When I was in middle school, lost and confused in the midst of early adolescence, I remember thinking about the future 18 year old version of me. I imagined how she would feel confident and sure of herself. She'd know how to drive a car and picked a college by then, and once you know how to drive a car and got into college, you've basically got everything figured out.
When I turned 18 and assuredly did not feel they way I thought 18 year old Katie would feel, I was instead convinced that College Graduate Katie would definitely have her stuff together. She'd be 22, an adult, and she'd have a college degree. Surely then, she wouldn't feel like she was just making things up and she went along.
College Graduate Katie arrived and heavens was she disappointing. She had decided to go to grad school, but didn't know if that really was a good idea. She jumped into education that led to a specific career that she wasn't sure she'd even be good at (or like!?). She, too, was making stuff up as she went along. She was convinced that Graduate School Graduate Katie would know what was up.
And I'm sure you're getting the gist now, but surprise, Graduate School Graduate Katie ALSO had no idea what she was doing. It was then that I asked my mom, someone I'd always seen as wise, mature, and 'together' her thoughts on when I'd actually feel like I wasn't masquerading as an adult just waiting for someone to "find me out" as a fraud. I saw my mom as someone who'd "arrived" and settled into who she was. But what she told me is that she has also never felt like she knew what she was doing. Even with being the mom of two kids, she'd been the mom me as an 18 year old, so she'd definitely feel competent when my younger sister turned 18. However, when my sister turned 18, I had turned 21, and she'd never parented an 18 year old AND a 21 year old at the same time. All completely new territory!
What I had found out was a secret that I feel like we don't talk about enough, "No one, at any point in life, actually knows what they are doing." I have no idea, you have no idea, we're all just making it up as we go along. We see others as "arrived" or "together" but when you really ask those people how they feel, they always, always, always feel like some version of Middle School Them- fumbling, confused, slightly disoriented, and mostly flying by the seat of their pants. So, instead of pretending like any of us really know what's up, let's step into the unknown together and settle into our lack of understanding. It's okay. We've all been here this whole time- we just needed to turn on the lights.