If you are a millennial or have been near one recently, you’ve certainly heard one of us utter the phrase “I need to figure my life out.” It’s often used when we are going to do something that we deem irresponsible in some way. Some examples include:
“I am definitely spending my paycheck on the concert, but it’s the last concert I’ll go to because I need to figure my life out”
“I’m quitting my job and focusing on my acting for a year, but then I’ll figure my life out”
or in my case “I am going to move to New Zealand for six to twelve months, then I’ll figure my life out.”
Today this phrase came to my mind while I was sitting and contemplating the wild reality that I’ve decided to uproot my life to move to the other side of the world. I have these thoughts often, only today when I internally asked myself “when are you going to figure your life out?” I stopped myself before answering. What do people really mean when they say this? On its most basic level, I think it is just a safety blanket that people use when they are afraid someone is judging them for a decision they are making. By mentioning that you are going to get your life together after, surely people won’t judge you for having that sixth vodka soda at a DJ set in a Brooklyn warehouse. But on a deeper level you are saying, THIS isn’t my life. I am not a “grown up,” I am going to do this thing now and it might be stupid but that’s okay because eventually everything will be perfect and I will become an adult.
News flash millennials, you are an adult. And this is your life.
I don’t mean this in a bad way, I am not going to criticize for quitting your job, staying out late, traveling, or working at a bar with your $200K college education, quite the contrary. I want us to start embracing our weird and wacky lives, not writing them off as what we are doing while we wait for our lives to come together. When I first thought about going to New Zealand, I thought about when I talk to people who say, “I want to travel more. I need to find a new job and work on x x and x so that I can figure my life out. Then I will travel.” On the surface it sounds responsible. And don’t get me wrong, I am not shaming people who have their lives “figured out.” There is nothing shameful about having a retirement fund and owning a house, I am sure I will be you one day, or at least try to marry one of you. And there is nothing wrong with not being impulsive and planning something before diving in.
But that said, I think as a whole we live our lives as if we think we will live forever. We sit in our houses and dream of traveling one day or we sit in our hostels and say “just one more year of this life and I will figure my life out and buy a house.” Hate to be morbid, but we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow, yet alone years from now. It’s good to plan ahead, but it’s also imperative that you are living a life you love every single day. You aren’t figuring your life out, you are living it, right here and now. As the quote goes,
Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
Which is a more eloquent way of saying the title of this blog post- what were you doing while you were figuring your life out? Well you were living life, that’s what.
For those of you out there “figuring out your life” still, keep pushing on. I am not suggesting you should give up and not better yourself, because you can always grow and improve. But stop belittling the things you do everyday that make you smile. Instead of saying, “Oh I am going to art school but then I am going to figure my life out” or “I bought a house in LA but I really need to figure my life out and move to NYC” (even homeowners can not have their “lives together” ;)) be proud of the life you are living. I am not moving to New Zealand and then figuring out my life. I have made a decision to live my life in this way and spend this next chapter traveling and seeing as much of the world as I can. And one day I will do something else and something else after that. As you will too. Always remember, all the things you are doing now are not stepping stones on the way to your life, they are the very essence of it.