"I am sure others feel the same as you." I watched her as she pushed the half-half towards me because she knows its the only way I drink my coffee these days, "Nobody really knows what they want to be when they grow up anymore."
All I could think about as she spoke, was how I should be grown up enough to drink my coffee black and I can't even do that.
The problem is that ten years ago, I had this adult thing all figured out. I knew everything.
I knew what I wanted to be and how I wanted to live. Ten years ago, I would have imagined myself living very differently than I do. In fact, "mid-twenties Noelle" would be quite surprised that "mid-thirties Noelle" doesn't have her own talk show by now - because clearly, I'd have my crap so together, everyone would want to know how to be me.
After having a lived a little bit of life, I feel hardly the expert or accomplished. If anything, I feel like an adulthood drop-out who is way behind in achieving my mid-twenties plan.
The American Dream is a quiet and judgmental presence that sits at your table with her arms crossed and a disapproving look upon her face. Like a great-aunt who questions your life choices at every family gathering, the American Dream leans in to you just at your most vulnerable moment and says, "So, what are you actually planning to do with your life? Cause' clearly this isn't cutting it." One by one, she highlights the failures:
Don't own your own house? Slacker.
Drive a car older than five years? Deadbeat.
No graduate degrees? Dropout.
Less than a thousand Insta followers? Nobody.
Don't have a career that you love and are making six figures from? Disappointment.
Do any of these things really matter? No. Well, at least that's what we say... but I suspect that we have secretly made these the markers of how we self-grade our lives. And some of us feel like we are failing. Our mid-twenties selves would be disappointed with our mid-thirties selves and there can be a lot of shame wrapped up in that. We are wandering towards our forties mumbling to those around us, "Wait! I don't know what to do with my life! I'm behind!"
"So, what do you want to be when you grow up?" my friend asked as she offered me a spoon to stir my coffee.
"I don't know. Betty White?" I answered, "Or maybe the Queen of England."
"Don't we all?" she laughed and then took a tiny sip of her pour over. "But what if we just grow up to be decent and lovely human beings? Will that be enough?"
I thought about it for a moment. If my life never achieves my "mid-twenties life-plan", will I be okay with becoming a decent and lovely human being... and nothing more?
"Maybe, " I said. "but pass me the half and half again. I can't drink this coffee so strong."