Growing up. It has been a constant theme within my life as of late. So has the idea of fear. I have discovered, as with much else in life, these concepts boil down to only how one themselves perceives them, and should not be taken in as the societal concept.
Those who know me, or have read many of my writings, understand I have always struggled with the idea of growing up. Even as a child, I did not like the conventional idea of a white picket fence life path-even in a skeletal form. Something about the concept seemed like such a trapping move to make. Not that having a family or a steady job is wrong, but my mind works in such ways that the idea of that life style filled me with a sense of dread.
When I entered into high school I was immediately sat down with a councilor who began to ask me such questions as “what do you want to do with your life?” At the time the idea scared me beyond all reckoning. There was no talk of change or freedom, I was literally given the impression that at thirteen I had to make the decision as what I wanted to do with the rest of my life and was never allowed to stray or fail.
What thirteen year old does not know what they want to do with the rest of their lives right? Even being conservative about life expectancy, I was essentially asked what I would like to do for the next fifty or so years. How mass produced. How fainéant. How little room was left for real experience.
Needless to say I did not want to follow the ‘American Dream’ of going to college right after high school; but rather wanted to take a year off and work. I wanted to work on my art; I wanted to live before have to grow up. I also did everything I could to rebel against this idea.
It is pretty accepted that in the Western though process there is a outline of life that is set down for people to follow. I could never accept this in my life or as my life. Still my sense of responsibility and to my family was ever persistent in my thoughts. I did not want to be a disappointment, but I still wanted to do something greater with my life than the conventional.
I have reached at a point in my life now in which it seems completely over. I have the corporate job at a desk, I have a nice apartment, and for a time I was dating a guy where the passion within the relationship was fleeting. Upon realizing this I looked at a good friend of mine and asked him if this was all there was to life? The way in which I was raised I felt that with the expectations of me this was the best I could hope for; to rise in my job, live in the suburbs, and have a relationship with someone that would always be lack-luster.
Long story short, the relationship ended with both of us being miserable in the lives we were leading, and I started forming friendships with people whom were already living the American dream with good jobs and families. We started talking about growing up, and the answers I kept getting were to swallow all the failed dreams that were slipping quickly from my hands. More experiences kept coming up, and as they did I started realizing something; living under other people was killing my soul and spirit slowly.
I started losing all of my idea of fear. I was seeking adrenaline. I wanted to jump out of airplanes and wanted to start living more than the confines of my life was allowing. The answer of ‘this is what everyone does’ was not sufficing; to me there had to me more to life than this. The one thing that has always been my biggest draw was dimming. Something had to be done.
Then I was offered the idea of travel. Not that this has not been a ever present want for my whole life, however it was materializing, and quickly, before my eyes. I was finding the extra part that had been slipping so quickly away from me and a new spark hit my heart.
There was one issue. My responsibility to my family is still strong and the idea that I would be leaving the life that they had so perfectly lined out for me and had set up. How was I going to rationalize this in my own brain.
As I started discussing with different friends, and people I knew, even the most conservative people were not only agreeing with me; but pushing me ever more to follow this one dream that I have had for as long as they’ve known me. My best friends encouraged me with a look on their faces of how much they hated the fact that what they felt was best for me was taking me away from them.
As things started coming together and all other ducks got in a row, things started to become real. It started filing me with a sense of fear. This was something that was unknown. Everything was in place, and even if the worse was to happen I had back up plans, to my safety nets, to my fall backs; if I fell down from this high, I was going to hit every cloud and branch on the way down.
Why then was there fear? I was leaving everything I have known, I was making a choice with my life that hinged on no one but myself. There was no friend, boy, or family obligation pushing me to travel; just my own heart. For someone who has spent their life for others, this was a change.
In expressing this plan to others and sharing the idea of fear, no one was short of supportive; telling me how proud they were of me and such, then going on to tell me their own versions of my dream for themselves. I looked at them and simply said, “do it”.
It amazed me at how often the very people that are encouraging me to walk into my fear and throw it the middle finger, could not in fact face their own. Even with some of the smallest things that were going on in life, just making the smallest steps were not taken and there was always an excuse.
I concluded that growing up is really about making your own decisions with your heart; and facing the fears put into you as a child. It is sad that few people seem to have grown up in any way; spending their lives living the expectations of others, and cow-towing to the fears placed in them as they were younger.