“When a child is learning how to walk and falls down 50 times, they never think to themselves, “Maybe this isn’t for me.”” —Unknown
It’s always been so difficult for me to reconcile going through depression and being this ambitious and driven person. I have always resented the depression for this. Because here I am, this woman who has larger than life dreams for her life and the world and then depression creeps up on me to make me into this seemingly useless person who can barely get through “normal” tasks that regular people can get through with so much ease. I have resented it for holding me back, for apparently derailing me and for just shackling me to all unnecessary things so tightly.
And it’s because I have this idea in my head of how I am supposed to be handling life. A picture in my head of how a supposedly functional adult is supposed to be handling things… And I’m not living up to it, and I think that’s what breaks me. That’s what drives me further into the dark abyss of depression and anxiety—the gap and contrast between where I think I should be and where I actually am. I think that’s what is killing so many of us millennial kids.
I think the problem is that we believe there is some sort of template to life, and often that template can come in the form of our parents.
I know I have fallen into that trap. I’ve used my mom as a template to what my life is ought to look like. Heck, my mom at my age was the epitome of being an adult who has it all together. At 22, when she was pregnant with me, she was already on her way to graduating with her second degree, even planning to study medicine. Everything in record time fam. My grandmother hardly paid a cent for her studies because bursaries had my mom’s back. By the time I was born, when she was 23, she had already secured herself a reasonably impressive position at a bank and working an additional night job to make ends meet for us. Did I mention that she was also already paying up for her own car at 23? Yep. That was my mom.
“…maybe living in this generation means pushing forward deadlines, getting married much later, securing stable jobs only in our 30s. Perhaps it means stumbling through our 20s…”
And I know that always hit me. I would look at pictures of my mom when she was 23, 24 and I’d feel like a total failure in life. I would beat myself up so badly, wonder if I’m really my mom’s daughter. I mean I’m 24, and I’m just stumbling over life, not really sure where I’m going or where I’m “ought” to be.
But my mom being the darling that she is, would stop me dead in my tracks whenever I said a statement that insinuated that I wanted to live a life that looked like hers when she was my age. And she always reminds me that I should create and live the life that I WANT and not one that I think she expects me to live. I’ve always been grateful to have a parent who has never tried to live their lives through me. A parent who had never used themselves as a reference point of how to live life, saying things like “Ai you young people of today, when we were your age we would be doing this and that.” I’d be lying if I said my mom ever said something like that.
“….we are adults, but honestly? We are still toddlers with this life and adult life thing.”
And I think this is something that we need to remind ourselves, that we are not our parents and they are not us, at least not in this context. This is our chance to recreate life. And maybe living in this generation means pushing forward deadlines, getting married much later, securing stable jobs only in our 30s. Perhaps it means stumbling through our 20s, and heck even 30s and only making sense of life in our 40s.
Whenever I speak to my peers about life as a young adult or our dreams and aspirations, I realise how incredibly hard we are on ourselves. We demand so much from life and also ourselves, as if we have lived the lives that we live before and therefore, an expectation of never getting any of this wrong. But we need to realize that we have never lived the exact same lives that we lead now and therefore we will get it wrong. Yes, we are adults, but honestly? We are still toddlers with this life and adult life thing. So, just like a toddler does, we will stumble, trip and crawl through our adult lives. And you know what? Stumbling is good, tripping is not all too bad, and crawling is damn sufficient because before anyone learns to walk those are the things they go through before we learn how to be firm and secure we will stumble and trip over and over again.
“Whether a baby walks at six months or 24 months, you celebrate them, you walk with them and celebrate them again for their progress. For us, it is worth learning to take baby steps with ourselves…”
How often do we kick ourselves and hurl insults at ourselves when we seem not to be walking upright and securely? How often do we beat ourselves up for wobbling and stumbling through our steps? We see others our age seemingly getting their steps right while we tumble through half a step. But one thing worth remembering? Babies’ development is not the same, some learn to walk correctly at six months, and some only get to take their first proper step as “late” as the age of 2 years. But all baby steps matter. Whether a baby walks at six months or 24 months, you celebrate them, you walk with them and celebrate them again for their progress. For us, it is worth learning to take baby steps with ourselves, to walk with ourselves and praise ourselves for being where we were not yesterday. Whether we only get things as early as 21 or as late as 40, all progress is valid and matters. Celebrate.
And as I write this, a well of tears is flooding over me as I feel an enormous pressure lifted off my shoulders. A pressure to get it right when I’ve never done this before, a pressure to walk before I have barely crawled.
And I take in a breathe in and deeply exhale. Maybe, just maybe it will be okay after all. “Patience dear one, patience love…patience is all you need” are words that I hear as light raindrops fall against my window. God gently prompting me to release it all, to surrender all the burdens and pressures, like the rain clouds are doing at this moment.
This will be one of the posts that I come back to, because even though I am writing this, it feels as though a force outside, but still inside me, wrote these words for me and through me. And these words, I needed them today the most. We all need these words, every day.
May we be easy on ourselves. Take moments to stop and pause and be like “You know what, I have no template or memo on how to do this adulting thing, but I’m doing the damn things for someone who has never been here before!”
I’ll conclude with the following timeous quote:
“Oh, of course I stumble. There are times when I’m confidently skipping along and then I trip over my own poorly-placed steps and fall face first into the thickets. But I think there’s a sort of beauty in falling. Each time I fall, I’m reminded that I’m still human, that I’m still learning, that there will always be more lessons, growth, and discovery up ahead. So, although I have times when I’m weak, when I’m critical of myself, or lose hope, I wouldn’t give them up for the world. I cherish them — because it’s the risk of falling that makes life a grand adventure rather than just a guided tour.” —Cristen Rodgers
So here is to stumbling along through adulthood and learning through our falls.