Who are you? What do you want to do with your life? What are you looking to gain from this experience? These are some of the most commonly asked questions you hear throughout out your life. It begins in kindergarten with the simple question of “what do you want to be when you grow up,” and we hear it in almost every stage of life there after. It’s ingrained in us to define ourselves as early as possible, and we end up running through life trying to meet self and societal imposed expectations. At some point, we realize we aren’t doing what truly want or we aren’t where we expected to be.
Normally it’s referred to as mid-life or quarter life crises, depending on when you go through them. We begin questioning again, putting constraints on ourselves; the labeling and putting ourselves in boxes. Who am I? What do I really want to do? What do I want to be? But once you realize you aren’t on the path that you want or who you thought you would be, it’s inevitably met with fear. As human beings we long for control in this seemingly crazy world. We want to feel like we have power over our own lives and do so by defining. We define ourselves, our successes and our failures. It’s not our fault. We’re told to make these choices from the time we’re small. It’s only natural that we want to live up to the constructs we’ve built for ourselves. When these constructs fall, it leaves us dizzy and reeling from our loss of control and understanding. But why must we do this? Why do we need to label ourselves, force ourselves in to these boxes? It wasn’t until recently that I realized we don’t.
There is nothing wrong with not knowing what you want to do or where you want to go in life. There are millions of people in this world who still don’t know what they want to be when they “grow up.” None of these people are under the age of the twelve. They go through each day exploring and learning, and that is the key. So many of us stop after we’ve lost sight of what we want or who we want to be. When something doesn’t work out, or we realize that something doesn’t make us happy, we just stand still until we are forced to move. We force ourselves into unhappiness and complacency. We focus on the failure and the shortcomings that brought us to this new point. The people who truly seem to grow through these periods don’t stay stagnant. They may allow themselves some time to wallow in self-doubt and self-pity, but sooner rather than later ,they move. They may not move on right away, but they move. They try something new and keep going. They don’t allow themselves to sit in shame or self-loathing. It’s that old saying of getting back on the horse. After all, a man who dwells in self-doubt or pity can not experience joy. He’s simply not open to it.
Once we strip ourselves of these expectations, we can fully accept that time is not linear. To quote a notable doctor, it’s a big ball of wibbly wobbly timey whimey. You don’t always hit milestones in a straight line.
We need to put aside our expectations and look at how life really works. We need to stop assigning ourselves qualifiers and putting ourselves into little boxes. Whether you walk a straight line or end up making hundreds of twist and turns, you are no less valuable for it. If you don’t know what you want to do, where you want to go or who you want to be, just get out there. Learn what you don’t want. Learn who you aren’t. Learn where you don’t want to go and don’t give yourself a hard time for that. Just go. Move. Live.