When I was 18, I had all these big plans for myself and how I was going to live my life. I was going to go to college and then go to medical school, marry my boyfriend Sean 1, get very rich, and have two or three children that we would only send to private school since we would be rich enough to afford it. We would have a big house, fancy cars, and we would live happily ever after 2.
When you’re 18, everyone expects you to have your life all figured out. You are supposed to start college knowing exactly what you want to be when you grow up, and you should have a carefully thought out plan to get there.
No one thinks about the fact that the average 18-year-old is making these plans simply to please their parents. No one acknowledges that a lot of these parents put undue pressure on their children (often based on their own failings), and they expect perfection because they are living vicariously through what they view to be a second coming of (and a second chance for)themselves.
That type of pressure often ends up with young people making lifetime decisions without ever having the experience or the skills to know what it is they really want, and that is totally unfair.
I’m not sure what I thought 43 would look like when I was 18, but I am pretty sure it looked nothing like what I am living now. The road here was long and windy, and there were many pit stops along the way. I got to meet a lot of people, travel to a lot of places, and do a great many cool things.
Without a question, the best part of the journey has been getting to know myself.
No one tells you that you won’t even know who you really are until well into your thirties. That is when you begin to figure out exactly who you want to be, outside of the expectations of everyone else. That is when you begin to live as your true, authentic self.
I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve always been writing, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I recognized I really had a talent for it. Up until then, it was just something I had always done in diaries, notebooks, and on random scraps of paper. And even then, even when I realized it was something that I could do well with every little effort, it still wasn’t something I took seriously or considered doing as a career.
In my thirties is when I realized I really had no desire to have children because I wanted to live life unencumbered and able to leave at a moment’s notice to follow whatever diversion I had discovered along the road of life.
My thirties were a time of great exploration for me. I spent a lot of time finding out what I liked and didn’t like. I took time to shake off old perceptions and work on new ideas. I spent time blogging and using storytelling as a way to figure out many of the problems and situations I was encountering in life.
My thirties were where I worked out many of the kinks.
My forties are where I have been putting things into action.
I’ve realized that we never really grow up. We just continue growing. Whoever came up with the concept of growing up anyway? It is limiting to think that there is some finite point at which you lose the ability to take on new challenges and learn new things
I am still learning. I am still growing. It is a process every single day.
There is still so much more for me to learn and discover about myself. There are still many places for me to go, and there are still a ton of things that I want to do.
There are probably still a lot more things I don’t even know I want to do yet, because I haven’t had a chance to discover them.
On this 25th anniversary of my 18th birthday, I want to be as wide-eyed, open, and curious about the world as I was back then. I want to remain ever engaged in the process of renewing my lease on life. I want to remember that as long as there is breath in my body, there is opportunity for me to do more, be more, and see more.
I don’t want to grow up. I just want to keep growing.
header image: Austin’s 13th birthday by Meredith Bell