For as long as I've known my grandfather, (...so, my entire life,) one of his many, many jokes has been that even he doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up. It is a running gag that has aged well over the last 30 years.
As an educator, and guidance counselor, he isn't entirely joking. One of his core tenets has been that of a growth mindset long before the concept was en vogue in the modern psychology circles. His children and grandchildren were students of his study skills classes along with thousands of middle and high schoolers over the years. I still think of those classes and might write out some of his lessons in the future.
What occurred to me recently, and I can only see this through the lens of an elder Millennial, is that so many of my peers experienced a level of angst and tumult that has been hard to shake. Why though?
What is it about being the middle children of history, or rather, why do we feel that way?
It seems that Boomers enjoyed a safe, prosperous world, and their Gen X children benefitted from the freedom to be angry while having a sweet spot of inheritance meeting a wealth of opportunity. The Millennial kids not only got to the dinner table after mom fed the leftovers to the dog, but they also were sucker-punched by geopolitical strife, the insecurity of school shootings and a fresh and exciting financial crisis just in time to start their careers.
Take it back a step. Let's look at the world we're in now and how the zeitgeist is saturating people of all stripes.
If You Can Dream It, You (Probably) Can Be It
That's a hard "maybe."
When we're young, we wonder what we'll be extraordinary at and assume we'll be extraordinary at something, with no real roadmap to realize this.
It seems dreaming, building, ambition and the like are part of why we're here. Personal opinion, our purpose is action and advancing ourselves. Move the ball forward for our species... but there is a balance to be had. There is work to be done, the dream is just a hypothetical point on the map.
It seems like we sell our kids the idea of chasing dream and aiming high, but miss the steps in between. It could be that as kids that grew into foundering adulthood didn't get a taste of how doing the work is the reward.
As a touring musician, you sleep in a van (albeit, not much or very well for that matter.) You stink, your clothes are always wet, you hurry up to get to where you are going, wait for hours once you get there, power lift a ton of gear, perform a cardio workout followed immediately by powerlifting the same gear out. You live off PB&J sandwiches, and... you get the picture.
It's objectively miserable, but once you're out of it you miss it desperately. Every aspect of it, especially the discomfort.
I think what happens to so many growing up is that we often don't get that taste of rewarding challenge. When we live through that belief that "things will happen... someday," the fact that someday never comes on its own just grates on the spirit.
It is that feeling of moving through difficulty that is actually fulfilling.