400 words about the uncertainty of adulthood for all young adults

Approximately 60,000 people in Ireland take the State Leaving Cert exam each year. The equivalent of a packed outdoor arena full of young men and women, taking something labelled with such finality as the “Leaving” exam.

Leaving what? Leaving to where?

This is just one little country. The population of Ireland makes up just 0.06% of the world’s population. All over the world, there are young people taking tentative first steps into adulthood.

If you’re one of them, you are doing this at a time of great uncertainty too.

You are reaching adulthood just as a pandemic of new illness sweeps the globe, with all the suffering and fear it brings.

You are entering into a technology-heavy culture in which the way we do everything changes often and rapidly.

You are becoming a man or a woman, and a citizen and a role model and a leader too, because whether you know it or not, people everywhere will look to you to see how you do things.

Here’s a short, unordered list of things to take with you into the uncertainty of adulthood:

  • Times of great uncertainty are common. In fact, they’re so common that the only certainty is that you will experience great uncertainty many times in your life. At least once a decade, and maybe more.
  • The knowledge that times of great uncertainty are common should make uncertainty easier to bear.
  • Uncertainty about yourself, and your place in the world, your purpose and the grand questions (the meaning of life!), is just as common.
  • Uncertainty will make you stronger. Because uncertainty is, in fact, certain, having certainty about anything is a weakness.
  • Uncertainty and indecisiveness are different things. You can be uncertain and decisive. In fact, this is what you must aim for, because decisiveness amid uncertainty is how great leaders live. (And you are a great leader in the making, whether that’s in a public role, or within your community, or your family, or just a great leader of your own life.)
  • Uncertainty makes you humble, and that’s a good thing, because humility is one of the best states of being human. (Benjamin Franklin wrote 12 virtues before adding humility as a 13th only after being advised to do so by a Quaker friend, who found him occasionally overbearing and insolent. So Franklin added humility, with the simple description: “Imitate Jesus and Socrates”.)