Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Boredom and progression

My aversion to bedtimes started as soon as I was old enough to climb out of bed on my own. Maybe even before then. I was convinced that the party started after the kids were in bed, and I was on a mission to catch the action. Night after night, I would sneak into the living room where my parents were watching TV and wait for the excitement to start. Night after night, my parents found me curled up on the floor behind the couch or next to the garage door, having failed once again to gather any proof that I was missing out on something.

But if you really want to annoy your dad, fall asleep in his chair. All the time.

Eventually I got bored with my little game and started staying in my room, but I still had to check in occasionally. (This would have been a much more productive activity if I could actually hear what was going on.) I spied on card games, caught my dad jumping on the trampoline after dark, and became pretty familiar with the TV shows and movies my parents liked to watch without us. (I remember lots of Star Trek. Maybe it was a ploy to get me to quickly lose interest and go back to bed.)

Slowly I acquired later bedtimes, and it wasn't too much longer before I was staying up later than my parents (or at least my mom). I had still found no evidence of parties, yet I couldn't shake the thought that life had to be so much more exciting when you were free to do whatever you wanted at night besides get more boring sleep.

It wasn't so much the night life I wanted to be a part of; it was the apparent freedom adults had in every facet of their lives. Staying up past the kids' bedtime was just the beginning.

And then suddenly, I was in college. No one cared what time I went to bed as long as I didn't keep them up. I could take naps between classes. Some of my lunch breaks were long enough to allow me to actually leave campus in search of something edible (but alas, my budget still forced me to get by on homemade sandwiches and carrot sticks). I could coordinate work and school however I wanted.

The structure that had held me back all my childhood was gone. Now I got to set the rules.

Finally I was part of the free-adult club. Nothing could be more exciting.

But as I moved on from college life to the career life, I finally started to see reality: there was a reason I fell asleep spying on the adults, and it wasn't because I was tired. There is no secret fun club to join when you enter adulthood. In fact, a lot of the time, adulthood is actually pretty boring.

The side of me that craves a routine and just wants stability had no trouble accepting that. But we humans are hardwired to need progression in our lives, and for the first time ever, I couldn't rely on a new grade or new classes to automatically provide that for me. I didn't have a marriage or my own growing children to keep me on my toes. Life wasn't as much of a journey anymore; I was stuck at a destination.

This shift in worldview helped trigger what I like to call my quarter-life crisis. I had achieved what I had spent my whole life preparing for—independence—but it wasn't the bright, happy, glamorous place I had envisioned all those nights I was plowing through massive amounts of reading after getting home from my shift at Domino's. Oftentimes, it was dull enough that I wanted to sleep through it.

After weeks of becoming more and more unhappy with my lot in life, I found myself stuck on the side of the freeway in American Fork—halfway between my two homes—in a car that was overheated. Somewhere between being stranded on the freeway to when I was able to coax my car to safety at Thanksgiving Point, I resolved that I was going to start going to the temple every week. I didn't know how it would help, exactly; all I had was my hope that putting God's priorities first would help me sort out my troubles.

It turns out God was several steps ahead of me, as usual. I had gone through the temple about six months before, much sooner than I had planned to go. But it felt right at the time, and once I started going to the temple every week I understood why it was the right time for me to take that step. Over the next six months, the temple filled all the holes in my life. It made up for my lack of dating prospects and my inability to establish close friendships. It gave me something useful to do with my abundance of free time. It filled my need for a purpose in life and helped me grow in a vacuum.

After trying out all the temples in the valley, the Draper Temple became my temple.

This wasn't the one-and-done solution to the rest of my adult problems. But it did help me gain a better understanding that it was my job to make sure I was always progressing in some way, always working toward something, and now I was better equipped to handle it.

So I got a master's degree. I delved into hobbies. I landed in a more satisfying career. I got better at having a social life. I delighted in all the perks of being a childless aunt. I studied the scriptures more diligently.

I spent a lot of time on meaningless things too, but eventually I found a comfortable balance between contentment and progression. We're not meant to coast through life, but we can't really be awesome all the time, either. The key, at least during my 20s, was to embrace change when it was needed and to be grateful always.

And to let the childlike excitement take over from time to time. If you can't let the little child in you out every now and then, then adulthood has no choice but to be boring.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, that sweet picture of you asleep in Dad's chair made me ache inside for my little "Ange love". Those curls were so, so adorable. My heart aches for trials that you have had to work through in your life but my heart also swells with pride at how you have worked through them. I love you so much.