internally they worry just as much as people who are unattached, students, renting flats, between jobs or between life ambitions. In many cases, their external lives have little or no relevance to their internal persona. My own mother, who has five grown-up children and a life-long teaching career, admits that she doesn’t feel like an adult most of the time. (I can believe that. For starters, her ridiculous sense of humour completely belies her actual age.)
So what hope do we have, if our apparently grown-up friends and actually grown-up parents do not think of themselves as sorted, respectable adults? Are we doomed to feel a bit lost and uncertain for the rest of our lives?
The short answer is: yes. The long answer is: yes, but that is actually a very, very good thing. When we have everything that we want in life, we stop looking for anything else. We stop pursuing new ambitions, pushing ourselves to achieve and chasing after our goals. Not knowing what we’re doing is scary, but it also motivates us to keep looking, and to keep finding things to learn about and enjoy in the world around us. Essentially, happiness and feeling ‘sorted’ is fine, but it doesn’t open your mind or make you grow. Uncertainty, ambition and passion make you keep going.
It almost doesn’t matter whether we find the elusive feeling of knowing what we’re doing. As long as we keep looking for it, we will be learning new skills, travelling to new places, meeting new people and trying to be the best possible versions of ourselves. Pursuing that feeling is what shapes your attitudes and makes you a fascinating person, and if you really think about it, being interesting is much more important than being a ‘proper grown-up’.
Right, kettle’s boiled now. Could you grab the milk out of the fridge, please?