When growing up, kids are frequently asked by their aunt or grandpa, “So what are you going to do when you finish school?” insinuating that they have a plan, even that they’re going to finish school. If a kid is so lucky to be aware of exactly what they want to do, it’s a simple question. “I’m going to become a doctor,” “I’m going to fly for Alaska Airlines,” “I’m going to become a receptionist for a paper company.” However for those who don’t know what they want to be by their 15th birthday, it can become a nagging question.
In my daily life I find myself thinking about what I’m doing. Really, I don’t know for sure. Each second another precious moment passes, and part of me with it, which does sound like a cliche, but it’s true. I’ve gone through almost a full year of high school, and it feels like I just started 5th grade. I can see into the most likely future; me at a college which I wasn’t sure was right for me but I’m going along with it because I’m gonna try to make it work, just like my confusing relationship at the time.
10 years forward: I have 3 kids, my chances of becoming an astronaut are slim because I put my family first. 10 more years ahead: my kids start facing puberty, they come to me (I hope) with all their hormonal problems, “Does Jason really like me?” “Why do I have to do the laundry?” “How do I know what I want to do for my career?” And so starts the circle again. Now I’m in charge and have to use all my authoritative parental knowledge to tell my kids exactly what they want to do, because of course I know what’s best for them.
10 more years: my kids are leaving. Currently, I can’t imagine what heartbreak moms go through when the little birds leave the nest, but now I’m experiencing it. It’s a good thing; it means the circle is continuing. They’re going to create their own lives, their own families, and ultimately mine, and they’ll drift apart from their mom. I’m freaking out right now just thinking about it.
10 years more: My kids have their own kids. I have gray hair. Mom and Dad are gone. I’m not in 5th grade anymore but sometimes it still feels like it. My grandkids are different from what my siblings and I were like at their age. They fight over hoverboards, they have a fit because they didn’t get the new Apple 9+. They don’t want to hear about grandma’s adventures with super glue as a kid when she glued her hands together, or how she used to chat with friends just through pictures with text, what are those called? Memes? My generation is over. I’ll soon be over with it.
10 years forward: My husband is gone. My grandkids are more out of control, they’re starting the puberty stage. Realization hits me: I could have prevented this. I didn’t know what I was doing when I went into 5th grade, or started college, or when I got married, or when I decided to put family instead of career. Why did my life go downhill as my age inclined? When was I last happy? As I sip my peppermint tea and pet one of my several cats, I think back to when I first started high school. I was new to public school, I didn’t know more than 3 people in a 400 people crowd. Gradually I made many friends, got good grades, and figured my life would work itself out. Just live in the moment, I’d tell myself. I don’t need to worry about my career yet, I’m barely 15. The best I can do is get good grades to set myself up for later. But even if I had all As, would I put my career as a part-time successful aerospace engineer and part-time astronaut for Blue Origin over my career as a mom? I recall what my Mom said to me, so many years before the peppermint tea and cats, being a mom is the most important job in the world. Did I make the right choice? Did I raise my kids in the best way? Was I ready? I’ll have no way to know, and no way to change it, but it will be the foremost question on my mind.
10 years forward: My grandkids are starting college, and start asking me questions about my life. Finally! I can tell about my 4.0 I had first semester of freshman year, my pride in all those As, then they say, “So if you had top marks, why would you have a family instead of becoming an astronaut?” I have no answer. My kids start their own gray hairs and ask me, “How did it feel when we left you? What did you do? What do I do?” Again, I’m the authoritative parental figure. I felt the same way you do! What did I do? I moved on with my life and moved to a smaller house, got a few cats, enjoyed the fruits of my labors. What do you do? You are the responsible adults I raised, I taught how to use logic to your advantage, I clothed and fed you and gave up a career as an astronaut for your benefit. You should know what to do, just as much as I did when I was your age. It could come off as complaining, but I mean it to get the point across, and to justify within myself that I made the right choice, which is all I can do.
10 years more: I’ve passed away. My last wish, if I had not gotten to space by then, was to be cremated and have part of my ashes sent to space in a capsule, and some spread to family members, who are all deeply saddened by my death. Nothing left.
So what now? I’m not dead, I don’t have kids, or grandkids for that matter, I haven’t finished high school, but I’ve finished 5th grade. 5. The number 5 is expressed by humans by holding up one hand, extending all 5 fingers (or really, 4 fingers and one thumb). From an outsider’s view, what we do with said hands with outstretched fingers is plain weird. We slap them together, called high-fiving. This is meant to express happiness, jubilation, sometimes pride, but the root is happiness. At the end of the above story, did I achieve my maximum happiness? I doubt it. There’s always a way to be happier. Even smiling everyday will make your life better. There’s so much I need to do, but doing all of those things will bring to light what I enjoy doing. It could be doing an engineer’s job, it could be going to space, it could be being a mom. I don’t know what I want to do, except I know that whatever happens I want to be happy. Don’t overthink things, pursue what you love, and just live in the moment.