It’s my birthday today. I am 25. I’ve not been that excited though, perhaps because I’ve opted to spend the day on a plane? Perhaps due to recent changes in my personal circumstances. I’ve had a lovely weekend in Seattle and been completely spoilt by my friend Dig… but there’s no feeling of “ooh I’m 25 now”.
I do, though, feel like a grownup. The other day, I investigated a Visa issue, rescued a package from customs, filed my taxes, and got my car tires changed. Afterward, I felt exhausted from a day running around doing things that are tedious and then I realized – I had navigated my way around things that I had no clue how to do (and no need to do) before I came to Canada. And I had done it by myself.
It’s a little anti-climatic. All through childhood and adolescence I had these plans for “when I’m a grownup” and it turns out that being a grownup is actually quite prosaic and dull.
Children often seem to think that they can be anything they want to be – they just have to decide. I’ve taught kids who wanted to be “video game designers” even though the extent of their creativity was making games with lots of zombies to kill. They don’t realize their limitations, or the sheer number of people out there that want the same thing they do. At the other end of the spectrum, I remember a girl from high school who said she wanted to work in a factory – because the money factory workers were paid seemed like a fortune, it was a “good job”. That job may well not exist in that city anymore.
Is that the most depressing part of growing up? Seeing all the things that you thought were possibilities but are now gone. I ski better than most people on the mountain, but I’ll never ski pro. I’ll never be a “dot com millionaire”, or a child prodigy, a concert pianist or a mathematical genius.
I might run a marathon, become a firefighter, learn to speak fluent Spanish, build a company, become a UNV.
I might not.
Two things have hit me lately – because a quarter of a century is something of a milestone – firstly, I feel like I’ve achieved nothing in my 25 years on this planet – I’m not where I want to be. Secondly, I went to boarding school at 16 and so the realization hit me: it is getting close to 10 years of my living situation being somewhat temporary. No wonder I walk past condo buildings with lingering, longing, looks.
Anyway, this is reality. And if I’ve realized I can’t be everything I thought I wanted to be when I was 10, at least the fraction of what I am doing is real. I am really a programmer. I really have a amazing internship starting next week. I really have been in love (with the corollary of the broken-hearted aftermath). I really have had adventures.
And what did I know when I was 10? I wanted to go to Oxbridge, but I had barely used a computer at that point and my family didn’t own one – and it turns out, neither school is much good for CompSci. I didn’t know how to ski. My “best friend” was a total bully who constantly disparaged me. I don’t remember school being fun, rather miserable – so of course I was dreaming, I expect almost anything was better than the present.
So… 25 and not doing so badly? If I’m behind where I’d like to be I should remember the most important thing I’ve learned – it’s not the destination, it’s the journey. And that’s been a pretty interesting ride.