I turn 21 next Monday. This is supposed to be a birthday that inspires nothing but excitement and drunken happiness at the local bars. While I know I’ll enjoy myself, I’m kind of terrified. Your 21st birthday is your last one that’s associated with a positive milestone. I can’t escape the feeling that I’m about to be old.
A friend I used to work with at The Michigan Daily talked about getting married last time we had dinner. A girl I went to high school with already has two kids. I have close friends who just raised nearly a million dollars in venture capital. Everyone is talking about graduating, yet in my mind I’m still 16. When I refer to people who are “grown up,” they’re only a few years older than I am.
On the one hand I’ve had one foot in the real world much earlier than most (but not all) of my peers. Not many 19-year-olds find themselves on phone calls with the heads of major media outlets or do interviews with the biggest players in the financial markets and business world. Not many 20-year-olds start a technology company and have to worry about product development cycles or have to run out of school events to have conversations with reporters on a deadline. I’ve had experiences that most people don’t have until they’re in their 40’s.
Yet I feel woefully unprepared for “real life.” Two weeks ago I flooded the laundry machine because I tried to shove everything into one load. Anyone who has lived with me can attest to the fact that I can’t cook, and my idea of grocery shopping consists of ordering a chipati from Pizza Bob’s and then moaning about how their delivery person is late (note: I live all of 5 minutes down the street from them).
I jump at opportunities to babysit if I hear that the kid has LEGOs. Last weekend, I was bouncing on my friend’s bed and they asked me what I was doing. I answered, “Playing…” I still find poop jokes absolutely hilarious (I’m the proud owner of the domain name poopsfromlastnight.com). My idea of “dressing up” is a collared shirt and jeans. Does that sound like an adult?
In all honesty, the reason I’m terrified of growing up is because I’m terrified of my life being boring. The day my evenings consist of conversations about choosing new carpet is the day I will literally have a mental breakdown. I have a very vivid image of sitting around a dinner table with my family listening to the silverware clink against the dishes because no one has anything interesting to say. I’m in a bi-level colonial house in the suburbs near a mid-sized city with a white picket fence, a small, overly-groomed yappy dog named Princess, two children wearing identical grey school uniforms and a wife talking about the errands she ran that day. Oh, and we had lasagna for dinner. This is my personal hell.
Entrepreneurship is how I express this fear of being normal. Through Fetchnotes and in partnership with my team, I am creating what I want in the world — the type of product I want to use, the type of company I want to work for, and the type of lifestyle I want to live. Despite my Peter Pan Syndrome, I can’t wait to be done with school so that my-cofounder Chase Lee and I can build and grow our company full-time (okay, let’s be honest, double full-time). Even though I never say no to a conversation about Dragonball Z, I’ll talk about product design and user experience details until I’m blue in the face. When LEGOs aren’t available, I love pitching Fetchnotes to reporters, customers, partners and anyone else who will listen. I’d imagine the same is true for any entrepreneur who is really passionate about what they’re doing.
At the end of the day, that’s what motivates me and makes me look forward to the next 100 years. I’m determined to create the life I want to live and not wait for someone to give it to me. And if I can do that, growing up can’t be that bad.
But I’m not giving up my LEGOs.