My son asked me the other day, “Mommy, when will I be a grown-up?” “Very soon, my love because time flies,” I responded. This small conversation made me think. Maybe the issue was that there is a direction. Up. One cannot simply grow, one must grow up. Along with pencil notches on a door frame and candles on a cake, your ferocity, wisdom, and velocity must increase as you age.
Anyone who has reached adulthood knows that growth does not progress like a ticking clock. It usually means horrible missteps and innocence lost, betrayal, disappointment and broken zippers. It moves backward, inwards, sideways, finding new ways to humble us. Doesn’t growth most often feel only good in hindsight? Like running a marathon through the five stages of grief. Sometimes it doubles back on itself many times before it emerges as something remotely useful. Then, of course, we may forget what it taught us and repeat the same mistakes. Move back home, get lost, find ourselves again, get lost again, meet new people, get lost again, but be better for it. Ad infinitum.
We all know this chart and intellectuality it entails, right?
But it is different from knowing it in our bones. And aligning our senses of self to the inalienable truth that progress often means making a huge, disastrous mess first. #storyofmylife. Let’s dive into the complicated pool of human progress a bit: Growing up. Can you grow down? Laterally? Literally? In relationship and partner choices, I know of at least one example for sure. Can you regress and then grow as a direct result of that regression? Or can you grow in a bad way? In the wrong way? Can you grow by learning, and then grow again by unlearning what you learned the first time?
I told my son the other day that I don’t want to sound like a deflated balloon, but adulthood is exhausting. He just looked at me and proudly told me that he washed my new sweater in the little pond so I don’t have to wash it anymore. Now that I am here on this earth for quite some time as a fully formed adult who subscribes to The New Yorker, reads the Süddeutsche Zeitung and moves around to figure out where the best place to live is one might think I have it all figured out.
These days, life is awesome but a couple of weeks ago it was rather tedious and my happiness tended to look a lot more like contentment rather than non-stop joy. It is a constant up and down but this is okay. I could throw caution to the wind and hop on the hedonistic hamster-wheel of chasing perpetual youth, but honestly, that sounds exhausting, kind of expensive and I rather spend my afternoon in a hammock reading a good book to find perpetual inner peace. So in the interest of gratitude and thoughtful living and what have you, I am trying not to take adulthood for granted and will share a handful of things that make me feel blissful, like a full-on adult. These are little moments where life turned out exactly as I once thought it would.
Balancing groceries on my hip as I get my mail out of the mailbox. It is just something about this balancing act that is life just feels so satisfying. Little victories. And never walk twice.
Eating Chinese food straight from the container.
When I lived in New York City, eating Lo Mein out of a paper container felt like the height of working woman sophistication to me. There was this certain grace of giving myself not even a plate feels which felt like an indulgence. There is
Standing in the aisle of a drug store comparing two toilet cleaners. Nothing says I have my shit together quite like taking my time to form opinions on toilet bowl cleaners.
Making chicken soup (any other soup) from scratch. Or actually cooking anything at home because it tastes so much better.
Unceremoniously stop jogging when I have had enough and to simply walk home. It is totally fine. No judgments. Not even the guy you just passed who challenged himself to squat deeper than he did the week before. He also trains for the Iron Man. I will do my thing. I used to train harder, run faster but in the long-run, all this nonsense did nothing for me but gave me pain.
Safety. If I knew what safety looked like, I would have spent less time falling into arms that were not. I know now. The key: Love yourself first. Unconditionally.
Chill in a hammock for a couple of hours and read. You are your own soulmate. Don’t mistake salt for sugar. If he wants to be with you, he will. It is that simple.