How to be a Grown-up, Even if You Don’t Think You’re “Ready.”

I spent last weekend back in Philly. I taught and spent a lot of time with my friends. 2 of them got married. I came back to Florida, and a friend here just had a baby. I'm at that age. My friends are becoming domesticated. About 6 years ago I tried that, and failed miserably. But, I learned some real lessons from it. 

My 31st Birthday. I'm truly a grown-up.

This weekend, a good friend and I had a serious conversation about having a "real job" (versus the artistic jobs like theatre and dance). Many of us are "encouraged" by parents, significant others, society at large, to "grow up and get a real job"! I tried that too. I didn't fail, I actually did pretty well. But it sucked my soul. I was angry and bitter, pretty much all the time. So, I made a change. And I've learned some lessons through that as well. 
  • Life is hard enough when you are happy, don't have an element of miserable in there. If sitting at a desk all day will make you miserable, don't do it. If you would be a shadow of your current self without your significant other, don't let her go. BUT. If you can see other options, if there are others things you could be doing or other people you could be with, and be JUST AS HAPPY (or more so), then this situation is not your perfect fit. (Some of you will recognize this from the Zoran Kovcic "Dream Killer" speech.) But it's true. If you can envision happiness somewhere else, with someone else, don't get stuck where you are. There is more for you. 
  • What we learned about security is an absolute lie. It's not that our parents and teachers MEANT to lie to us. But the economy and technology have changed the work-scape so much that those ideas of "secure" jobs have pretty much evaporated. Seth Godin writes about this in Linchpin, one of my all time favorite books (and one I recommend to entrepreneurs here). Government jobs used to be safe- we just saw many of those employees furloughed TWICE in the last few months. Teaching jobs used to be safe- many schools are slashing budgets and positions without regard to education quality. Other jobs are outsourced or automated due to cost. There is no "safe". The only safe thing is to do something ONLY YOU can do. Figure out what that is, and how to make money at it. 
  •  Doing what you were meant to can can be REALLY scary. But you should do it anyway. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Wouldn't you rather be scared than unhappy? If you're making changes, the fear will go. If you are not, the unhappy will stay. Pick one. The artistic and entrepreneurial lifestyles are difficult. No doubt about it. They require work and commitment. But, as Jeffrey Combs says, "You can feel the pain of change or the pain of regret."
  • Why am I waiting to live? This is a question I had to ask myself. I was waiting for retirement, for money in the bank, for the person to accompany me. Why? That time to wait is not promised. You could die tomorrow. The resources are not promised. Even if you hit "retirement age" will you be able to live the life you envisioned? Illness and economic changes could radically alter that. We live in the NOW. This is the only time we have to DO something. If you know what you want to do, go do it now. Don't wait until your 65 to take that trip or turn your hobby into a business. Do it now. When you can enjoy it. When you have time to savor the memories. When you have time to create new dreams for the future.
  • No one else knows your dreams like you do. You owe no one an explanation. Don't want to have kids? Don't. You can pay your bills doing theatre and it fulfills you? Do. You have to grow up. But you don't have to settle. Only you know your priorities. While having this conversation with another friend this weekend, she said she made the choice to not "live the artistic life" because she really wanted to have kids. And she's been very happy. Because she knew her priorities, and built her life around them. What are your dreams? What are you willing to do to make them reality? What are your priorities? What are you willing to do to build your life around them?
Being a grown up simply means that you are in charge of your own decisions. Your job doesn't determine your level of maturity or adulthood. Your ability to prioritize, decide and commit does. I've had to deal with some consequences and results from the decisions that I made that were not in alignment with my self, my purpose. The changes have been difficult and painful at times. But each day, I'm working more towards being myself. I hope you can say the same.