This week I’ve been pondering what it means to “grow up” and whether my life is at the same stage I would have expected as a child looking forward. I know, weird stuff for a Wednesday, but these hopefully mildly coherent ramblings are swilling around in my head like some kind of intensely brewing tea, so I’m keen to get it down and maybe give my brain a little space.
I’m going to try and arrange my haphazard thoughts under some misguided or hopeful thoughts I had as a young version of myself, with bushier hair and the same love of foxes. These “myths” may turn out to be 100% true for some, I have no idea, but I just know (now) that they don’t hold up for me and my journey into the terrifying world of pretending to be an adult.
Myth #1: “You will know once you are suddenly an adult.”
There’s that weird transition where at some point you become an adult. It’s not like a light switch that turns on and suddenly you fear no one and lose your love for ridiculously sweet lollies.
I guess I am an adult now, I guess I am grown up, but things still seem so unclear. It’s so unlike the impression I had as a child that adulthood was a concrete stage that you would know you had achieved (probably by the fact that suddenly you ironed all your clothes, ate only salads and other totally weird and untrue ideas).
“I am convinced that most people do not grow up… We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies, and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are innocent and shy as magnolias.” – Mary Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
Myth #2: “I’ll be grown up in my 20’s”
Evidence I am not yet a grown up:
- I still don’t know how to tie my shoelaces
- Bike riding is something I never quite learnt well enough to remember as an adult (you apparently do forget how to ride a bike if you were pretty crap to begin with)
- I wear unmatched socks 90% of the time (that other 10% of the time though is all adult)
- I would eat twisties for dinner each night if Edd didn’t detest them
- I still shove stuff under my bed instead of tidying it up, and then get into a state weeks later when I can’t find my favourite notebook/yarn/nail polish/drink bottle/fox
- I order pancakes for breakfast and regret it every single time.
- I still have never ironed a piece of clothing. Never. You can berate me for it, I don’t even care.
- I eat enough lollies to make myself sick. Wait an hour or so and then repeat the whole process until I run out of sugar.
Myth #3: “Growing up means you have everything figured out and know exactly what you want from life (and how to get it).”
This illusion that somehow everyone has everything worked out starts to fall apart with each passing year, and it is both a relief (thank god I’m not the only one who doesn’t know how to go to bed before 10.30pm”) and a little scary.
Am I where I thought I would be at 24? No, but then my ideas of what my life would be like were along the lines of crazy cat lady, studying for a undefined PhD (like mum), writing novel after novel and drinking endless cups of tea.).
Instead I am working in a job that I definitely don’t hate but is nothing like what I thought I would be doing, married at 24 (I don’t think I ever thought someone would be stupid enough to marry me), still living in Auckland, scribbling away on a tiny little minuscule piece of the internet and still not really sure of what the future holds.
I’ve reached a stage where I realise that growing up doesn’t mean figuring it all out. Growing up means learning from each experience you have, good and bad, and using every mistake you make as a chance to grow.
Me at 2 and me at 24. Not much has changed.
Myth #4: “My childhood fears and insecurities will disappear as I mature, leaving me confident, organized and pretty much just awesome at everything/loved by everyone.”
One thing I have learnt is that certain characteristics I have, which I had assumed were childhood fears that would leave me when I matured into a bad-ass, has-her-shit-together adult woman, will never leave me. I will always be that 5 year old child who’s terrified of losing her family. I will always be the 13 year old insecure teenager who wants everyone to like her but simultaneously just wants to be alone by herself a lot of the time. I will always be the 24 year old who will never know 100% what she wants, but will give life a good go in spite of the debilitating fear that she is somehow screwing everything up. Me and my fears/insecurities/bizarre paranoias are good friends now, and I wouldn’t be the weird individual I am today without them.
What I am discovering is that instead of trying to get rid of these inner monologues I have (“oh wow, so and so just ignored your message for like 2 days straight. That definitely means they hate you.”), it’s more useful to try and understand where this is coming from. Acknowledging that it’s okay to feel insecure but at the same time remind myself that these emotions are based on very little and so shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
Myth #5: “One day I’ll be awesome as ‘X’”/ “If I’m as organized as ‘Y’ then my life will be just as incredible and fulfilling as theirs obviously is.”
Another thing I have gathered (thanks to the help of incredible friends) is to stop with comparing my own adulting with other’s adulting. We are all figuring it out, struggling along and learning in different ways and at different paces. The only thing that is useful to compare with is myself, to keep growing and developing. Turns out that I’m not the only one who is sitting here, sipping on a latte pretending I have shit all worked out whilst on the inside I’m having a mini melt down.
We all have to make this journey alone. That’s not to say we don’t need support from friends, family, amazing tv shows and TLC songs, but I guess I’m learning that I can’t base my path on someone else’s. I have to take my own risks, make my own mistakes and wrong turns, and try each day to do things that make me happy, be around people I love.
Where does this leave me?
I may never learn the proper way to tie my shoelaces (my way is better anyway). I may never lose the insecurity that plagues my every social interaction, and instead prefer to stay home with my cat/s. I may never stop asking for advice from my parents, imagining that they are the ones with the answers., what I will do is focus on growing, little by little. Being open to new things and new relationships. Acknowledging that I know next to nothing, and lapping up any chance to learn that I can. Trying to not make the same mistake more than once (or twice). Focusing on finding out what makes me happy and then figuring out ways to do that more.
There’s not “aha” moment where suddenly the clouds of childhood clear and suddenly this screwed up, beautiful adult world makes sense. This means I’ll never lose the opportunity to view the world with the wonder of a child, but I’ll also be able to make the decisions with the experience of my years, may they be seemingly random and inappropriate where necessary.
This post was spurred by a linkup done by the lovely Lisa from allinthedaze, all about writing from the heart (make sure you take part!). Her question was about whether we are at the stage we thought we would be as a “grown up” (but as you can tell I kind of took that and then flew rather off course).
What about you? Are you where you wanted to be?