"Who are you being?" The quarter life crisis question we all want answered
I remember a time when all I wanted to be was a Chartered Accountant. I thought to myself once I got to be one that a lot of my existence and purpose would make sense. When the second board results were looming I thought about wanting to be a model not only because I loved how it made me feel but because I desperately needed a new goal. I guess I was like most people who just want the next thing after the next because sometimes we are really running away from finding ourselves. When people ask us you what do you do? You want to say I am a doctor, or a lawyer or an engineer, when really the more important question should be who are you being? If we stripped you of your titles, your degrees, your valuables who are you really?
In the recent months that I have moved to the US I've honestly had more time with myself than I've had in my 25 years of life. It terrifies me that I may not be the model that I wanted to be and naturally it's linked to feelings of failure, of not feeling good enough but more importantly I just don't want to feel "purposeless". I keep asking myself whether what I am doing is enough? Could I do more? Could I be more? It doesn't help that we live in an age of social media where the constant comparison of whose life is more glamorous keeps up in a never ending cycle of wanting to outdo each other. All we want to be is something! I for one never felt connected to the role of being a Chartered Accountant because sometimes I felt like I never understood why I wanted it and so I, like so many, struggle to find the 'calling" because we think that a title or a degree or anything tangible is what makes us.
Honestly I don't want to be a model as much as I want to feel like I mattered. Yeah finally I said it. The ultimate "why" to all of my goals are behind wanting to feel like I mattered to someone. So whether I got that CA designation or I became a L'Oréal ambassador it wouldn't mean anything if I didn't feel like I mattered. I know that I'm not alone in this because I see so many of us go through this everyday. This is the "quarter life" crisis that comes at us and keeps coming even when we're well into adulthood. When we become moms and CEOs, when we become surgeons and attorney generals ultimately our drive is wanting to feel like we made an impact in the lives of others. The sense of affirmation, the need to know that you are enough, doing enough, resonating and connecting with humanity.
So how do we separate who we are from what we do? I think it comes from a space of acceptance. I think at anytime where I was well and truly at my peak of happiness with life was when I was being incredibly myself. It was in the small things like finally walking around the office with an afro and it was in the big things like passing my final board exams. It wasn't in the achievement as it may appear but rather that in those moments I found a deeper realization of myself, like "yes dammit my hair is gorgeous" and "yes dammit I am smart!". I think even further than that I realized that our self worth doesn't have to be tied down to what people think of us. Most times the things we want to achieve in life are in relation to what others regard to be a measure of success. What truly matters is what YOU regard as a matter of your own success.
That feeling of wanting to make a difference in the world around you won't escape you, sure you can find many degrees to study for, many cars to buy, many companies to keep applying to but somehow the truth of who you are and whether that is reflected in how you live will always come up. There is no wrong or right way in finding yourself and your occupation can certainly be an expression of who you are, but it doesn't make you who you are. I find that as young people entering the work force we find ourselves conflicted with this then the pressure to stay with something that is clearly not for us kicks in. I also know that our jobs provide security and I'm not trying to romanticize the notion of quitting and starting fresh, because it is no way easy. The point I'm making is rather that it doesn't matter whether you are an employee or an entrepreneur or you find yourself unemployed for whatever reason. Your essence is not added or diminished by a role or a lack thereof.
When trying to think about how you will make an impact in other people's lives, its not so much what you could do for them but how you made them feel. We all know that someone can do something great for you and can still somehow make you feel bad about it. So perhaps the crisis you feel coming on about who am I gonna be when I grow up shouldn't be so tied up with an occupation or a title but rather who do you want to be and from what I am experiencing, being exactly who you are and expressing that day after day is more important than any one thing that you can attain.
After going down the rabbit hole, a hole which I'm likely to revisit, I realize Maya Angelou was indeed right "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Go on, be yourself and make the world feel like a better place.