Have I lost it?

“Don’t grow up, it’s a trap” reads a poster in the window of a card shop I walk past every day on my way to work. It’s a sign — or not, I don’t know anymore.

I tried to read On the road at 17, because it was on the shelf of my new room and it seemed like a thing to do. I had to ditch it after 40 pages, the translation was so awful. Writing, good or bad, had somewhat recently started to be something I was aware of. I moved onto Bonjour tristesse.

Years later, my boyfriend professed on our first date his love for Kerouac. He gave me his own dog-eared copy a few weeks later. I figured the writing could only get better since it was in English. It wasn’t. More crucially, I had no interest for the characters: Sal was a coward, and Dean was an asshole. They weren’t going anywhere. I couldn’t fathom the obsession for this book. How was this a symbol of free thinking?

I was 21, and I had already lost it.

Something happens along the way, when you shed your teenager skin to reveal an adult after the painful molting process. The intense, burning feeling you harbour for everything: crushes, friends, bands, films, books, style, the ones you’re ready to fight for, against anyone who dares disagree.

You lose it.

It might happen early on, it might happen later in life, but I suspect it’s around the time you have to start paying bills.

After a job interview I knew I aced, I receive a follow-up email asking me my 5 year plan. It’s the most basic question, yet I am stumped. I decide to give the most honest answer I can think of: “My career plan is not clearly defined yet, so far it has been shaped by people I’ve met, and being in the right place at the right time. I’m hoping it will start to make more sense in the future, but in the meantime I’m looking to do something I can be proud of, which is the case at (insert name of my previous employer). What I would be leaving behind is a well oiled machine (if I may say so myself).”

How sad is my answer? I have no plans.

I was about to turn 26, and I had lost it.

What is it?

Everybody needs a dream. Without it, only mediocrity awaits.

It wasn’t always like that. I used to have one. I went to school for it, I tried to make a living out of it. I wasn’t the best at it. In a business where only the most hungry survive, I decided to pull out of the race.

I’m in awe of people around me who know what they want and had the guts to stick it out. I shouldn’t be so shocked when their records come out, when their book deals are announced, when their companies launch. They had a target and they aimed for it.

I have a drive, and there are things I’m good at. The best analogy I can come up with is that I know how to run, I have good trainers, but I have no idea what the route is and where the finish line could be.

I’m still 26, and I want it back.