What do you want to be when you grow up?

I turn 30 in a few weeks.

That isn’t a big thing for a lot of people, but I guess it is for me. Over the past few years I’ve made fun of every one of my friends for becoming 30. I teased my sister relentlessly for becoming old the day she turned 30, and I informed them all that I expected the same.

Of course I moved to New York, so they won’t have the opportunity to make me feel “old”.

Physically, I can tell that I’m getting older. I occasionally see a flash of silver in my hair. My hip pops all the time. I get tired a lot more and a lot faster than I used to. Staying awake for longer than 24 hours is very, very difficult. Waking up isn’t easy, either. I’ve aged, and there’s more aging ahead of me. Lots of it, if I’m lucky.

“You’re like a fungus. You kinda grow on people.” – Leif

All of that said, I can’t really say that I feel different mentally. I still often see myself as a young guy, just starting out in life. I can recognize minor changes to my personality over the years, but I still feel like I’m too young. Like I have this large, long life stretched out ahead of me and I can pick any kind of direction I might want to go in. This is a problem, as was pointed out by Sylvia Plath’s “The Fig Tree”. (My friend Jenn wrote about that poem this morning, and that prompted this post.)

I struggle with the term “Grown up”. We used it a lot as kids, pretty much to distinguish ourselves from adults. Adults were supposed to have their lives together. That’s what being an adult was. And somewhere along the way, we get this big idea in our heads that someday we’re going to feel “grown up”. Maybe on our 18th birthday, when we legally become adults, opening us up to the world of pornography and cigarettes. Or maybe it’s when we’re 21, and we can start getting drunk legally? Maybe it’s 25, when you’re allowed to become a state representative, or 30 when you can become a Senator? Or perhaps, 35, when you can become President?

In my experience thus far, the only time I feel like an adult is when I’m surrounded by people who aren’t. People around me speak dismissively about their lives; like their best days are behind them. As a guy who feels 20 and is about to be 30, I can’t imagine that being further from the truth. The older I get, the more I realize how in control of my life I am now. I choose which bills to have, I choose where to live my life, and who to interact with. I have family that I haven’t seen in years, and whom I never want to see again.

Guess what? I probably won’t ever see them again.

“My name’s BlurryFace and I care what you think.” – 21 Pilots, “Stressed Out”

While I recognize unprecedented freedom in my life, I am also terrified that I am wasting it. I know you shouldn’t compare yourself to other people; they’re living their lives, and whatnot. Intellectually, I get it. But I’m just as human as everyone else, and I compare myself. For example, I will never be able to get on the Forbes 30 under 30 list. I never wanted to be on that list, but now that it’s a thing I can’t do, I’m wistful.

As I was thinking about the things I want to do with my life, one word kept resonating. “Useful”. I want to do something useful. I work in the medical field right now, (which I am not fond of at all) and I know I can be useful to this field, but I feel useless. So this job, this place – it isn’t likely to remain for me. The question then becomes: what will be useful? Which fig can I pluck from my own tree that will help me be a useful person?

I’m asked, internally, in the voice of someone else: What does it mean to be useful? I’m back at square one, trying to answer that all-too-typical question: What do you want to be when you grow up?

spacer

One comment on “What do you want to be when you grow up?

Leave a reply