There’s a general timeline to life. While you may go out of order or move more quickly at some times than others, people think they’re supposed to graduate high school and go to college. There, you’ll have this big adventure where you’re supposed to find yourself. With that checked off the list, you can get a job, get married, have children and settle down. There’s this emphasis on “finding yourself.” Some time between the ages of 18 to 24 where you’re almost expected to find yourself. You have permission to not know who you are and the freedom to travel, see things, learn new ideas, take in new cultures and meet people from different backgrounds.
BUT THEN WHAT?
I hate the idea of finding yourself.
From the moment we are born, we’re finding ourselves. We are learning about our passions, what drives us, where our creativity springs from. As we get older, these things change, as they should. Every single decision we make, we are learning more about ourselves. What motivates us? What do we need to be happy? How do we define happiness and success? If we fumble, we recover, and we are still finding ourselves — still learning, still growing and sometimes simply still just standing.
Hopefully we will have experiences that expand our horizons. Travel is great for that. In fact, I think everyone should take a year to travel on their own, without family and friends nearby. The decisions you make when you are lonely, bored or when you don’t think anyone you know is watching show you who you are better than any other experience. But even then, that’s just who you are at that moment.
NEVER FIND YOURSELF
Finding yourself is a fallacy. I was a different person at 15 years old than at 20, 25 and 30, and I’m thankful for that. If a decision I made when I was 18 defined the rest of my life, I would not be the person I am today. I think this expected timeline puts enormous pressure on young people to pick a major, stay on track, do this so you can follow up with that…
I guess what I’m saying is that I never want to be satisfied that I’ve found myself. Finding yourself isn’t about the end goal, it’s about the journey. It’s making choices and being OK with who you are but still wanting to be better. It’s about knowing that every decision you make is a stepping stone to another opportunity. Each decision carries its own weight, but no single decision defines you forever.
I say let’s never find ourselves. Let’s have the courage to keep looking, learning and leading. Look everywhere. Visit that place you’re scared of, talk to that stranger, search for your reason for being. Do anything, do everything, just get out there and do it. And may you find your true self at every stop along the way.