It was only about six months into adulthood, when Ryan and I realized our whole world had changed. We had recently graduated from college, got married, road tripped to Canada, then settled in Upstate New York to start life as big bad 20 somethings.
Lots of hope. Lots of excitement. Lots of energy. And then, even though we had the job, and the apartment, and each other, our enthusiasm began to squeal as if there was leak in our balloon that we couldn't find. Wait - stop! What's going on? Every month, every quarter, every year a decrease. We're happy! But tired. We're hopeful! But uncertain. We're confident! But on edge.
It took us awhile to pick up on it, but finally we found the hole. The leak that most every 20 something year old feels when they take action and become a big kid.
We realized - we'd lost our cheerleaders.
We had a handful of local friends and our parents who called frequently. But cheerleaders. The comparison - was no comparison. I've found even if you stick around your home town through your 30s, it's never the same as it was when you were young.
Take the unofficial test!
Take a minute to count the people in your life who used to give you a word of encouragement ... or who asked you about your life ... or who even just talked to you ... in high school (or college if you had a better experience then).
1 - Teachers (how many at one time?)
2 - Coaches (how many in one year?)
3 - Good friends (how many?)
4 - Older students/mentors (how many?)
5 - Outside mentors - pastor, teen leader, volunteer (how many?)
6 - Active parents (how many?)
7 - Your friends' parents - who joke with you (how many?)
And then. Think about the power of your community at the time. Whether it was your school, church, or city, each community has a newsletter, and I'll bet anything you were listed in it at least once (if not several times). Come on', don't be humble.
That means if your team won a basketball game - where was it recorded? Even if it was once, you were awesome and probably had it stuffed in a scrap book or on mom's bulletin board. Hey - even our artwork got hung up on a bulletin board outside the classroom.
You better believe you've gotta add that number into your count.
Oh, now you've got too many to count? That's what I thought.
No wonder youth have such hope in the world. They view the world with such opportunity. Because without realizing it, they feel invincible, they feel safe, they feel supported.
That feeling of support carries into college as we join clubs, and sports teams, and groups that make us feel even more like we belong.
And then (to be overly dramatic), we get dumped on the doorsteps of life, with a pat on the butt and a “Go gettum!”
The first year of adulthood was exciting, interesting, challenging. By the time the second year of adulthood comes around all the encouragement of 20+ years of mentors, teachers, parents, friends somehow got used up or leaked out. It's not uncommon to go from feeling "I can!" to "I can't!" My opinion? Don't blame it on the job or the new city or 'being jaded'.
We've lost the cheerleaders.
Take the test again - Today's version.
1 - How many teachers or coaches or pastors do you currently have?
(People you know closely who instruct you on how to do your job, advance your life, become a better person)
2 - How many good friends do you talk to once a day? Once a week?
3 - How many mentors do you have?
(They're in the next stage of life encouraging you - let's say monthly)
4- Are you parents active in your life?
(Do they know about your work? About your family? About your struggles or victories?)
5 - Do you have a community that celebrates your victories in life, in work, spiritually?
This is why when we started our design company (in the midst of the recession), we decided we would be the cheerleaders the adult world was missing. It was a huge rally cry of ours - to cheer on entrepreneurs and business owners while they did the hard work of dreaming and building. We wanted to be Mom #2 on the cheerleader list.
Naturally your number is going to be drastically different than childhood. In our adulthood, our cheerleaders should become more concentrated, specific, focused. That's okay, but we should have a robust list of people who are cheering for us.
Maybe you realize you have a lot of people in your life. If so - please reach out to them. Building your support system isn't just smart for your general happiness, it's one of the factors of a long life. Ask them for accountability (the kind mom + dad gave) and ask them for encouragement. It's okay to ask.
Maybe you realize you’ve failed to develop the kinds of relationships you need to succeed in this stage of your life. I've got a model you can use to identify where you need your cheerleaders:
PROFESSIONALLY - who is teaching you, mentoring you, helping you understand the ropes?
FAMILY - who can support you through the shifts in your own family and help you understand them - and yourself?
PERSONALLY - who is helping you to become the person you want to be, in your character, attitude and ethics?
FUN - who encourages you to be you and loves you for it?
ACTION STEP: Make a list of 4-8 people. Invite each one out for coffee or lunch. Then decide who you want to meet with monthly or bi-weekly.
Hey, I'm doing mine this week. Tell me how yours goes, and I'll share my results. I'm already finding it's pretty life changing...