I have finally figured out the perfect adulthood metaphor: musical chairs. Everyone is walking around a small area, waiting for the music to stop, but sort of lingering near a chair just in case the music stops and they’re stuck. Then it does. And everyone sits down, out of breath, and looks around to see what poor schmuck didn’t get there fast enough and has to stand with their hands dangling at their sides in complete disgust.
Now, in your imagination, replace all of those chairs with jobs. Ah. I bet you can see it now, how creepy that music sounds to your own ears when you’re the one walking around those “chairs.”
You see, I’ve realized that everyone is uncomfortable in adulthood because for as long as we’ve been alive, we’re students or dependents. This is how we identify ourselves, how the government sees us on our parents’ taxes. But then, when we drop out or graduate, when we grow a little older, we’re ____. Blank.
And suddenly, we’re all asked to fill in that blank with whatever vocation we choose. But how? We’ve been given the profession of student by others. We’re born, and we’re dependent on other people. Why are we suddenly authorized to make this next decision on our own?
And just like that, you hear the music start to play. You’re unleashed into the world, and you start the delicate dance of job and bills. You need money to survive, which is to say you need to sit in a chair. The chairs can be anything you want them to be, but for most people, we arrange a selection of predictable life choices that will define us. Veterinarian. Salesman. Cashier. So, you sit in one profession/chair. And you sit, and sit, and sit. The music never really starts again. But at least you’re in a chair, right? It’s what we tell ourselves, day after 9-5 day.
No one tries to imagine a new fate for themselves, tries to sit in one specific chair. Any chair will do. And in doing so, they fill in the blank that must be filled to talk to anyone at any party. The answer to “What do you do?” is suddenly so readily on their lips, “I’m a ____.”
And that, I’ve realized, is the problem. Everyone wants to sit in a chair and have an answer when someone asks them what they’re doing with their life so that it will sound good enough to their own ears. The problem is that no one wants to just be. They don’t want to take their time, dancing to the music, walking around, trying each chair out, essentially living their life.
What no one realizes is that life is happening in between sitting. Life happens when that blank isn’t filled just yet.
We all need to remember that we don’t discover our lives, we create them. So, turn the music up for now, and don’t be scared when it stops. Whether you have a chair or not, at some point, you’re still going to have to stand up for yourself.