“There are no grown-ups. We suspect this when we are younger, but can confirm it only once we are the ones writing books and attending parent-teacher conferences. Everyone is winging it, some just do it more confidently.”
Pamela Druckerman – “What You Learn in Your 40s” – New York Times, February 28, 2014
This quote reminds me of a piece I wrote last year called “Making It Up As You Go”. As a fully fledged “grown-up” who routinely feels completely inadequate to the task (marriage? parenting? building a business? being an “expert”? friendship? faith?) I hit the pillow each night thankful that I have limited the damage and far less grateful than I should be for all of the stuff that goes right. I am winging it. I am making it up as I go and trying like hell, painful though it can be, to stay in the conversation – about who I am and how I impact those around me – fluidly enough that I can evolve, ever so slowly, to a new place of self-awareness and understanding. I can say with utmost confidence that if I don’t do that, the rest of it doesn’t stand a chance.
What I have learned in my 40s (like Ms. Druckerman, I also turn 44 this year) is that we all just want the freedom to be ourselves. I know I am at my best when I am out of my head, living from my heart and in synch with my values and my strengths; when I am being the best version of myself that I know how to be. This is the land of acceptance, appreciation, gratitude and really healthy hard work. It’s across the river from the land of perfectionism, anger, impatience and comparison.
Take this revealing moment at the Oscars last Sunday night when Ellen Degeneres, serving as host, briefly disarmed the rich and famous in her proximity – and the whole production, for that matter – by asking them to join her for a group “selfie.” The result is a hilariously candid, silly moment in the midst of the “most important night of the year.”
The über famous – along with a couple other random folks – looking more like a bunch of overdressed friends on game night than than front-row mega-stars at the Academy Awards. Ellen made something otherwise unreal and totally removed from “normal” into something totally relatable, simple, genuine and fun. Oh, yeah, these folks are people, too. Go figure. (Notice Bradley Cooper making the classic mistake of looking at the image and not the camera. Normal human behavior.)
Yes, I know they are rich. And “special.” And want for nothing. They are also making it up as they go. They are winging it. And I would guess they are doing so with less confidence than we might imagine. They may have more financial security than most of us but that doesn’t mean they live lives free of doubt, anxiety and uncertainty. They might even have more of it given all they have to lose. I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter.
What matters to me is that I see in this photo a bunch of people who – for an instant – look like themselves. Unscripted. Unrehearsed. Just alive and present in the moment. The best any of us can be.