Adulthood On a Slide

When the Miley Cyrus Video Music Awards spectacle happened, everybody was all up arms about how she was “too sexy” and basically flipped the bird to her younger fans. I’m not disagreeing with that, but I saw something that may have gone over everyone else’s heads: she was trying to announce to the world that she is no longer a child,  when realistically she’s just shy of being a  year younger than I am.  While watching her performance I thought, there is a difference between being an adult and being an idiot; she was obviously going for the latter.

A week or so later, a distant/extended relative of my maternal grandmother made a point to compare college to a country club, and then made an even bigger point of informing me that the real world absolutely sucks. That Sunday in church, the closing prayer was “help us grow up before we grow old” while friends are starting to panic  when we’re not even halfway through first semester yet.

It all kind of makes me sigh and wonder what adulthood even means these days.

There’s no arguing that it’s different for everyone, but part of why so many may struggle with it is because people from the age of twelve and onward are given mixed messages, and they end up burning the candle at both ends. On one hand, young kids (particularly girls) are told that in order to gain approval by their peers or be popular, they have to dress a certain way. But then morality cries that girls are completely dismissing their youth by wearing revealing clothing or piling on the make-up.

Then come the teenage years, seven years which can be emotionally taxing and confusing. There are those that have to “grow up” early; they take on a parent-like role for their younger siblings, they have to help contribute to finances or give up a paycheck entirely. Some move out on their own or go to college. Add in curiosity about alcohol, sex, perhaps drugs, and things can get complicated. The icing on the cake is when teens get put into a glass box for the sake of “protection” instead of learning how to actually cope and properly handle it.

Once you’re in your twenties, it can go two ways: you’re either an upstanding role model with a good head on your shoulders, or a selfish, lazy party animal. You’re considered stupid and irresponsible for making choices that your parents probably made twenty-five or thirty-something years ago. Showing emotion and being vulnerable is taboo because few know how or even want to deal with that. You’re not allowed to voice your doubts or ask questions; rather, you get your college degree and a warning that it’s all downhill from that point on.

While it’s true that a lot of those things are stereotypes, it all points to the same pattern: one extreme or the other. And it could just be me, but I’m beginning to think that it doesn’t really have to be like that at all. You can still have fun and be responsible, and you don’t have to exist on a teeter-totter.

I’m still in the threshold of all of it, but I’ve come to understand enough that “adulthood” doesn’t have to be as daunting as most assume that it is.

You’ll never have it “together

The phrase “I have to get my shit together” is slowly becoming one of those that are like fingernails on a chalkboard. A friend once said it  mid-rant and I had to hold my tongue while trying not to cringe. Let’s face it: no matter how hard you try and no matter what you may think, you will never completely have it all figured out. You can plan and prepare all you want, but most likely it won’t happen exactly as you envision it to.  It’s like trying to carry a multitude of bags in an airport: stack ’em, sling ’em and what have you, but eventually you will get tired and stuff will get messy. In other words, too much preparation only leads to insanity. Emotionally, I missed out on a good chunk of my senior year in high school because I was worried about functioning in college. Do what you can and let God take care of the rest, or at least deal with something when it happens and not beforehand.

Needing is NOT weakness 

It has taken me two decades, but I’m finally in a place where I don’t balk at the idea of asking for help. It’s easy to stand up and yell “look at me now, world!” in regards to how far I’ve come and what I’ve accomplished. Honestly though, I didn’t get here without some kind of guidance. Sure, I had to dig my heels in and fight for what I wanted at times, if not all the time. I’ve made choices when everyone around me thought I would fail. But I have gotten where I am today as a result of love and encouragement, despite all of that. In a way, I’ve learn to see pessimism and negativity (from others) as a motivation; not to prove anybody wrong, but to continually ask myself, just what am I capable of? How far can I push myself? Most of the time it works, although occasionally I do question the reasoning behind that determination.

It’s become common culture for needing someone to be viewed as weak, although life has shown me the opposite. True strength lies in taking the hand of or upholding another, because it shows that one simply cannot go through life alone. Once you stop using anger, isolation, and self-reliance as a form of protection, your experiences with others will become so much richer.

It Takes (A lot Of) Time

There is no such thing as “growing up too fast” and being successful at it. Young celebrities think that they can go from teen royalty to sex icon in just a matter of months, but reality does not work that way. Old habits and routines are not things that you can simply switch on and off; it all takes adjustment and getting used to. And just because you go from one phase to the next does not always have to mean doing a one-eighty and becoming a completely different person; you just learn to take it down a few notches, and/or do certain things in moderation. Overall, you cannot control how others see you or whether or not someone will take you seriously. Shout it and out tell the world all you want, but that doesn’t mean that the world will listen. And if you’re going to do anything drastic, make sure it’s for you and only you. 

A lot of people are probably in the same place you are: they’re scared and uncertain, wanting to make sure they don’t just end up living in the mundane day in and day out. Be patient, because you will get stuck and possibly even fail on more than one occassion. That’s not a bad thing, really; it teaches you how to be humble and recognize that there is something bigger than you out there, whether or not you believe in God or some sort of higher power. 

I still have a ways to go, but I’d like to think that the basic definition of adulthood is simply outgrowing and evolving. Like it or not, we all do and most of the time don’t even realize it. Embracing your sexuality is part of it, but it’s more about perspective and maturity,  and I think that’s where I’m at right now. I no longer carry this gigantic weight on my shoulders, instead of walking in peace and faith as opposed to shame and hurt. Things still do happen, but for the most part I’m calm and relaxed. I’m learning not to take shortcomings too personally, and to see people as human beings.

I don’t believe in “glory days” or that the best parts of life always take place when you’re young. Though I’m in no rush to get older, I’d like to think that there is something beautiful about every life stage, despite not usually recognize it in the midst of the daily grind. Cherish what you have and be present in the current moment, but don’t be afraid to move forward. If there’s one big lesson I’ve learned this year so far, it’s that each day is a gift. Age should not mean that you lack anything, but that you gain something; wisdom, experience, whatever it may be, you have more of it. 

My hope and prayer is that in the midst of all of it, that I don’t lose my child-like sense of wonder and zest for life. It’s a sad misconception that one has to give that sort of thing up once they reach a certain age. What they don’t realize is that it’s the ability to see beauty in everything, and take notice of the small stuff that keeps you going. When the road gets tough, sometimes it’s the truth that all will be OK eventually that helps you to hold on. You can have joy without ignoring pain, and you don’t have to ignore the pain in order to love life. Some call it living in the past, but I’d rather see it as setting myself free. 

As I finish writing this, one thought occurs to me: maybe we shouldn’t call it growing up, because we never really stop. As I mentioned, you can outgrow things and want to go in a different direction, but there’s never a point where you say “I know all there is to know and I’ve done all there is to do.” From now on, maybe I’ll just call it growing.

photo credit: Rachel.Adams via photopin cc

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