The world is a rather black and white place when you’re a child. Adults tell you what you can and can’t do, they teach you right from wrong and that’s that. Believe it or not, it takes a while to unpack that worldview – it sticks, even if you don’t think it does.
I think the process of becoming an adult is all about realising that actually, there are more shades in between black and white. Things aren’t just good or bad and things are rarely ever perfect in themselves.
As a child I saw adulthood as a checklist. Get a job, check, find a partner check, buy property check, have children and all that jazz. Of course, in this way of thinking, every single thing is absolute: you get that great job, that’s it, you made it, happiness achieved. Every additional thing will only add to that happiness until the puzzle is complete.
Life isn’t like that at all, of course.
That perfect job may seem like a dream come true at one point, but you may grow tired of it after a while. Similarly, you may outgrow a house, a relationship, a friendship. Things change, so focusing on absolutes is useless; instead, it’s about accepting that most things in life have pros and cons and about trying to find the right balance between the two.
Take living in London, which, for me, provides the best example of the push and pull of pros and cons (#thestruggleisreal):
- Decent job opportunities PRO
- Biiiiiig city CON
- Disgustingly high rents CON
- I mean, Brexit CON
- Easy access to art, culture and nightlife PRO
- Distance from friends and family CON
- Opportunity to make new friends PRO
- Breathing polluted air CON
- Surrounded by a bunch of other grumps C O N
(woops did I add in a few more cons than pros there – my real feelings on the matter must be slipping)
Whatever naïve beliefs I still held about the world when I moved to London were quickly shattered by the reality that most adult decisions aren’t easy. They usually involve some level of sacrifice or compromise and what may seem like a good idea at one point in time may not be so a few months or years down the line. This, in turn, can make planning for the future difficult.
Even so, uncertainty brings opportunity, and while weighing up pros and cons can be hard, it certainly makes life a lot more interesting than the box-ticking exercise I envisioned when I was younger. I just wished we could stop perpetuating that myth altogether.