[AUTHOR’S NOTE: Holy shit!]
I frequently present to customers at what is affectionately called the “EBC” – “Executive Briefing Center.” It’s a really sophisticated building with all the latest technology and tons of amenities and is the primary place we host CEOs, Presidents, and other executives.
I open with a single introductory slide which looks like the image above (it does not include the right most picture). I use this slide as backdrop to explain the amazing acceleration & evolution of technological advancements in the first 5-8 minutes of my hour long presentation.
SIDENOTE: As I sat down today to write about the nature of childhood, adulthood, and the future ahead of me – this slide came to mind. Given I spend some time focusing on the future in this post, I decided to try to age a photo of myself but as it turned out, that required very little work. I just had to overlay my face over my father’s — no additional adjustment needed. Freaky, scary, kinda cool.
This slide came to mind as I sat down to reflect on something I’ve been pondering for a while – what does it mean to be an adult?
When do you become an adult and when do you understand your life and what role you play in it? How do you know when you’ve left childhood and moved to the next step?
In so many situations when I admit candidly that I don’t know this yet, so many others both older and younger, hyper successful or just trying to make ends meet, say they feel the same way.
They generally say things like:
- I cannot believe I’m responsible for myself.
- I can’t believe I’m old enough, smart enough, capable enough, or simply allowed to do X. I can’t believe I’m responsible for Y.
- Isn’t there supposed to be a point where I have it kinda figured out?
As often as not, these statements are made in comparison to someone else who seems to “have it easy” — and with the group I roll with, “having it easy” means REALLY having it easy.
I don’t know many people who have struggled in the traditional sense and yet if I did, I imagine the questions might be the same and the feeling of comparison just as real.
I do know some who have struggled in the way most might think of – been homeless, jailed, addicted, depressed.
I, myself, have been some of those things.
When I speak to those friends it’s about the exact same stuff as with those that haven’t struggled against these adversities.
Living in the midst of adversity might be one key to having honest conversation with others. Once you’ve survived, you’re willing to admit your struggle, ask for help and seek answers from others.
So I’ve come to believe that all this questioning of our capability, our moments of doubt, and our concern we’ve not come far enough spiritually, emotionally, financially, physically to tackle life on our own two feet – having these things doesn’t mean we aren’t adults.
It also doesn’t mean that people who seem to “have it all figured out” really do. Some do, sure. People say that about me all the time, and I’m a fucking mess with a ton of questions and self-doubt.
So for me, adulthood means:
- An awareness of past, present, and future. I accept and am (more) comfortable with who I am today, understand where my personality, behaviors, vices, and strengths come from, and have a clearer sense of how I want to live so others describe me the way I hope to be described by the time I die. (There’s a sticky on this that says “Write your own eulogy and make it worth reading.”)
- I don’t want time to accelerate so I get there faster, but I do want every moment to last longer. I see how moments I spent waiting in childhood seemed unending while today time seems to rush by and moments go unnoticed or blurred across great expanses of time.
- I don’t feel limited by my remaining years but I wonder about my legacy. I think often about how I might transmit the story of my life to others, to perhaps help them get further faster because of what I’ve learned. But there is a small inkling of fear that I’ll run out of time, energy, or shear strength before I figure that out.
- I embrace and love my sense of smallness and uniqueness relative to a vast existence, history, and future I’ll never understand. This is my faith, this is my infinity.
It’s one of the great irony’s of god that we should age, grow more frail, have less energy yet at the same time, reach the pinnacle of our wisdom – just as we run out of time to use that wisdom – because our bodies are tired from carrying us through all the moments it took to gain that wisdom.
It seems I’ll be around for a while longer though.
I had my physical today which lasted an hour in light of my hospitalization in November. My doctor describes me as superman – my test results are text book perfect from cholesterol to CBC, the pseudo cancer scare at the end of last year has faded away to nothing but a ridiculous and unneeded blip, the advanced tests I had performed calculate my chance of heart disease, stroke, or heart attack at 0.2%.
It’s as though I’ve never done harm to my body which is far from the case.
In this moment was another trait of adulthood – more balance.
It would have been a predictable trap to turn this A+ health report in to a perverse interpretation of the phrase “live every day like it’s your last” and lose focus on my physical health as a key thing that enables me to do other things.
It would have been easy to see myself as invincible. Instead, I paused to think of how thankful I was after two years of demanding work, stress, sadness, etc. that I still had my health.
I have a bucket list for life: achieve the right balance physically, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, philanthropically. A balance that is right for me.
As an adult, it’s my job to figure out what the right balance is for me, recognizing how each moment not spent achieving that balance is one I’ll never regain.
So I’m going to do what my doctor said to me which is: “live life to the fullest” or as Kris Allen eloquently sang “live like we’re dying.”