(Not) Growing Up


When I was a little girl, I was afraid of growing up.  I’ve never done well with change, and I thought that – somewhere between coffee and tax returns – my world might lose its magic.  I’m relieved to know now that this isn’t true.  I think most of us never really grow up at all.

We pay bills and dare to fall in love, and call that growing up.  We learn that Life has dirt underneath its fingernails – or else we’d never be heartbroken and no one we loved would ever die.  We screw up, but have you noticed – things always turn out alright, anyway?

We try not to do the stupid girl thing and we do it, anyway.  We pay our electric bills and try to be kind.  We carry a lot things around in us – like first “I love you’s,” cases of the Mondays, and thousands of sunsets.  We drop classes and go to crappy jobs.

But there’s a part of us – in all this – that’s unspoiled and tender.  It’s what we always come home to and what makes us us.  People might come and go, but we just become more and more ourselves.

And I’m starting to understand that every shave, every kiss, every crying fit – it adds up to something.  Like there’s this richness in Life – like a layer cake cut open and turned to the side.  I think years from now, I’ll look at this time in my life and see that this was my growing up.  And not because I stopped believing in happy thoughts.

I think growing up is deciding who you want to be – not who others want you to be.  I think – when I’m old and covered in wrinkles – I will look back and say, “I really grew some cajones then.”  I decided how I wanted to build my name and do good in the world.  Maybe we never stop doing this, but to quote Bob Dylan, it feels like times they are a’changin.’  In good ways.

Children are whole.  Easily themselves.  They can’t imagine they would need less or more of anything in their lives.  Adults are more like puzzles missing pieces, and we have to figure out what’s going to fit there.  Still, we should be proud and gentle with ourselves in the process, because that can be like dragging a refrigerator over cement.

When I put on lipstick now, I try to see a woman I should be proud of.  I also try to see a warrior.  I can sort of see the direction this woman is going – the places she’ll see and the strength she’ll gather.  But more importantly I try to be proud of her for what she’s done already.

When we came into this world, no one handed us an operating manual and a set of keys to our starter home.  No one told us how to heal a broken heart or what we should do with our lives.  We had to carve out our corners – stake our claims – and this is not a small thing.  Mistakes, flaws and all, we should be proud of ourselves for who we are because life can be hard.  Each of us goes out into the world filled with loves, good intentions, fears, and visions – and then we make mistakes and stumble over and over again.  We all do this.  Sometimes we’re careening towards a cliff as we barely make rent, hate our jobs, lose someone, whatever.  Other times we’re in a roundabout when we get published for the first time, fall in love, or surf for three hours on a Saturday.

Since #adulthood, I’ve seen an Austrian Christmas market and made a lot of bad decisions.  Those are the highlights – just kidding.  But every beer – every hand hold – made me better than I was.  We should be kinder to ourselves, because just doing this – just getting out of bed or graduating from college – they’re not small feats.

Children are kind to themselves.  Maybe they are this way because no one has told them what to be yet.  Children also see things with their hearts.  Since they see with their hearts, they can always feel the presence of the invisible things – the magics and the mysteries.  Kids also don’t take themselves so seriously and neither should we, or so one of my best friends tells me.

Kids, too, never look backwards or forwards.  Wherever they are, they are all there.  They seem to remember their very breaths are miracles.  They also expect the best to happen.

When you’ve been hurt, it might be hard to believe in someone will love you in a way that endures.  That someone that will love you with a love from the fairytales.  Love is important in life, not just romantic love, but friendships, too.  I think all of us deserve a lot of love, and I would wish it for everyone.  I think we should expect love, anyway, and we should know that we are deserving of it.

In her final interview before her death, Janis Joplin said, “You are what you settle for.  You are only as much as you settle for.”  She meant we’re supposed work hard to do what makes us happy, but I think in the process, we should be gentle with ourselves, too.

We’re growing up – becoming better, even if there are no awards to prove it or mile markers to tell us so.  It’s all leading somewhere, and every little thing is going to be alright.

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