As a child, all adults look like adults. They are taller, wiser (in some ways), and their skin gets saggier and saggier. But when you first get there yourself, you can't believe it has happened. I don't mean denial. It just really can't be. You are still clueless. You are still trying to figure out what you want. You have tasks you perform daily that an adult would certainly do with more confidence and surety. Right?!
Though life became more about grudgingly paying bills and continuously cleaning and determining priorities, it always felt like I was still this teenager with an aging body. I never felt like I could put myself together right. I never felt like I could ever be looked up to as an elder.
This continued through all the tumultuous milestones that add to being a responsible adult. Went on missions trips. Still felt like a child. Went to post-secondary and got a career. Still felt like a child. Volunteered. Still felt like a child. Found a mate and got married. Still felt like a child. Cooked and cleaned and cooked and cleaned. Still felt like a child. Had a baby. More than ever, still felt like a child. Floundering through life. Struggling to figure out my unique place.
As the age spots developed, the bladder weakened, the eye brows thinned, and the feet struggled to keep up, I figured the time would soon be coming. And then, bam, at the age of 36, just before 37, it finally happened. After a tough year financially and in other ways I will not get into, and the impact on my intellectual and spiritual growth, it seemed that with just a blink of an eye, it shifted overnight.
I'm an adult.
There are two major changes that give me this brand new, undeniable feeling. Two changes stronger than the occassional hair suddenly growing from my chin or the inability to cope any longer with consistent lack of sleep. Stronger than being available every waking moment for another helpless human being. The first is coming to terms with the reality that the got-it-all-together goal is, in all honesty, unachievable. The second is a shift in the view of where my career fits into the big picture of my life.
I've always struggled with what kind of message I wanted to convey. I longed to look like I knew who I was and I knew what I wanted. I wanted to confidently act and dress that part no matter what the situation. But how could I be a model of a type if I couldn't singly classify what that type was for me? And what if, to my horror, someone important to me didn't understand or agree?
My life was a wish-washy act of trying to be someone who would fit in and be accepted. But in all the effort, I wasn't able to have the freedom to concentrate on the things that really mattered. Motherhood really helped me to break down many walls and let go of things. It wasn't that previously I was being dishonest with everyone else. I needed to figure out how to be honest with myself. I needed to be able to admit I didn't know how to do a task, or that something was not actually my priority, or that things were just not working out the way I was doing them.
I haven't figured out anything. And admitting that is the epiphany of figuring it out.
Which probably helped lead to the change with work. I love my job. But it was alway just a means of an income. It was what helped me be able to do the things that I wanted to do and concentrate on all that was actually filling my mind. I always wanted to be a full time mom and I imagined life as just a few hours work and all my time and energy devoted to family. I felt this equation was the only acceptable option. But, unfortunately, for most of us it just can not work that way.
So, if we are going to spend so much of our lives earning a dollar, shouldn't we be doing something that somehow makes us feel fulfilled? My job never actually altered after I came to this change of heart. But my opinion of my job evolved. And as a result, my focus changed. And, most importantly, my view of where it would go in the future widened.
Previously, I had no desire to progress. No more responsibility. No more tasks. I just want to come, put in my time, and go. Don't get me wrong. I think I am a hard worker and dedicated employee. But now I figure if I'm going to be there a long time, I actually would love to learn and to be more valuable in my position. And, since I've finally grown up, maybe I can handle a little more responsibility.
I still want to be a mom first. But seeing a hard working mom is going to speak wonders to her work ethic and her opinion of her own future. I want to be next to her most of all, but with the time I am with her she will know I love her and, because I'm concentrating on who I am outside of her, she will know I love myself.
And maybe that's the biggest part of growing up. Learning to love who we are. Being comfortable in our own skin. Our imperfect, sagging, wrinkling, thinning skin.
I'm an adult now. And I'm going to like living as one. Does it mean I'll know what I'm doing? No. Does it mean I won't ever worry what others think? No. Does it mean the balance between parenting and a career will be simple? No. It might not mean anything at all, actually. Just that I feel grown up in spite of it all.
I'll always be a child at heart. But, at 36 years old, the next stage in my life is just beginning.