'When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in anyway…' -Help, The Beatles
I was one of those children who couldn't wait to 'grow up' and 'do my own thing.' The way I saw it, grown ups lived in this big glossy world with financial freedom, did not have authority figures around to tell them what to do and did not have to spend six hours every day cooped up in a dingy class room listening to teachers drone on about stuff that were of little or no use in the real world. What's not to like?
In my early twenties, I realized to my disappointment that things hadn't changed the way I expected - now I had bosses instead of teachers and I disliked most of them by default. And worse, I was dependent on them if I wanted the financial freedom I couldn't live without. But how did this happen? Adulthood was supposed to be fun. So I simply decided that I didn't have to 'put up with anybody's crap' and quit jobs just as soon as the bosses got annoying. Because you know, I was now a grown up and could do my own thing.
Except I hadn't factored in this little thing called consequences into my decisions (both with my career as well as my relationships) and found that every time I 'did my own thing', I was left dealing with a lot of ugly outcomes - such as heartaches and unpaid bills. I always turned to sitcoms for comfort because they had characters who were just as clueless as I was - their lives were stuck in second gear and their jobs were a joke, they were broke and their love lives were, you know, DOA. So I told myself that I was on track and that life was going to get better just like it did for my sitcom counterparts.
And that's where I got stuck. Because as it turned out, real life was nothing like Friends. I found that the more I went about doing my own thing, the messier life got and there was no Ross at the end of the tunnel to rescue me. But I was wired to not ask for help because the way I understood it, grown ups didn't
any. Also, how could I now cry weakly for help when I had made such a show of doing my own thing? So I continued down that road till I worked myself into a corner that I couldn't get out of and had to do the unthinkable - ask for help.
And what a liberating moment that was. Not only did help pour in from all corners but it completely took the pressure off - I didn't have anything left to prove because I had already failed at everything - I was 27 and without a clue about what I wanted to do for a living, divorced before most of my friends were married and a mom without a nurturing bone. So much for doing my own thing!
When I look back at that time now, I can see that I had two choices - asking for help and starting from scratch or refusing to admit I had messed up and continuing to do my own thing. As you might have gathered, I threw my hands up and cried for mommy. And it's the best decision I've ever made.
Because as I later realized, growing up is not about having it all together. It's about knowing when to say 'I messed up, I need help!' It's not just about doing my own thing. It's about knowing how to deal with the world's worst hangover after doing my own thing.
And if I can only get myself to swallow my pride and admit I messed up, I'll discover that life works out exactly like the sitcoms. And being a grown up is really as liberating as I always imagined.
'…But now these days are gone and I am not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors.
Help me if you can I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being around
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me'
Judy is a compulsive theorist and dreamy single-mum. She believes in serendipity, The Butterfly Effect and is pop-culture-crap intolerant. She is also the best-selling author of Two Fates - The Story of My Divorce