I was four-years-old when I came to the realization that I couldn’t read.
Of course, at that point, I never could read, but it was at this age that I became acutely aware that I couldn’t read and that everyone else could.
My mom could.
My dad could.
My eleven-year-old sister could.
It was basically all the guy on Reading Rainbow could talk about…
Why couldn’t I?
So I did what any four-year-old would do and I asked my mom, “When will I know how to read?”
My mom wasn’t entirely sure how to answer this question, but she decided to do so in a way I would understand and simply told me, “When you are five.”
What she meant was: when you are five, you will enter kindergarten, and thus, learn how to read.
What I THOUGHT she meant was: the very second you are five-years-old, you will just know how to read.
So on my fifth birthday, I woke up, walked over to my bookshelf, picked up a book, and immediately burst into tears.
I cried because I was FIVE! I cried because this meant I was supposed to be able to read now! I cried because obviously something went terribly wrong.
I’m twenty-three years old and I find myself now looking at a book entitled, ‘Adulthood’ and thinking, “I don’t have a clue what any of this shit says.”
And I think to myself, “When will I know how to do life?”
I graduated college a year and a half ago and I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.
I’m pursuing a career I’m pretty sure I don’t want for the sheer fact that I need to eat regularly if I want to live/if I don’t want to live with my parents (anymore).
I guess I thought I was going to wake up the day after graduation and have everything figured out. I haven’t a clue what I was doing during those four years of undergrad, but it was definitely not preparing me for this.
And it’s not my mom’s fault for throwing out an arbitrary number and convincing my four-year-old self that age would determine knowledge.
It’s this perception we have from living in a society of “supposed to’s” and “should have’s.”
Our lives have become a barrage of checklists and articles with titles like, “Twenty-Two Things You Should Have Done by the Time You’re Twenty-Two.”
We look at Instagram and Facebook and see our peers with their perfectly filtered lives and we become acutely aware of what we don’t have or rather what we’re “supposed to” have.
And it scares us into sticking with awful jobs and toxic relationships because we’re told we are supposed to have those things. So we might as well keep the ones we’ve got out of fear of never finding something better.
And my fear is that we’re choosing complacency over pursuing our dreams.
A few years ago, I was in a relationship with the perfect safety plan. He was a nice guy and had a great job and we would have been very, decently, smile-with-no-teeth happy. And I thought, “Well, this is who I’m supposed to date. This is where I should be. We’ll get married and live our mundane life of moderate happiness because that’s just what you do.” (Fortunately, we chose a very dramatic breakup instead.)
I went to school to be a writer. I got my degree in creative writing, but now I’m pursuing something else entirely because I got scared and I didn’t know what else to do and for some reason, twenty-five just seems like the age to have life figured out by (and it is quickly approaching).
The thing is, failure is a part of the learning process. No one just opens a book and immediately knows how to read. There is growth in learning and it takes time. And sometimes it hurts because we think we should have it all by this “time” or “age.”
We have to stop telling ourselves that this is how it “should be,” because it’s not. Settling for a terrible job or relationship will only make you bitter, not better.
By choosing complacency, we are essentially saying, “Well, I guess this is just how it’s going to be.”
And I understand (to an extent), especially with jobs. Sometimes you don’t have a choice, because like I said earlier…a girl’s gotta eat.
So I’m not saying quit your job and dump your boyfriend.
But you can’t stay with it simply because you’re scared of failure in the pursuit of your dream. If that’s the case, you’ll never really be happy.
I’m not going to stop writing just as much as I’m not going to let the “idea” of a relationship outweigh the actual thing.
I have no idea where my life is going and that’s wonderful because it means I’m still learning and growing and yeah, I might fail, but I refuse to settle for something I’m “supposed to” have or do or be.
Someday, I’ll open the book of my life and know exactly what it says, but for now, I’m glad that it’s still being written.