It's been a while since I've posted anything, but with my next birthday soon approaching, I was inspired to write a little bit. I've been reflecting a lot on the process of getting older. I had a tweet a few months ago that I thought captured it well, "you spend the first half of your twenties pretending to be an adult, and the second have realizing you are one."
This couldn't be more true for me. At 23, I wore fake glasses, suits, and on occasion experimented with darkening my wrinkles. Strange, I know! Why did I do this? Because I believed I wasn't old enough to be doing what I was doing. I believed that people wouldn't listen or trust I knew what I was doing. For a big part of it, I didn't, but also realized that others didn't know either. We were all kind of feeling our way through a very new space- design and social innovation. This is what it means to be innovative- to work on things where there are no experts yet. At 23, I would do everything to avoid talking about my age. When someone would discover it, I would cringe with embarrassment and fear. After a while though, as I was nearing 25, I started enjoying that moment of surprise when someone would exclaim, "what!? You're only 24?" I started taking pride in what I had accomplished by my age, but yet, still lacked the confidence in what I was doing and questioned whether or not I had enough experience. This fear prevented me from actually asking for help. I kept it to myself thinking I needed to know it all, or at least act like I did, otherwise I would look unqualified. It felt claustrophobic.
This past summer, I realized I was past this point now, when one student gave an attempted compliment by saying, "it's nice to know there's a legitimate adult working on this." There it was, I had become a "legitimate adult." And when I went home that night to my nice studio apartment, two blocks from the lake, I took a moment and saw how far I had come. After being a nomad and relying on family and friends just the year before, I could now say I have health insurance, I have salaried job with a stable institution, and I have a sofa and airmattress to welcome family and friends. Not to mention I have the job of my dreams. I took a deep breath and said to myself, "yea, I'm a legitimate adult. That's pretty cool." I don't feel as worried about having enough experience, I have adventures and stories to tell, and I have the freedom to do as I please. It's pretty great.
Working with college students is like finding the fountain of youth. I'm convinced that there are no communities of people more interesting than college students. They are always in the pursuit of knowledge and self-discovery--nothing could be more exciting. And as my age gap between them increases, I simply try to take inspiration from them to try and keep those same attitudes of excitement and newness in my own life. It's not always easy and I continuously remind myself of my old boss's advice from when I turned 22 of, "don't get too comfortable." As the comforts in my own life increase, I more deeply understand this advice as it becomes easier to lose this sense of mystery and wanderlust. So as try to not get too comfortable in my adulthood, my lesson to those younger is- don't waste your time doubting yourself. Know that others love your insight and admire your enthusiasm. To be innovative, you have to walk an unknown path, but hopefully for you, you'll be brave enough to ask for help along the way.
ps- For anyone older than me reading this, don't worry- I know 27 is still young! It's just not as young as say, 21 :)