I’ve been formulating this post in my head over the past few days, and I feel it’s only fitting to write and post it now, on the 27th anniversary of my birth. There’s a lot in the news lately, but I’m going to resist writing about that, (there are plenty of articles out there that are written by far-more qualified people than I), and hone in on a more personal, individual topic:
Being an Adult. (Insert collective groan here)
What does that phrase even mean?
To some people, it means paying your bills on time, staying organized, buying a house, starting a family. Or it means staying in more on weekends, focusing on your career, and letting your pool of friends shrink to just those few close ones. Some think that you’re “only as old as you think you are!” or that “you can grow up, but growing old is optional!” A lot of people resist becoming an Adult, because that means childhood is over, and Old Age (and subsequently Death), are that much closer.
But when I say, I’m finally becoming an Adult – what I mean is, the choices I make on a daily basis have been changing lately. I have actively been choosing Love over Fear. I have been taking responsibility for my life, and my actions, in a way I never have before.
Regardless of psychology, I do believe that as we grow, we take on the weight of our life’s experiences. We hurt, and those wounds become scars. Rather than risk opening up those wounds again, we protect ourselves with barriers. Why risk another scar? Why hurt again?
You understand this metaphor. But as I ranted to my roommate the other day, I believe that we need to not protect our past wounds, but willingly, happily, and gratefully, go running head-first into the possibility of pain. We should embrace the suffering. Be the responsible Adult and accept the wounds, scars, and broken bones with kindness and Love.
Let me try to elucidate.
I was an extremely willful child, as my parents can attest. Even at 3 years old, I was ever the storyteller with a flair for the dramatic. I would talk off the ear of whoever would listen, usually recanting the full script of Beauty and the Beast from memory. I even convinced myself that my life was in fact, a TV show. When I realized that at some point, the series would end and I would not get a spin-off or direct-to-DVD movie, I was devastated. Nevertheless, I still had the same penchant for drama throughout adolescence and early adulthood. I wanted to be loved, I wanted attention. Desperate to be seen as the leading ingénue I always wanted to be, I became an insecure doormat. Yet I was still extremely volatile. My emotions were fickle, fiery, and hard to control, and I took them out on those closest to me. Every time I was incredibly sad or angry, I was subconsciously convinced that I would feel this way, forever. I wanted to be a better me, but in a materialistic sense. I ran to the pain, but with masochism, not as acceptance. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t think I deserved it.
Over the past couple years, I’ve noticed that I’ve slowly grown calmer, quieter, and more introspective. But rather than emotionally retreating, as I have so often in the past, I was actually just observing. The many (usually painful) wake-up calls I’ve experienced over the years have forced me to realize that I don’t have all of the answers, and I’m continually becoming okay with that. Experience has led me to conclude that nothing lasts forever, and I’m continually becoming okay with that as well. I continually strive to listen more than talk (still working on that, friends), and really be in every moment, that life has to offer.
Earlier this year, when my best friend suddenly passed away, it felt like all of the work I had done on myself was lost. My old enemies of self-hatred, anger, desperation, all came rushing back. I was simultaneously appalled at my regression and yet felt justified. I had just lost my best friend, I could act however the hell I wanted, right? And partly, yes, that’s true. But what astounded me, even during the darkest moments, was the awareness of my behavior. I was not blindly acting out, rather I was very much conscious. Instead of shutting down, which I could have easily done, I chose to love myself, be kind to myself, and treat myself with care instead of condemnation. I let the emotions flow through and out of me, instead of shoving them down. If my friend had died a few years ago, I’m not sure I could say I would have the same experience. But my spirit had already been in the long process of Growing and Loving when it happened, and I proved to be stronger than I thought.
After the first few months, I rose out of the heaviest of my grief and suddenly felt incredibly inspired. I had always struggled with my weight and dreamed of being thin, but never really did much about it. So I now follow the ketogenic diet, and lost 15 pounds within weeks. After temping and freelancing for over a year, I faced facts and got a new full-time job. I created a financial budget for myself, something I had resisted doing all of my adulthood out of fear. I started dating again, but without Ego. Some dates didn’t work out, and I calmly walked away from those who were unavailable emotionally or destructive instead of clinging or swearing off dating forever. I started actively implementing all of my spiritual growth in the physical sense, for the first time in my life.
This is not a humble brag. Rather I tell you this because that’s what I believe is Being an Adult. It’s looking honestly and without condemnation at your past behavior and choices. And whenever faced with a new one, choosing to not go towards what is comfortable and easy (which is usually Fear), but rather face the struggle head-on. I’m not magically perfect, I never will be. My body, my career, my love/social life, and my Self will always be areas that I have to actively work on. Like our elders have always said, sometimes the right choice is the hardest one to make. But by recognizing my own destructive behavior, I can make the continual effort to choose Love. I choose to Love myself and others. My heart is open, in a way that is reminiscent of my earliest childhood, before the shame and scars, but also in an entirely new way.
Today, I am officially older. I can say now that I am 27. But we grow older every day, not just on our birthdays. With that old age comes pain, joy, experience, knowledge, and hopefully wisdom. I may be a little more worse for wear than I was before, but I am alive. And I have grown. For that, I am incredibly grateful.