When you turn eighteen, you say, “Hey, self, you’re a grownup! A grownup!!” You’re an adult, legally and officially. Just like that! The birthday cake candles prove it!
Adult, yup, but are you a grownup?
For a long while, particularly during the time between high school and about two years following college graduation, I didn’t realize that there’s a difference.
Adult, grownup. Psh! Tomato, tomaaato.
I was cruising around with my ticket to freedom. I’m an adult. I’m a grownup. La la la. Bring it, real world.
There were moments when that pesky voice inside my head whispered, “Careful, remember you. You might not even know you anymore.” I shooed it out. I was being a grownup, surely! I wore high heels and toted a shiny red briefcase from meeting to meeting. Little kids listened to me because I was an elder, after all. The guy at the grocery store called me ma’am. La la la. I’m a grownup!
I was ignoring something important. I didn’t know me anymore. Scratch that. I knew me. I just didn’t feel confident in being me. I quit writing. I dated a guy who was Mr. Wrong all along. In fact, I was truer to myself at twelve years old than I was at twenty!
I’ve been sorting it all out in my head, unintentionally and sometimes knowingly, over the last ten years. Ten years, people. A decade! A third of my whole lifetime! Yeeesh!
Drumroll, please, for after ten years of navigating grownup land, I am able to write this: I’m totally one hundred percent aware of who I am and who I’m supposed to be as an official grownup. I have a good idea of why I’m here and what I’m supposed to do with my life. Hello, sense of purpose, woo woo! Happy happy dance dance. I’m okay with voicing my opinions even on the feather ruffling topics, talking about things that would have mortified me even just a few years ago and joyfully not following the popular route on a lot of things. I’m me, just me. That feels good.
It’s like an angel has whispered in my ear: “Be you.” More likely, I owe the realization to my life experiences. Teeny weeny bumps. Rough dips. Ginormous hurdles set up for someone a hundred times stronger and taller than me. These testing challenges forced me to be brave, have belief in better times, hold tightly to hope and laugh at myself.
That’s more calming than the warm breeze that’s wrapping me up right now as I scribble on a notebook, under a maple tree, five feet from a lake.
I’m still growing into a grownup, a real grownup, and I hope I always am. If you stop trying to find serenity, to take care of yourself, to continually make yourself a better person, you’ll shrivel up.
As my wise Uncle Kevin the plumber says, if you don’t figure this out early in life, one day you’ll wake up to find that half your lifetime is gone and you still have no clue whom you are or worse, you’ve lost too much time and there are no re-dos.
What fortune it is to get knocked on the head with this knowledge. It quiets my insecurities – the ones that tell me to settle for second-rate everything, that I can’t write, that I’ll never find Mr. Just Right for Me and that the world isn’t as marvelous as I know it is.
I still worry way too much over things I cannot control. I manage to awkward-ify moments that have no reason to be awkward. These things will never change.
But now I feel happy with me, truly me, in a way I haven’t felt since I was twelve years old or maybe even ever. I know how to make it in grownup land.
That’s a beautiful feeling I wish for you, little dove.