When you're younger you imagine that one day you'll be an adult. You'll know things. You'll know your path in life and be making steady progress. You'll be mature and wise in a way you never were before. Then the years tick by and you keep waiting. Waiting for that moment of becoming an adult to arrive and it never does.
It makes me wonder what does being an adult mean if it's not this moment of divine clarity we all believed?
Our image of adulthood comes from our culture and media. We like to clearly define things even if the reality is a lot murkier. We're raised in a structured system of schooling that teaches us there's a clear path forward in life. Pass these exams, go to the next level, and repeat. Adulthood can be the first time we become fully self-aware. We see that there is no path any more. Those who we thought knew it all were just making it up as they went along.
Life itself is a journey of self-discovery. Of finding your niche in this huge world. Yet as a child, this journey can be diverted. We're faced with so many influences that we can lose sight of our self. Every encounter we have as a child can shape us in some tiny way. And as we follow the structured system we're forced into we come to rely on its tropes. Rather than diving into the unknown, we long for definition where this is none.
As I get older I find myself benefiting from not just learning more but also unlearning things I knew.
Unlearning the fear of failure instilled in me in school has been the most rewarding. I've taken more risks, many that have failed, but I've learned more from them. I've had to unlearn that being wrong is bad and now I'm happy to accept my mistakes and get better. I've unlearned social conditioning I wasn't even aware of. My aspirations were limited to what I saw others around me accomplish. I had unconsciously learned that you could only be what those around you are. Unlearning that made me believe my possibilities are limitless.
Adulthood then is becoming self-aware. Self-aware enough to see your flaws and limits and unlearn the baggage accumulated in childhood. As you do you can continue along your journey of self-discovery, the journey of life, unrestricted by the past and growing better each day.