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Redefining Adulthood

Posted by on December 26, 2011

As the new year approaches I always find myself thinking about where I am, where I came from, and where I thought I’d be before I step into the future…

When I was 7 years old, based on the world I saw around me there were a number of things I thought I would be by 32.

  • Married
  • Kids
  • Full-Time Bus Driver or Superstar Pop Star
  • Living in my own house and staying there… forever.

Things change.

Coming from a Roman-Catholic Italian family, and a predominantly European immigrant community, my expectations of life were hinged largely on the ultimate goal of getting married, having a family and finding a secure and stable job that would provide me with a comfortable retirement.   Thinking back on my earlier years now, I cannot think of even hearing of an alternative lifestyle to strive for.

European Immigrants, for the most part, came from a time in which their future was very uncertain.  Many immigrants left their homelands and their families behind to start a new life in a new country for the hopes of achieving more than their fathers had. That goal included finding any sort of job (a luxury in parts of Europe at the time), and not having to “work the fields” for the rest of their lives.

So its only logical that following their perspectives, their children would be raised in a mentality of scarcity.  “Get an education and find a secure job.”

For years this was the mantra of European parents across North America. Hordes of 1st and 2nd generation Europeans, very smart people with the capability of doing anything they wanted to in life,  lining up for a chance to work for a government or financial institution – the apex of employment stability.  And again, I am not saying there is even one thing wrong with this, if its really what your life’s ambition is.  Though if it’s not, I’m sure middle-age is going to be screaming this reality into your face as you strive to find fulfilment.

I can’t even count the times my mother begged me to apply to teachers college, or lobbied me to apply to one of our local bank branches, “You’d make such a great banker manager!” is chant I heard for a decade.   The only reason I think I rejected this pleading is because I’ve always tended to side against authority opposed to embracing its “valued” suggestions.

And aside from this work philosophy, the second you stepped into a job, any job post 20 years of age,  the chant would change… “So when are you getting married?”,  which ultimately would lead to, “So when am I getting grandchildren?”

The ultimate march of immigrant expectations in a world that is, every year, less and less like the one they were raised in.

Born, church, school, church, work, work, family, children, work, church, children, work, retire, church, grandkids, church, die.

I had anxiety over this equation for the majority of my life. Firstly, because the catholic church never really resonated with me as an “authority” that resided within the realm of reality.  But aside of that, because as I looked to my future I could never envision myself with either the same job or the same woman forever and ever amen.

Until around my mid-20s I functioned in a state of confusion and denial.  Confused at how everyone else could seemingly follow the above equation with personal satisfaction and happiness, and in denial that I could do it too.

Finally accepting that a typical suburban life was not the one for me, was probably one of the most freeing realizations I’ve ever had.  Because finally I wasn’t trying to fit my needs into everyone else’s expectations, but I could now accept my real needs and look for ways to fulfil them (regardless of what was expected of me).

“Adulthood” is a definition that, like anything in life, evolves with time.  We cannot accept the expectations of our family and friends as the guiding light to our future because none of us are the same.  We might be similar, but we’re most certainly not the same.  Your neighbour might NEED stability, and your brother or sister might crave the need to be married (that’s another emotional issue altogether), but their lives shouldn’t define yours, or mine for that matter.

So lately, I have been trying to redefine what adulthood means to me, and what I wished it could have meant all along. Because I definitely know that for me, marriage and breeding out of peer pressure or boredom isn’t the life for me.

I know plenty of people that have very happy lives with this equation and I support and wish them nothing but health and happiness, but for me, I need something… different.

I would like my adulthood to be defined as a reaping of all I have learned earlier in life, and a choice to finally share my time with someone that adds to my life and makes it infinitely better.  I don’t know if my adulthood will start at 35 or 55, but at this point, I’m just happy knowing that I finally have a compass that knows where north is; instead of following where someone else is pointing me.

Try asking yourself that same question and see what you come up with.

Are you following your own compass or someone else’s map?

Be honest!  No one else needs to know. 🙂

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