Does anyone remember the Lauren Turns 20 Program? I think about it often. It's starting to be long enough ago now that I can feel a kind of tenderness towards the person who created, with such earnestness, a program for themselves to grapple with what felt like looming adulthood. I wish I could tell her that things will get both easier and harder, in concrete and abstract ways, but that her instincts are good. You're trying, and that seems to be what counts. I think I know more now--I know I know more now, actually--and yet I feel like I'm still forever in the Lauren Turns 20 Program, and maybe always will be. It's 7 years later (also--I've been blogging now for SEVEN YEARS) and I'm still trying to figure things out. Is this the way of life? Is this the way of my life? I wonder sometimes if I'll forever be behind the curve, trying to understand what everyone else seems born knowing.
I had a professor, when I was taking a personal essay class as a post-bacc, that gave us a pep talk about trusting what we know. He said that we should go with our gut on the page, that we should trust the wisdom that appears from us on the page. When we write the truth, we write ourselves, and in that lies wisdom. I didn't roll my eyes, or scoff, or make a caustic remark like I might have in another life. Because in saying that, he was giving us explicit permission to trust ourselves and what we were discovering--and that was something I desperately, desperately needed to hear. That it was okay to learn what I thought, and base my actions off of it. It was good, encouraged even, to be my own sage.
Even though I've always been a person of strong preferences, a person of confidence, this was revelatory to me. I had gotten mired in the shoulds of my life, during college and after I graduated. It was terrifying to me, and in many ways still is, to think of all the things I didn't know about how I thought I should live. I made myself learn an extraordinary amount of things I thought I should know: how to use checks, pay taxes, the best way to load a dishwasher, the basic tenants of interior design, how to sew, good skin care techniques, how to be a better conversationalist, the art of hosting parties, how to build credit. It seemed like everyone else knew how to navigate the mundanities, or like there was a veil over adulthood I couldn't see through. I wanted to grow up, and I was trying to, but I was doing it using a weird measuring stick--a set of arbitrary skills I thought would serve me in my someday adult life. And it never came easy, and still doesn't, because I was trying so hard to learn things but not asking what these skills were in service to. Why did I need to know them? What would it do for me?
And at the heart of those questions is this: what do you want? How will you make your life meaningful? I've written about this question before, in sort of oblique ways, and it's the question I think I will spend the rest of my life asking myself. I think my professor's words mattered to me because I was told to trust what I was writing--and what I was writing wasn't the vision of what my culture defines as a life. I was writing a truth that didn't necessarily conform to a life of weddings and houses and children, I was writing a life of questions and meaning and freedom. I was writing an obstinate and stubborn belief in equality, a hope for room to roam, a way out of the corporate job I'd found myself in. I was told to trust my gut that I wanted something else, and that has stuck with me.
I've leaned into that this past year, and 26 was a year of shedding. The earnest desire for self-improvement that fueled the Lauren Turns 20 Program has stuck with me, but it's being channeled in different ways--and in service of my dreams, not the shoulds. Well, sometimes the shoulds. It's embarrassing that I don't know what FICO means. I don't even care.
I add pearls to my wisdom cache every year, and sometimes I look back at myself and wonder how I could've been so prescient. Want to know what I said in 2015, before I ever took a class at PSU and before I'd even really had the crisis of faith that marked most of 2017 for me? It was this:
As with this sense of growing older, I don’t think you can quantify growing up. Which is to say, we call it growing up, as we get older,—but we mark a “grown-up” in ways that I don’t always think signify an internal growth, we mark them by our ability to operate in the world, by how we manage the complexities of taxes and making a living and buying houses. What is important I think, is that I have never felt more like myself—that I feel very much that I am participating in a lifelong process of becoming, of realizing my own potential, and of gaining confidence in my own wisdom.
I've been trying to tell myself to trust myself all along. Here's to 27, and walking our own paths. Here's to the process of becoming.