On “growing up”


A lot has changed about me since I was a child, as I’m sure is the case for many of you reading this:  my preferred hair length, my music tastes, my career aspirations (fun fact:  I thought I’d grow up to have a green thumb and wanted to be a gardener when I was a wee tot).

A lot has remained the same, too, though, and perhaps the most interesting of these is the fear that I would never grow up.

I distinctly remember thinking (and sometimes saying aloud) “When am I going to grow up?” a few times during my childhood.  I guess even then I believed I was destined for big, awesome things, but it’s kind of hard to do those things when you’re still trying to learn how to tie your shoes and have to be in bed by 9pm.

Greatness sometimes demands being able to tie shoes and stay up until midnight, you know.

Of course I’ve grown up in the sense that I’ve accomplished what many American young people do by the time they reach age 22:  I obtained my driver’s license (years later than most, but still), earned a college degree, and have officially entered the working world.

But growing up in the sense of finding and pursuing a dream, like my younger self wanted?

I feel like I’m still waiting for that to happen.

And if there’s any other notable thing about me that hasn’t changed since my childhood, it’s that I’m impatient.  I look at other people who are in my position—new college graduates with the drive to make a difference in the world—and they seem to know exactly who they want to be and where they want to go.  I wonder why I haven’t reached that level of self-awareness yet and when I will.  I think about all the things I feel I have to do to get there and it terrifies me.

Maybe I’ve got this “finding my purpose” thing all wrong, if that’s been the case.

My very first post for the site So Worth Loving was about my struggle with determining my purpose, and the post received a comment which said that it is perhaps unwise to believe that “purpose” is this singular, static reality.  I struggled with what that comment could mean for awhile, but I think it’s starting to make sense.

I don’t know anymore that our “purpose” is one thing that we need to identify and then go out looking for and unearth, like a buried treasure.  I think looking at purpose in that way has created a lot of unnecessary pressure and grief for me because it makes me think that I can’t be happy or fulfilled until I find my “one thing.”

It causes me to think that my life is a series of destinations rather than a journey.  And it causes me to think that my calling has been predetermined so everything I do until I find it is somehow wrong.

I’m not sure our purpose is a fixed thing because we humans aren’t fixed beings.  We’re constantly changing, being chiseled and whittled and shaped by our experiences, learning more about ourselves as we walk our paths.  Even when we do find peace and joy, we usually don’t stay there forever; we find that we grow restless and we want to keep moving.  And that’s okay.

Had I believed as a child what I believe about “purpose” now, perhaps I would have thought about “growing up” in a different light:  I’ve grown up when I feel I’ve found a sense of peace about who I’ve become, when the seasons of life change but I’m able to remain simultaneously grounded and flexible, and when I know which external things I do match who I am and which do not.

And even though I don’t think I’ve reached that point of my life, the thought of being somebody great somehow seems more attainable and less overwhelming than the thought of doing something great.

Because if I know who I am, then what I want to do should just fall into place.


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