I am 25 years old. It is a nice round number and apparently a good time for an existential crisis. I have been out of school for 4 years now and waded into a career I never imagined having. I’m happy (grateful even) to report that it gives me some financial stability and leaves me mildly fulfilled. I even get to apply the degree I worked so hard for. My parents are proud. I have worked my whole adult life to get to this point only to find that it leaves me partially satisfied. Becoming a real adult has turned out to be quite anticlimactic. I thought I had done everything right – I got good grades, got good summer jobs, networked, had fun and traveled a bit. I followed the right pattern after all so where is my prize? This can’t be it.
Patterns are nice because you always know what’s coming next. I like comfort, in fact I adore certainty and stability and being wrapped in a big fluffy blanket wearing my batman pajamas. I spent my entire adult life striving to follow the patterns my parents and every other adult in my life have set and I got to the same place everyone is: mildly content, but frustrated. Yup, that’s the prize alright. Apparently, this is what a Grown Up is! Imagine my surprise…and afterwards my concern when that unwelcome thought popped into my brain at midnight one night. I hardly remember what it feels like to believe in anything. I’ve always been a passionate individual (perhaps too much at times), with endless waves of creativity and desire to be more. I loved intensely, I studied fervently, and I soaked up information like a dry sponge soaks up water. I got excited about everything and anything, and I devoured everything life gave me like a wildfire devours a dry tamarack forest and every second week I was reborn.
For a while I thought I was simply mellowing out and maturing. I had been through some life events, as you do in life, and came out stronger, a couple scars maybe but more resilient. Coming of age, growing up, maturity – these all sounds so positive, but I had neglected to notice I was also becoming numb as a result of that progress. That’s not a prize I want.
In the midst of this realization (oh it lasted a few weeks), I found I kept going home, back to where I grew up, away from the city I used to be so thrilled to live in. I went for long runs down never ending range roads, stared up at trees and breathed in fresh summer air as deeply as I could. I would stare at the forest and the crop fields trying to remember what it was that convinced me this was my goal.
On one of these runs, I heard a rustle in the trees among the tall grass and just out of the corner of my eye something like a dog darted across the road and disappeared again. I felt my heart leap to my throat and I froze, every one of my senses alert. It was just a coyote. Not even a particularly big one. Yet, my mind had automatically leaped to the worst thing I could encounter out there (which was a wolf). Wolves are not particularly dangerous to humans, being that they tend to avoid needless conflicts to conserve energy, but I’m scared senseless of those furry monsters. I was so terrified of this little beast who had surprised me that my flight response kicked in and I ran like a gazelle all the way home. When I got home panting and shaking, my conscious brain came awake and asked “Why were you so scared?” I tried to focus on slowing my breathing. “Yeah there was no reason for that response. You could have kept going and enjoyed the rest of your run.” Sometimes my brain can be a bit of an obnoxious asshole sometimes. But, no – I gave up on my run and came home because I had an overreaction to a fright. Then I realized why I kept coming home: I was afraid to go anywhere else. I was afraid of leaving the familiar because it felt safer. Felt safer. It wasn’t any safer than any other place, not really. I could go anywhere and be just as vulnerable essentially, but familiar patterns, ideas, and places seem to be more comfortable. Now this is natural of course, nothing feels better than home, but staying in my comfort zone and within my established patterns was not going to give me the satisfaction and the answers I was searching for. Comfort does not equate to happiness. All my life I have desired stability and certainty, however I have learned that those things so not exist in perpetuity. They come and go throughout our lives, so why direct all my energy and focus on chasing them? Relationships end, people get fired, loved ones die, houses burn down, accidents happen…Nothing is guaranteed. Its like chasing a phantom, or in my case, running from nothing. If becoming a disillusioned, uninspired adult is the result of my current pattern motivated by needless fear then I have to break it.
That damn coyote scared a life crisis out of me. No wonder they are called “Trickster”.