It might be sometime around 26 years and 50-some-odd days that adulthood strikes and blood is drawn.
It’s somewhere between washing down the distasteful toilet stains with a dirty sponge and the third stack of open bills on the counter table. Thank goodness it’s pay day.
Baking, with a glass of white wine in hand, country music echoes softly in the background, humming just loud enough to become lost in thoughts of weekends, work, and both wasteful and wishful thinking. You are placing jiffy muffin mix with milk and an egg, by the way, so it’s not like you can even pretend to have the Martha-Steward-Suzie-Homemaker sort of thing down. You just know how to stir mix from a box. Congratulations to you, too.
For some of us, spouses sit idly by, staring through a television glass screen; for others, home is a more solitary experience, an island away from the rest of the world.
Adulthood is decisions staring at you in the face, health care purchases, and the clarification of a Roth IRA. Apparently, it’s not the same as a traditional account. Who knew?
Adulthood is full of those kinds of things – responsibilities, maturity, and ownership.
Maybe it comes a bit early – 24, 25 – or a bit late, 29, 30 – but eventually, it will come.
But the weird thing, I think, is that adulthood is becoming redefined, redrawn, and re-understood. So little has it anything to do with age anymore. The last few months have brought new friends (median age? 40) with my younger friends focused on their long visions of successful careers in Congress. Seriously.
It’s like we don’t even take that transition seriously anymore.
In fact, at the office the other day, a friend of mine jokingly remarked,
“it’s not like it’s we’re adults…”
I snorted, “oh girl, please, you are definitely an adult.”
“Whatever! I am not. Are you?”
“Um. You know, uhmm…I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think I’m mature enough. I’m a kid, I tell ya. I silly, dorky, little kid.”
Instead of actually embracing our sense of coming of age here we are actually rejecting it.
Is it possible that we could very well be adults that are debunking the associations of adulthood itself?
Let’s take the word at face value. Adulthood.
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the word as, “the period in the human lifespan in which full physical and intellectual maturity have been attained.”
I hate the definition. Hate, yes, a very strong word, because it implies that we are somehow a finished or complete product. Um, have you met a human lately?
I think adulthood is something along the lines of, “the full acceptance of self-strengths, character weaknesses, with a full willingness to realize potential, limitations, and the ever-present opportunity for growth.”
I get it. It’s fluffy and soft and cheesy. But I think it fits this new kind of adult we are seeing more and more. And hey, get this. It’s not like America has the monopoly on this cultural and transitional shift. Even in Rwanda, it’s happening. Women and men – in their mid-to-late twenties move away from their families but not solely because of marriage (the typical occurrence for young adults in the country). Other interests are at stake and they are deconstructing the cultural norms of a place even in resistance to what’s acceptable, appropriate, or expected. Even in smaller villages – where there is no city to easily escape too – questions are being asked. And of course, it doesn’t mean that moving away qualifies a person as adult-eligible. Not even close. However, leaving your parents is the first paradigm shift in a framing of a new worldview – outside of your parents – which is the first mortar to brick experience in the young adult maturity process.
And so it’s confusing. I’m not really sure what I am half the time. I think even my married friends wonder themselves, too. Which goes to show, age, marital status, and gender have nothing to do with it. Maybe one day, you wake up and voila! Things are different. Maybe. But I can’t be sure. I’m clearly no expert.
All I know is that in the same evening that I began packing for a summer away for training in ministry, I placed my large pack on the top of a shelf, smothering a smaller bag of notes. Initially forgetting the bag of notes even existed, I went back to remove the bullying black bag. I dumped the notes on my bed. I sifted through a few of the 8th grade classics: about girl drama, friend fights, and math anxiety. Goodness, I had a lot of worries. About 5 notes in, I found two that made the entire bag worth keeping.
A note from my grandmother,
Enclosed is your really big or best birthday present from me. I totally forgot to give you this but once you see it, you will why it is yours. Love you, Grandma Genevra
And it’s killing me. Because this would have been around my 14th birthday. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the gift was. But it had to have been something special.
A note to Santa (from me),
I can’t believe it Christmas is coming! I have been waiting all year for it and I realize that it has come rapidly. My early Christmas present from my parents was what I’ve REALLY wanted for a long time. I got a dog named Buddy who is just so delectable and loveable. Anyway, I have wanted several things this year. Here is some: Clothes (any kind!!), CDs (I really want these. Some I want are: Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, NOW5, NSYNC, and 98 degrees), jewelry, movies (basically anything with Julia Roberts), books (chapter books), & beanie babies.
I am really thankful for all this and I am thankful for the holiday seasons because I get a bunch of things that a lot of unfortunate people won’t ever get. Once again, thanks so much and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!
Thank you, Heather Newell
PS: Some people told me that Santa Clause is just your parents, but I don’t think that is true. Thank you for all you do. Please watch over my family and Buddy.
I wrote (or received) both of these at important stages in life. One was before I was even a pre-teen, and the other (the one from my grandmother) comes from just a couple months after my parents divorced and a couple days after becoming 14.
When you compare where I am now with the girl who existed in these blocks of time, then yes, easy answer, I am an adult. I no longer believe in Santa. Or the beanie babies.
But the notes – all hundreds of them in this silly little paper bag – show our capabilities of developing and changing over the years (or not). I like to think of myself as moving in that direction. Yet, for any of us, there is nothing wrong with where we are at. Where person A decides to start their life is going to be different from Person B….C….and so on. As humans we can be so united, but we also are granted the liberties and freedoms of reason to live the life we feel led to do. So that’s exactly what we must take control of.
There’s this great band. Their like, indie-rock, which makes me about .0000001% cooler as a person, right? Anyway, when I first heard their song ‘Equestrian’ they had me sold. Hook, line, and sinker.
They sing this fantastic song and frankly, it’s the perfect tune for adventure. Next time you find yourself driving up a mountain road, with gravel scraping and crawling amidst the wheel edges, put it on and you’ll feel like you are flying.
The best line, you were found living in the wild sun, tells me what adulthood could be – should be – like.
It’s not something to be hastily suspicious of. Instead, let it come. But come as you are. You don’t have to have it all figured out. You don’t need a 5-year plan. But come honestly, and adulthood will show you a darn good reflection of the first part of your life. When you start having a voice, maybe it’s then where your adulthood begins to matter. When you start laying the stakes you have in the world. When you start sharing, embracing, and speaking truth.
Adult or not, days pass, years pass, and we move forward in time. Live fully, joyfully, and love the days you have. We don’t have so many, you know.
When the light crept up in the hills
I headed off for home
Memories of times spent away
Vanish into the sun
You were found
Living in the wild son
In the wild living with the wild ones
You were found living in the wild sun