My name is Lyndsey and I have no idea what’s going on

I have spent most of my life trying  to appear older than I really am. Leadership positions, top grades, even the sarcastic cynicism, all acquired in part to prove myself, always the youngest in the class and even younger in appearance than my actual age. It’s a sort of Napoleon complex.

In the spring of my freshman year at college, I woke up early on a Saturday (as mature people do) and met a friend who was a senior to sit at a booth on a sidewalk and tell visiting students about our improv team. I never expected to have a life-changing conversation that day. But in a moment of uncharacteristic cadidness I must have said something about how I wished I knew what I was doing in life, because then my first-ever married friend who seemed so very old was telling me – You think I know what I’m doing? No one matures after the age of 13. Look around at all these professors and parents. What no one is telling  you is that they’re all just pretending to know what they’re doing. Everyone here in “adult world” is making sh** up as they go along, and they have no idea whether or not they’re doing it right.

And then I was free. I didn’t know how much it had weighed on me until I so suddenly got rid of it – the assumption that there was a secret or skill to being an adult, and someone had forgotten to pass mine on to me. We were all just pretending together! What a thought! I wanted to laugh; the joke’s on everyone.

I think at that point, I needed someone to let me know it was OK to be pretending while I muddled around being a college student, screwing up money and relationships. It turns out the only secret to being an adult is understanding what a meaningless term that is; and after that day I never had a problem applying the label to myself. wink wink, nudge nudge. Adult. But I kept treating it like a secret. I only told a few people who were younger than me, with an air of solemnity and wisdom. [in all honesty, I’ll probably keep doing that.]

But now – the secret’s out. There may have been a time when I needed to pretend, but now, I’d very much appreciate if we could maybe sometimes give each other permission not to pretend. Maybe some other overachieving 18-year-olds would be less anxious if we adults [tee hee] stopped acting all put together, or even saying things like “I’m really not as put-together as I seem”. People like to say that to cover over the fact that they still haven’t revealed their messes.

So I’ll go first: My name is Lyndsey and I have no idea what’s going on. When I started telling people I was going to be moving to Syracuse, some of them responded with “it’s cool that you know what you’re doing”I think they meant “it’s cool that you’re not an aimless unemployed failure” but the only part I heard was “you know what you’re doing”, which caused my politely smiling eyes to go blank for a few seconds while, inside my head, I laughed real hard. What I’m doing? What I’m usually doing when you see me is trying not to worry or be self-conscious, which causes me to worry and be self-conscious. What I’m usually doing when I’m by myself is alternately wasting time and berating/guilting myself into checking things off a task list. What I’m doing with my life is taking the only opportunity to semi-support myself that I was offered after college (thanks for the health insurance, parents!). What I’m doing after that is probably incurring extraordinary amounts of debt.

Other than that, I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m a happy productive adult anyway! Maybe it’s just the improv talking, but now that the illusion of control [the possibility, even] is gone, I’m terribly excited to get on with life. I don’t need anyone to call me “mature” anymore; I’m fine with being 21 and just 21. I’ll get older, learn some lessons, and label them “wisdom”, and then the future will keep on surprising me and life will keep on being bewildering for me and everyone else. Only God knows what he’s doing, what’s really going on, and he generally isn’t too keen to clue us in and that’s how things are supposed to be. Everything is OK, dear child.

Because, really. All the adults are children in the end.


This is part of a fun linky thing, also called a synchroblog, hosted by Mr. Preston Yancey.

Leave a comment


  1. jacquelinegardner

     /  August 8, 2012

    This is fantastic. Also…your ‘about me’ section? Awesome. I feel like we would get along wonderfully.

  2. Tyler B

     /  August 8, 2012

    It’s . . good to hear this sort of thing, but I think it actually jolts me out of my peacefulness. In regards to the future, I get the benefit of eternal hope that comes from being an aspiring writer (“Maybe I’m actually an undiscovered genius! And what I’m writing is actually brilliant!”). Other than that, I choose not to think about it and call it “faith” in God working things out. But you know what? I don’t talk about that, except for now, apparently. Even if no answer is immediately provided in your writing, thank you for the openness, because it gets the conversation going.

    • Well, my whole “get paid to do nonprofit work” thing worked out. By “faith” and a lot of worrying (oops). And, really REALLY, you know how everyone keeps telling you to enjoy college and not worry about the future? It’s because that’s truly the best thing you can do for yourself as long as you’re doin’ ok in school. I say go back to your peacefulness, Mr. B.

  3. Jacqueline in Atlanta

     /  August 8, 2012

    The most delightful thing in the world is a three year old. Not yet old enough to be self-conscious. Frank to a fault. Curious to the point of danger. Couldn’t care less if their clothes match, even the girls (most of them, unless their ex-cheerleader mothers have already turned them into Barbies). Don’t judge people by anything outward, but ask you about anything they’ve never seen before. (Why is your skin black? What is wrong with your eye? Can’t you walk for real? What happened to your big toe? Did it hurt when they put an earring there?) It’s really hard to hurt a three year old’s feelings because they don’t have their egos out there yet. The next year, whole different story!

    I would wish for all of us a little more three year old and a little less adult.

  4. I like this post, and I therefore like you.

    Hooray for admitting we don’t have it all together.

    (Also, wish I could have majored in cake-eating in university, although it’s probably for the best that I didn’t…)

  5. Transparency. When I hear people tell me what I’m doing is “living the dream” I gape a bit, because I too feel like that’s not what’s at issue. What’s at issue is how much I’m not. Perspective is a tricky, hard won thing. I still rarely have it. Thanks for linking up with us!


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