40 and Still Growing Up? 3 Reasons Why That’s a Good Thing

When I graduated high school in 1999 (uggghhhh), the song that was playing on the radio every hour (remember the radio??) was The Sunscreen Song by Baz Luhrmann. Although undoubtedly obnoxious, a lot of the advice in this alleged commencement speech set to a 90’s beat did, actually, stick with me. Specifically, this statement sunk in:

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at twenty-two what they wanted to do with their lives; some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.”

I think I knew intuitively at age eighteen that I would never know what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” And this statement from a seemingly-wise songwriter was comforting in a way, because at least I would be able to claim that I was an interesting old person (because, everyone knows you’re washed up when you turn forty).

shrug

More recently, I have similarly been inspired by Jeffrey Marsh, a proponent of radical self-acceptance and the author of HOW TO BE YOU: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life. Marsh acknowledges the pressure that most of us feel – as adults, and weirdly even, as kids – to have it “all figured out.” But, Marsh notes that this is actually a myth. Most of us won’t figure it out. And this is why that’s a good thing:

  • The more you think you know what you are supposed to be, the less chance you have to discover what might truly make you happy. Because, if you make an unwavering conclusion about the outcome of your life based on family or societal expectations, there is a good chance that this decision will not coincide with the things that actually bring you joy.
  • Once you think you know, you stop growing. And this is where Luhrmann was right. You check out from your life, because you’ve decided what and who you are. You stop exploring. And you probably aren’t so interesting anymore.
  • What you are yearning for is the questioning, not the answers. When you are questioning and exploring, you are learning and living. It’s actually the process that is thrilling, not the discovery itself. In the words of the rad and tubular band Aerosmith: Life’s a Journey; Not a Destination

And in conclusion, I have to leave you with some of Marsh’s humor:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A joyful, enlightened being, shining with inner light of a million stars.”

“Go to your room.”

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~Post by Kelli, nonfiction reader, skeptical spiritual seeker, reluctant Pisces, and blocked artist
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