Professional Adulthood

I remember when I used to look at my parents as superheroes. Not only could they do almost anything, they seemed to know almost everything. Now that I’m an adult, I’m thinking to myself, “Self…what the hell?”

Some time ago I was driving home with my son and I rolled the window down and rested my arm on the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my son imitate me, even checking to ensure his elbow was at the right angle. That’s when I realized, he was looking at me with the same wonder that I’d worn when I was his age. Somehow, I had become the do anything, know everything adult. I realized, it wasn’t that my parents knew everything, or could do anything, I was just too young to know any better. I was five. What could I really do—read? My perspective was just skewed.

But it didn’t make me feel any better. It just made me think, “Oh, great…no one really knows what the hell they’re doing.”

For that, I think I was wrong. Once again, I believe my perspective was skewed. We may feel like we are stumbling through life, constantly making mistakes and bumbles. We see other parents caring so well for their children as though they’d read the book “How To Carefully Care For Your Child”, and we wonder where our copy was when our kids were born. We see important people on television who have been incredibly successful entrepreneurs who started their first successful business when they were sixteen, published their tenth book by twenty-four when they got their doctorate while also raising two beautiful children and volunteering to teach at their school. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on my sofa, sipping coffee as I write this blog, thinking, “Ugh! I can barely make coffee in the morning.” It certainly seems like some people, at least, know how to adult. They’re no more infallible than our heroes were when we were children, stumbling and bumbling through life in their own manner. Gaining that knowledge and perspective, I believe, is a rite of passage for not only adults but for professionals.

When I was in the Army, I excelled in all of the weapons I used, I could read maps and land navigate well (essential skills for a scout), and been on plenty of field training scenarios as a private. But when I was thrown into command of a vehicle during a training exercise because my sergeant was called home for an emergency, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. It was so stressful, being thrown into that position, and completely botching the entire first day of training didn’t help. Eventually, that same person gained rank and was leading squads and training soldiers to do those very tasks that he’d botched at the beginning of his career. I realized that I had crossed some barrier and into a land of adult-soldierhood during a firefight in Iraq, when a group of insurgents ambushed our patrol. All but two of the soldiers were looking at me for guidance. At the moment it felt like a group of starving people, asking me what they should do with their food. The same type of thing happened again in college when I was asked to be a tutor. At some point, I had crossed into the realm of professional adulthood. At least in the realms of reconnoitering and philosophy.

But how had that happened?

Well…because I worked at something long enough for me to become skilled at that thing. Whether it was studying philosophy or navigating grid coordinates, I kept performing those tasks over and over again. I didn’t just read philosophy, I studied it, and practiced it, and worked to understand it. Leaning on an old adage, “Practice makes perfect”.

I remember when I first thought to write a novel. I sat down and thought so hard for so long to produce so little. Now, people come to me for advice, and even though I feel that I’m far from being an “adult writer”, I also feel like maybe I’m getting there.

Struggling through the query trenches can be downright depressing, and spawn a festering quagmire of doubt. Just keep at it, write-write-write, become the adult writer you want to be and realize that one day you will look back and see that you’ve already crossed that line.

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