Adulting On Your Terms

Adulting:

 1. to behave in an adult manner; engage in activities associated with adulthood

2. to make someone behave like an adult; turn someone into an adult

I’m looking forward to getting older. I’ve never been afraid of it. Physically I look younger than my age and always have so if vanity does play a part in the fear of aging I suppose I have decent enough genes that I’m not too concerned with it. For me growing older means, reaching milestones, making memories, giving into fewer anxieties and being more comfortable with myself. I find that when people are on the verge of thirty they begin romanticizing their tumultuous twenties. And don’t get me wrong, I like to think back on times to see how far I’ve come and reminisce about fun experiences but I don’t think any time in a persons life is more important than the present because it is the malleable time we have now that can change things, not some fixed foggy memory far out of reach. A memory can be visited, the present can be lived. 

A fun and exciting youth is ultimately unsustainable, and hopelessly clinging to it only separates you from the inherent joys of aging. And so, to accept growing up with a healthy mindset I think its important to let go of the past without letting go of ourselves. This is where people tend to get lost.In the process of growing into adulthood, they stop having fun, they give up making time for their hobbies, they take themselves too seriously, they stop nurturing long time friendships. As if a vital, important chunk of who we are and always have been is no longer necessary in our adult lives. But you can’t evolve with only part of what makes you who you are.

Its infuriating to see my peers drop out of their true selves in order to become adults. They go from their twenties to their thirties simply checking off one step after the other. As if at around twenty-five some dull, unimaginative writer has taken control of penning their stories. College, career, marriage, home ownership, children and on and on.

Landing a big job, getting married or becoming a parent will not give us any sense of fulfillment if we simply go through the motions of achieving them only to let them become the sole titles by which we define ourselves. A homeowner, a mom, a dad, an entrepreneur, a big wig attorney. Why can’t an adult “milestone” be reached without allowing it to take precedence over the person/people that have gotten there. You are not what you do for a living,  or your marital status, you are first and foremost an individual human being. We can’t lose sight of that. If you are blind to yourself, who are you aiming to please?

Growing into adulthood as a women sometimes feels like there is an additional story line that can be written for you if you let it. There seems to have been a shift from “women can do anything ” to “women should do everything” and I think that comes from coming of age in a generation raised by women with mostly traditional ideals of femininity who were part of the first big wave of women getting college degrees and entering industries previously dominated by men. They paved the way and now we are left to normalize it, to push the needle further. Not to just sit at the table but to be appointed to sit at the head of the table and be seen as intellectually equal. 

Our grandmothers and mothers generations are not reflective of our progressive dreams and aspirations and many of us land some where in the middle of traditional womanhood and modern feminism. We are trying to obtain a sense of equality that has never existed before and so we don’t know how to get there.We are the new modern women of our times and we have more options than we have ever had and that is a good thing! Except it can backfire because whatever you choose as your path as a woman, someone will deem it inadequate. That’s where settling enters for women. Maybe career ambitions start to be clouded by pressure to marry, or have a family. But why? The “can women have it all?” conversation that is perpetrated by the media and by women themselves needs to be changed. Just because we can fill many roles as modern women doesn’t mean we have to. That is the beauty of it; choice. Society needs to catch up and so do we all. I used to fear that I would have to compromise a part of me in order to fulfill an aspect of adulthood, except that’s not true. No one has to, we can choose what not to do and what to do and when to do it!

Don’t worry about having it all whether you are a man or woman coming into adulthood, focus on having it your way, on your terms, whatever that means to you. 

Letter from Fear

Dear You,

I know that I get unruly sometimes and that I may have held you back from jumping into exciting and dangerous experiences but know that I did it to keep you safe and sane. I have evolved over the years but there are a few things that will never change. Fear of mediocrity, fear of stagnation and fear of losing control.

Death doesn’t really spook me as much anymore. Violent thunderstorms no longer keep me up at night working overtime. Nightlights have not been necessary for practically 20 years! Yes, indeed, I have evolved in many ways and in doing so I’ve become complex and harder to shake, like a gob of sidewalk gum on the bottom of your shoe that with each step becomes grittier picking up filth along the way, becoming more solid, thicker and stronger with each step.

You’ve done a great job of keeping me in check but sometimes I get pushy and take over. I can linger for days and months keeping you second guessing, unsure and uneasy. I have a knack of sneaking up on you like a trench coated stranger coming up around the corner, keeping pace with you but just far away enough that you can’t make me out to be anything but a shadow cast over your quickening footsteps. For the times I have consumed you and made you obsess over thoughts that tormented you, I’m sorry. I’m intrinsically weak you see, I’m Fear and that’s just how I function. I can be motivating or stifling; I can be logical or irrational. My real purpose is to test you, to make sure that no matter how dark or overwhelming I become you don’t lose yourself in me and can tell me “no” and say “you are wrong”. I’m usually wrong and I like being wrong, please keep proving me wrong.

yours truly, like it or not,

Fear

Home

Perhaps home is not a place but a permanent and binding condition. The mere idea alone of belonging, of being of a place, of having traceable roots to something that still exists and can be visited like an exhibit of your time on earth. Maybe it’s the pang of nostalgia felt when you realize the grass still grows in thinner in the spots where you played wiffle ball. Although you technically were just an extra body on the field used to round out the teams but you didn’t care because the boys let you play with them as long as you did absolutely nothing until they instructed you to because you didn’t understand the rules yet.

