Between following a celebrity on Twitter, doing this blog, having a profound talk with Lauren, and working on a favor for Dodge, I’ve been thinking about adulthood a lot. I’m 24 years old, and while most of my friends this age are undergoing quarter-life crises, I’m not. I sometimes think I should be quarter-lifing, that this lack of existential panic is a sign of arrested development, but I’m every bit as chill about my future as I have been since I was 12 (save for education-related panic).
I guess a lot of it has to do with how I view adulthood. A lot of people I’ve talked to are dissatisfied with their work, saying they should be somewhere else by this age. At 24, they ought to be in a company they see themselves working in for the rest of their lives, climbing up the corporate ladder to reach the point where financial comfort comes by age 40. They have to be in relationships that will eventually lead into marriage, and quite possibly kids. They have to stop caring about the silly things they enjoyed as kids, grow up, and move onto more adult interests.
I, on the other hand, don’t feel like I have to be in a particular position. While some people view adulthood as a brand new set of rules to follow, I view adulthood as the time when we finally have the freedom to do what we want. As kids, we were always pushed and prodded and dragged into set directions. We go through kindergarten to college and beyond focused on getting to the next level. We work for grades to move onto the next stage, and repeat this cycle for more than a decade. Once you’re done with your education, though, what’s next?
The difference between me and most quarter-lifers, I think, is a sense of perspective. They focus so much on determining what’s next based on what they should be, a concept that’s more or less molded from external sources, like parents, education, and society in general. I simply choose to create what’s next as I go along. I want what’s next to be right for me, and the best way to do that is to simply do what feels right to me. I want my growth to be organic, based on what comes from within. That way, Future Marco will be more of who I really am, not what I’ve become.
Part of this probably comes from my strong need to stay an individual. All my life, the only thing I’ve really wanted for myself is the freedom to be myself. I don’t want to become another face in the crowd of cubicles. I don’t want to be another company statistic. I don’t want to be that overweight tatay who argues with a client on his cellphone in public while waiting for his wife to get takeout from the nearby Krispy Kreme. Rather than be consumed by what I do, I want to more fully actualize myself.
I’m a dork. I want to grow old as a dork. I want to still be watching cartoons and playing video games and reading comics and enjoying life. I want to drink and have fun. I want to dance (albeit awkwardly, given my lack of physical coordination). I honestly feel a lot more like myself these days, and I want to still be that person when I’m 40.
It’s not a refusal to grow up, either. To me, adulthood isn’t about climbing upwards. It’s a desire to grow outwardly, to fully express who I am in what I do, in both my personal and professional life. If want a good example of this, take a look at Stan Lee. Check out his Twitter account. He’s still filled with the youthful energy that made him a success for over 40 years. He still sounds like a bright-eyed kid brimming with wild ideas. He’s being true to the self he discovered oh so long ago, and it shines through in everything he says and does. The only difference is that his vocabulary’s improved.
Most importantly, however, he’s shown that you can achieve great things by being true to yourself. A kid obsessed with creating fantastic stories and colorful characters can be a successful adult without sacrificing who he is. That’s the road I want for myself. That’s why I’m confident that keeping on the way I’m going will pay off in the long run. I’m going to keep writing and doodling and fueling my imagination with cartoons, video games, and comics. I know that I’m somehow going to make a name for myself doing the things I love to do.
I’m actually working my way towards that success, too. This blog, for example, gets me to practice the two things I love doing. On the side, I’m doing small favors for friends and loved ones, adding to my personal portfolio and getting my work out there, like these gift cards from Ukay Manila. I’m doing things that fulfill me as a person, but in a way that helps me get ahead in life. As a result, I’m enjoying my adult life, but still feel as youthful as a 12-year old.
The reason I don’t feel a quarter-life crisis is because I don’t feel like I’ve hit a quarter of my life yet. I’ve got so much more of a life to live. I’m not counting down the days until I die, giving myself deadlines for success as determined by others. Instead, I’m using these days to develop myself, at my own pace. That’s what works for me, anyway. It might just work for you, too.