The adult life
No one ever tells the youth about the overwhelming responsibility of being an adult. I was well aware that adulthood would eventually come and take me away to who knows where. I was pretty sure my friends had an inkling, too. Everyone had a vague idea of it, and yet no one was really prepared for it. It showed in the way we asked one another what we wanted to do after college and were relieved when the others replied that they didn’t know. Because you had no clue either. According to every inspirational movie set in a school, you have to find your purpose. And you have to find it as soon as possible lest you find yourself in a dead-end job doing something you hate, all because you didn’t decide what to do for the rest of your life when you were 16. Imagine waking up one day and realizing you’re at a dead end, and you’re only 20.
What they do tell the youth is the responsibilities of an adult, like getting a job, paying your bills, making your own appointments, buying your own stuff. Now being an adult is an entirely different thing. When you’re an adult, you are responsible for your own life in its entirety. Every decision you make is now your decision alone, and it will carry much more weight than it ever has before. Being an adult means having agency over your own life no matter how unqualified or unprepared you are for that job. Being an adult is being free to do whatever you want to do.
There lies the problem; I don’t have a clue on what that could be.
They always tell you that you can do whatever you want to do, be whoever you want to be. But what happens when you don’t know? They tell you that with your degree you can fit anywhere you want. Where is anywhere? Do I have to find it myself?
The answer to the last question is yes. Of course, you have to find it for yourself — which is terrifying. Being in charge of my own life scares me to the point that sometimes it feels better to stop moving altogether rather than give in to the possibility of moving in the wrong direction.
At this point, adulthood feels a lot like pretend. It’s like wearing an adult disguise while I walk among other adults hoping they don’t notice or hoping someone does notice and helpfully escorts me to the nearest exit. Until then, I will keep pretending that I know what I’m doing. Pretending that I’ve got everything together and I know where I want to go. Pretending that I’m not afraid of the uncertainty of what is to come.
When does it stop feeling like this?
Does the fear ever go away? When do I feel like I know exactly what I’m doing? When do I know where I’m going, and how to get there? Maybe no one really knows. Maybe everyone is just fumbling around in life, trying to grasp at how anything works without ever getting any answers.
Every time I think I understand something, it slips out of my reach and changes entirely. It took me four years to get used to high school and it also only took me four years to get out of it. It took me three years to feel like I was finally getting the hang of college, and then suddenly, for what felt like the very next day, I graduated.
In school at least, there are clear goals you have to achieve. They are simple and straightforward. You had to pass this class, you had to get this grade, you had to do y to achieve x. It was simple. It was easy. So what happens after? What happens when you’ve passed all your classes and you’ve got your diploma?
When you’re an adult there are no concrete goals, just vague ideas on what you should be, what you should have, what you should have achieved, yet nothing quite so crystal clear that you know exactly what you’re aiming for. There are just these vague timelines you have to follow, that not only stress the importance of establishing a career while you’re still young so you could be successful in the future, but also, at the same time, tell you wistfully to enjoy your young years because you’ll never get them back. Life expectations become a series of contradictions. Sometimes you just can’t win.
Being afraid of indecision and what toll that would take in the entirety of my life is not the only thing that overwhelms me about being an adult. It’s the fact that everyone else around me, like my friends, are also becoming adults. There is a feeling of inadequacy that comes when people around you are achieving things you feel like you should be achieving as well. It’s the bittersweet feeling that washes over you when you hear that someone got their first job while you’re still waiting for the umpteenth employer you applied to to reply. It’s feeling happy for them and sorry for yourself.
I know life isn’t a competition, but somehow I feel like I’m losing anyway. I know I shouldn’t compare my life to those around me, but how else will I know if I’m on the right track if I don’t look around and see if I’ve already been left behind? The fear of failure is not as overwhelming as the fear of failing alone.
So, all in all, being an adult is a combination of being scared, unprepared, and unsure. But I have found that it’s also about bullheadedly forcing through it anyway. It is naive to think that one day everything will just magically make sense, without
effort or hardship. True callings are rarer than what countless movies, books, and TV shows tell us. Maybe it’s about not knowing where you want to go outright but venturing out into the unknown regardless. Maybe it’s about living with these anxieties, fears, and uncertainties and still managing to find the courage to power though as if these didn’t matter at all.
Maybe being an adult is not about knowing but just about getting by.
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Micaela Norel V. De Guzman, 20, of Sta. Maria, Bulacan, is an international studies graduate of De La Salle University.
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