Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reflections on Being 18

It’s been 18 years since I started university. I was 18 at the time. The significance doesn’t lie in the number 18 but rather in the equal number of years that have passed from when I started as had passed when I first set foot on the University of Alberta campus. For some reason this hit me really hard this fall.

Your first 18 years are pretty structured. You’re going to school whether you like it or not. Your learning is incessant – walking, reading, driving a car. You’re following your family on vacations, to events, family gatherings. As you move into your teen years you can exert a bit more independence but the general path is essentially laid out for you. It seems to take forever to get to 18.

The next 18 years are far more random. Decisions are yours. Direction is far less certain. You’re told endless possibilities exist for your path. Those years seems to pass incredibly quickly. The learning is there but is harder to track. This brings me to today and the persistent question of whether I’ve accomplished as much since 1993 as I did up to it.

I’m proud of what I’ve done since I graduated from high school. The aforementioned randomness has been there but it’s been a road with many high points. I know I’ve learned a lot. That said it seems like the endless dreams, potential accomplishments and vivid possibilities fade if only slightly. There’s a strong hint of reality, and perhaps fear, which challenges you to reconsider dreams or even abandon them. At 36 you look at the upcoming 18 years far differently. There’s a clock lingering overhead that arbitrarily sets timelines for accomplishing these dreams. It wasn’t there at the age of 18. Unfortunately it takes more control than it earns over your exuberance for the coming couple decades – if you let it.

The key then is to not let it. The key is to let those wild dreams remain colourful, new and as vivid as they were. I don’t know how good I am at that but maybe that’s something to learn in the next 18.

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