You feel pride in that your childhood summers literally wore out the grass and rendered the soil infertile.

It’s sleeping in your Disney sheets your mom hasn’t thrown out. It’s going through your old crap that is crap to anyone except you because those stickers were cool collectibles and those corny mystery books sparked your interest in reading. It’s the indentations in the carpet in the empty spot where furniture once stood but has long been disposed of, likely pawned off to you or your siblings.

It’s wherever you can feel, see, remember, hear, taste and smell the many experiences that are the threads that make up the rich tapestry of your story.

 

Breakup Phases: Bitter to Brand New

There are still times, few and far between, when I suddenly will become enraged again. Something will remind me of what happened and I hate him. Eventually it passes and then I feel a hollow indifference.

I wish it ended long before but it didn’t. It was a slow rotting cancer disguised as young passion. I’m ashamed of myself during this time. I made myself sick and hurt until I had nothing left to feel for him. He took all he could from me and I willingly gave it all away. It was all too clear at the end that he had shown me who he had become and that’s when I knew that the person I thought I had cared about all those years no longer existed. Sometime during the first lacerating insult riddled shouting matches and his first year of law school there began a de-evolution of compassion. A man that at times could almost seem possessed with hate for me as strong as the love he claimed he also felt.

He began making it a habit of calling me names when he’d get drunk and then profusely apologize the next morning and hit a restart button as if words were nothing but sounds, as if I could forget them. I convinced myself that maybe I could. But that was only the beginning of the end. After we moved from Boston to the south and then back to Boston when he had transferred law schools. In Boston is where he would leave me, cheat on me, come back and do it again a few times over until I no longer recognized my life, let alone this person I had spent 3 years with.

The anger was toxic so I gave it up and just felt sad. Sad that I got so caught up and lost. Sad for both of us. Sad for my younger idealistic self. Sad for what maybe could have been. Sad for the women who started treating herself poorly which led others to do the same. Sad for the guy who couldn’t be loyal and sad for the woman who let loyalty blind her. Mostly I was sad that I lost a person that meant a lot to me. But once the sadness was gone I felt relief, joy, a sense of renewal.

I recall a conversation with a close friend of mine who remarked on my break up and how I dealt with it, I told her “I feel like I’ve died a million tiny deaths and then gave birth to myself.” That description is as close to the reality of that time in my life.

I sometimes think if he knew me now he’d hate me because of how much more confident I am and I we love that thought! I’m myself unabashedly and fully. I speak up and I’m heard. I depend on no one to be my happiness. I’m the love of my life first and foremost and because of that I don’t surrender to the anxieties that make me doubt myself.

Because I started treating myself better I’m capable of being in a healthy relationship with an amazing man. A man who doesn’t make me question my worth, he never raises his voice to me, he has tremendous self control and patience. He is supportive and understanding but also capable of challenging me and making me look at the world differently. He makes me laugh and moves me to tears with his sweet gestures. I never question his intentions. He is genuine. He is in touch with his emotions and never shuts me out. He is transparent and he is committed. He sees me as an equal. He never makes fun of me when I have an obscure idea or thought. We respect each other and trust each other.

I’m not lucky to have him. I deserve him and I have learned that I always deserved a love like the one I now have. It just took too many years for me to realize it but I’m thankful that I finally did.

Navigating Life as a 20-Something

I enjoy thinking of life in terms of school grades. At almost 27 I’d say I’m in 5th grade. I know some life basics, I’ve gotten past my bigger insecurities and as I enter the last bit of my twenties I’m kind of feeling like a much wiser and worldly woman. Yet I still have no idea what the middle school (my thirties) stage of life will have in store.

We are all students of the World. Always learning directly or indirectly and that means experiencing a lot of ups and downs.  Adventures, achievements, disillusions, romances and heart breaks. These life experiences are worth it all in the grander scheme of things. What we gain in knowledge out weighs any potential discomfort or pain and so the experience is ultimately a good one, even if at the time it wasn’t.

To me, what is the point of being here if not to absorb as much as we can? To develop and challenge ourselves, always seeking more and never growing comfortable with the idea that we actually know anything at all. I suppose that’s life in your twenties: despite feeling more “adult” you have to keep reminding yourself that you still have a lot to learn and that’s okay!