The most widely asked question of any adolescent is ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’. The importance of knowing where our life is going, and who we’re going to become, is ingrained in us from an early age. I went through a few ideas. An archeologist (courtesy of Tomb Raider); the lead singer in a pop-punk band (inspired by Hayley Williams, obviously); a doctor (it looked so exciting in ER); and, well, a grown up. The youngest of four children I yearned to be older so I could be a part of the fun they were all having.
Recently I’ve been catching myself saying ‘when I grow up I want to…’ or, ‘when I’m an adult…’ and then I realise I am grown up. But the biggest question I have now is not ‘what do I want to be?’ but ‘when will I feel like I’m grown up?’ Because, to be frank, I have no idea what I’m doing. When I look at my Facebook and Instagram feed I see pictures of people my age doing genuinely adult things like buying houses, or traveling the world. Meanwhile, I still eat coco pops for breakfast and, when left unsupervised, an entire pack of biscuits. My only direct debit is to Spotify, and I also spontaneously leave jobs that don’t make me happy with no thought of the future. That’s OK, right? I’m telling myself this is OK.
An aside about the perks of being an apparent grown up:
You can have breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast and no one is going to tell you off. You can go to gigs and it isn’t necessary to hide bottles of water filled with vodka in the bushes outside because, get this, you are old enough to buy it yourself. Nice people you’ve never met give you overdrafts so you can still go on holiday if you have no real money. You meet all of these quirky, cool, like-minded people and you find who you belong with.
Without sounding like the title of a Britney Spears film (which, FYI, is so worth watching) there is this thing I am experiencing called a crossroads. When you’re an enthusiastic teenager teachers and parents and careers advisors forget to tell you that even if you know what you want to be it might not work out. Stuff like mental health gets in the way. The ability to afford to take unpaid opportunities that could eventually, maybe lead to a dream job. Doing what you really thought was what you wanted and then realising it is so not what you wanted after all. Being happy in something and having it taken away because, well, you were only temporary. That is the crux of navigating adult life.
All of this to say, I’m 24 years old and I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. But what I do know is, through mental illness, maxed-out overdrafts, difficult times, and truly brilliant times, until the moment when we, individually, finally feel grown up, everything is totally fine.