Maybe it was that first Wednesday when I went to school without first strapping on a backpack, walking in trying to appear confident but wondering why I still felt like I should be sitting in the hard plastic seats. Or possibly it was that Thursday evening when I cleaned the house for no other reason than because I wanted to. But I believe it was many accumulations of such small and big moments that have happened over the years of my life that have throttled me, without warning, into the arena of adulthood.
My friends and I used to say that "growing up is for quitters," that we should hold fast to our innocence and joy of being teenagers. I thought I had. I thought I was still gripping the rope of dependence but that first time the car broke down and my husband was at work made me realize I had unknowingly let that rope slip through my fingers and as it unraveled at my feet I saw that I was up to my neck in the water of responsibilities that I didn't think I was quite prepared for. The sea of adulthood surrounded me and for awhile I grasped for a lifeboat, a new rope, even water wings would suffice. But maybe that kick in the rear I received when I was unpacking boxes in our new apartment in a city I couldn't even pronounce like the locals made adulthood take its true shape. Although I don’t know that I needed a major event such as that move, since lustfully tasting the words of Steinbeck and Shakespeare continually remind me I have passed teenage magazines and romance series.
Maybe my maturity face-lift came that sunny day I realized I would rather walk with my husband around a golf course than go shopping. But I've also learned this refining and maturing happens through trying, struggling and frustrations, which I seem to be greeting daily as of late at the attempt of teaching hormonal adolescents to write with the passion of the gods, and at the attempt of trying to be better today than I was yesterday. But those days that I feel like an adult come and go. It's sort of like how on Friday I enjoyed conversation over coffee with my similarly aged friend, Micah, but on Saturday found conversation with my mother just what the doctor ordered. And it's sort of like how I still enjoy some koolaid from time to time, but most days let the bitterness of coffee say to me, "It's official. You're old."
I mean I have to be grown up, right? Borders bookstore is my favorite hang out, but then again I do insist on taking a peek around the corner in the children's section, and if no one is looking, sit on the fuzzy orange bean bag and read "Where The Wild Things Are" one more time.
But please don't get me wrong, I still mainly feel like an underdeveloped girl as I walk in the shadow of woman whose very scents smell like comfort, confidence, and motherhood. When I look in the mirror, I put my hand over my heart and it still pounds with youthfulness and still believes in prince charming and the shoe fitting and a ball room dance at the end of it all. But through the small and big moments that have happened over the years of my life I believe there has been many important ones that have given me that "Oh, crap I’m really all grown up" feeling. And those moments are when my independent heels must dig into the dirt a little deeper. These moments may not be noticeable to the naked eye, but it happens when the burger isn't cooked and I have to be the one to take it up to the counter and say, "Excuse me but could I get another?" It happens when my pants are just a little too long and my grandma is just a little too far away and I have to crudely, but independently, hem them myself. It happens when the power goes out in the city and we are blessed with the gift still and so I open my home to others and cook and clean and dig my heels in at the thought that I can do this, and deeper they go into the soil of adulthood and change.
Those days of independence are the days I can easily taste my adultness and what my character has developed into, proving I must have accumulated some of my parent's wisdom through osmosis over the years. I know I am grown up when I finally realize that every day when the sun comes up and peeks through my bedroom window that I have to be the one to get myself out of bed.
Some days I feel like a goofy girl who believes with every fiber of her being that the world is not a bad place, that all her dreams will come true, and that the road to Oz is paved with gold. Other days I feel like the almost 24-year-old woman that I am who is frantically trying to hold it all together in order to keep the dream alive. And even though I have seen everything from Jamaica's hurting outcasts to a down-syndrome girl learning to walk with my own eyes, I am fortunate enough to have those rare days when I wake up, feeling all the ages I've ever been, and whisper to myself under the covers, "Growing up is for quitters."
Yes, I am mostly all grown up, too mature for my own good, but I am not quite an adult.
As I attempt to take on woman hood, and adulthood, and parenthood, and spousehood I find myself held captive by my ability to return to my innocent imaginings of youth. Sure, everyday I am reminded that I am growing up still-- after all I did find my first gray hair this week-- but I know that I still have a long way to go. So although I am no longer searching the horizon for a lifeboat and am kicking my feet with a bit more confidence, I have decided I am okay with not being a kid anymore, but I've discovered this doesn't stop me from being the girl I am. And as I dig in my heels with the confidence that adulthood brings my way, I am discovering the very ground I walk on is made up of the barbies that used to be strewn across my bedroom floor, and the dress up clothes in the trunk downstairs, and it is made up of that first painting I made in preschool and that Christmas play my sister and I put on for our parents. Yes, I am an adult now and as much as I want to say "growing up is for quitters," I realize growing up is for those that are brave; for it is the brave-hearted that realize they cannot face back and move forward. It is the brave-hearted that realize that each step is one that is uncharted and unsure. But it is the brave-hearted that are not afraid to hold onto all the ages they have been, the good, the bad, the broken hearted teen, the smart-mouthed daughter, the curly headed lump of a toddler, because only then will one truly be brave enough to face the unknown waters of adulthood.
And I'm almost ready to be that brave-hearted woman.