I often think about how children, and young adults now view their future in a post Covid-19 world. Much like the world changed when I was a kid, before and after September 11th, 2001. I believe it has similarly been rocked on its axis by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic announcement of March 11th, 2020. In a world of social distancing, global vaccines, and increased job automation, I ponder how our younger cohorts are envisioning their futures? Are their career aspirations as unrealistic as mine were in grade school (based solely on my hobbies, toys, or favourite shows)? Or, as out of touch and limited in choices, as the aptitude tests I received in high school? Or has the advent of social media, ever faster internet service, and smartphones, allowed their dream careers to be much more in line with the current and future employment sectors than ours could have ever been?
One thing that I don’t think has changed in our rapidly evolving, technology-driven society, is our youthful assumptions of being settled as adults. Regardless of whether the top dream job has shifted from being an actor or a doctor, to that of a social media influencer or reality TV star. Children and teens still assume that by a certain age, they’ll have their lives pretty much figured out. My generation sure did, and so did our parents’ and so on. For example, when I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to grow up because I thought growing up would be just like it was portrayed in popular culture. Everything that was awkward about you in your youth would magically straighten itself out. Transforming you into this beautiful, well-balanced finished project of a person, that made the world “your oyster.” Those are some of the nonverbal messages I took in from the popular makeover teenage movies, magazines, and TV show segments of that time.
What you eventually figure out is that being a well-adjusted adult is a continual balancing game. You get older every day, and you keep being faced with varying challenges to overcome, while maintaining the accomplishments you’ve accumulated so far. May they be professional achievements, such as a new position, promotion, or business endeavour. Or maybe they’re personal feats, like a new relationship, marriage, or expansion of your family unit. Or even emotional milestones, such as; the loss of a friend, family member, or acquaintance. Or, the deteriorating health of any of the former.
Being an adult really means, constantly learning how to maneuver and withstand the challenges that life will continue to throw your way. All while staying on an either steady or upward path of professional and personal development. It isn’t always easy to manage. And, not being perfect at it, or always successful at juggling all the “balls you have in the air,” doesn’t make you a failed adult. It just makes you human. Adulthood, also means remembering the child you once were, and giving yourself some grace. It means being kind to yourself, especially when things get tough. While being self-aware enough to acknowledge when you are not sufficient. Identifying the situations where your team-of-one isn’t strong enough to manage it alone, is an important part of growing up. Figuring out what aid you might need to eventually “turn the tide,” is a skill you never stop sharpening. As, the hurdles you’ll clear may require wildly different solutions from one to the next.
Despite being much older, and no longer as easily impressionable, part of me still wants to turn into a more glorious version of myself. I think that it’s okay to continue to strive for growth in every aspect of your lived experience, to really get the most out of this life. And yet, I still have to consciously fight the small corner of my psyche, that somehow believes that a Hollywood version of myself could show up, at any moment, to save me from actually doing all of this self-work. I know that it’s silly, and unrealistic, but I also understand that that’s my inner child. Before I could grasp all these more adult concepts of self-help, and sustainable growth, I just dreamed, hoped and pined for the moment when I would feel that I’ve arrived. That I’ve finally moulted into the person I always fantasized I could be. With maturity, and understanding of societal marketing and consumerism culture, I’ve changed. Not in where I want to be as a person, but in the steps that are required for me to get there. I have veered away from dreams, and wishes, influenced by popular culture. Instead committing to goals, actions, and effort that I expect to bear the fruit of an accomplished personhood, and a fully realized life.
I hope that today’s teens and young adults are able to come to these realizations ages earlier than I did. So that they can really enjoy every part of their transition into adulthood. Without discounting experiences, as I once did, just because I wasn’t quite who I wanted to be yet. Along with the difficulties that growing up can engender, today’s youth also has to contend with the changes that Covid-19 brings, and the negative impacts of social media. That is quite a tall order, but I’m confident that our future generations are smarter, and even more capable than those that came before it. What might seem to be a huge feat for someone in my generation, will likely just be a “rite of passage” for those coming into their own.
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