As people, we love looking forward to things. Always living with the hope that things will get more exciting and better…one day. As a kid, I always idealised being grown up. It was a way to imagine all the independence I would end up having when I was a fully-functioning adult. But I don't think I realised that you just don't become an adult overnight.
It's more gradual and a lot less glamorous.
I remember when all I wanted to do was grow up. It started with the smaller things - like wanting to wear the ‘cooler (read: less baby) uniform’ when we shifted to secondary section in school; from wanting to be in college so we don't have to wear a uniform; from hoping that puberty hits the desi-ness out of me and turns me into Anne Hathaway; from wanting to be sixteen and meet the perfect soulmate in college; from wanting to be eighteen so we could officially start drinking; from getting an allowance so we could start hanging out with friends; from finishing college so we could officially make our own dough (so that we could still continue hanging out with our friends); from wanting to find that romcom-fuelled lifelong partner when we’re twenty-one; from wanting our own apartments by the time we’re twenty-five; from wanting to be married by the time we’re thirty; from wanting to pop out a couple of kids by then; from wanting to have pet, kids, houses, finances, and so on. It was a never-ending list and time was just clearly running out.
I lived for the future and whatever my brain would allow me to imagine. But as a child, we are told we can get whatever we want; especially if we try hard enough, if we combat our flaws and hone skills and become a fierce unstoppable force. I liked my little bubble growing up - tried not to get too disappointed when the uniforms were actually unflattering or a disaster to keep clean; when puberty didn’t make me look like Anne Hathaway; when college had no soulmates.
The disappointment of my imaginary existence was now causing me more hurt than excitement. I was definitely hurting my own feelings with this unrealistic imaginary universe. And obviously, no amount of manifestation was going to allow me to own property when I was 25. As the disappointment grew, so did the anger and hurt that (rather silently) screamed ‘YOU ARE FALLING BEHIND’. I never questioned this thought until a few years ago, where I realised that everyone I know is kind of in a similar boat as I am.
So who am I to be actually falling behind?
Of course, my imagination by now had a personality of its own, so it was obviously realising that I was falling behind an idea of ‘what I thought I wanted and needed in life’. Which obviously, was based on a narrative that had been fed to me through other people, stories, TV, etc.
I do know that disappointing feeling that creeps in when you do not get what we want for ourselves. But should that disappointment govern our reality? Of course, we might not achieve our ageist goals but does that mean we have not achieved anything at all?
When we live with the reality of our past selves, we might live with the outdatedness that comes with those expectations. Sure, we might have achieved different goals that came with our present reality at the time; but do we account for those?
I’ve certainly had way too many imagined goals that have led me to the point of disappointment and a feeling of failure. Every birthday felt like another stab in the chest with the knife of failure. In fact, I dreaded birthdays. What I looked forward to as a child made me feel disdain as an adult. I stopped wanting to grow up; just so I could stop wanting to be a disappointment to myself. Birthdays still give me the heebeegeebees but they also force me to see the things that I did that weren’t part of the plan. Looking back, I have achieved a lot; even though there’s nothing from the goals I had envisioned for each age. Maybe there is grace in looking back rather than always looking forward.
Noticing growth rather than always measuring it with each passing birthday - is still a struggle. And maybe the idea of us growing up and being struggle-free was problematic.
But hey, maybe not all struggles are bad.