“Growing up is never easy. You hold on to things that were. You wonder what’s to come.” (from The Wonder Years)
I’ve been thinking about all this growing up and being a grown up for quite some time now. It’s been a year of making difficult “grown up” decisions. I’ve turned 40, which I suppose qualifies me as an official grown up (as if the years of teaching, owning cars and houses, being married and raising kids hasn’t). Today, the anniversary of 9/11 makes me think of the “grown ups” in my life (more on that later). And I think constantly about losing the “grown ups” in my life as I get older and so do they.
I’m not really comfortable with being a grown up. I do not own my 40 years of life experience…I feel like the same dumb kid I was when I was 16. Or even 5 or 10. I have a really excellent memory, and I can easily bring myself back to just about any age and picture everything about myself at that age. And I don’t feel all that much different today. I mean, I know I’ve changed, I’ve grown. I don’t do or say some of the things I said as a child or adolescent or even twenty-something person. I know that I’ve matured but generally I feel like the same person. I let other adults intimidate me, sometimes forgetting that we’re all on, or should be on, a level playing field. Sometimes I even feel kind of like an imposter, like I’ve managed to fool, well, everyone, into thinking I am some sort of responsible adult-type person.
I still need the adults in my life too, the “grown ups”, my parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles. I am extremely jealous of people my age who still have their grandparents in their lives. I am sure they know how lucky they are. I know I was lucky to have them around as long as I did, but they all passed when I was still in that self-centered young adult stage and didn’t appreciate them like I do today, like I would today. Back to 9/11–I was pregnant with Julia and at work when it all started falling apart, and the first person I wanted to talk to was my Dad. I knew somehow if I could hear his voice, that everything would be ok, that I would be ok. It was so reassuring to just talk to him, like I was 7 years old again. As a kid I always hated when he was gone, because I felt like all the bad stuff happened when he was working or out of town. Even as a “wise old bird” (from my birthday party!) I still hold on to that in some way, as foolish as I know it is. When I’m sick, I still want my mom to come and stir the fizz out of my ginger ale and put the sheets on the couch and turn on Mr. Rogers. In spite of all the junk she and I have been through. When I’m with Bill’s parents, I feel so much more calm and at ease, again, like nothing bad can happen because the grown ups are there and they are taking care of everything. I know it’s crazy. I know it’s not true, but it’s like when I drive by a golf course and I get that stupid sense of security that “Well, if people are still taking the time to play golf things can’t be all that bad.” It’s just part of me.
Which is what makes growing up and being a grown up so scary. Life is hard and tough. Julia is desperate to be “a grown up” right now. I don’t want to discourage her and scare her but it’s not all going out for pedicures and getting Starbucks and staying up as late as you want. It’s bills and health scares and making hard decisions about moving or not moving and trying to find a job that suits you and working on your marriage and being scared to death about something happening to your kids. Sometimes I honestly feel guilty for bringing my 3 kids into this world where they are going to have to navigate the minefield of adulthood. I feel like they’re going to come to me some day and be like “Thanks for nothing!”
And then there’s the unavoidable fact that those other grown ups, the ones that make me feel safe and ok in this world, are not going to be around forever. That I am going to be THE grown up and there won’t be a dad to call or a mom to make me soup or in-laws to take care of me. I will have to likely take care of them in some way and then I am going to lose them. I know some friends have had to go through that already. Not many, but I know as we age more and more of us will be dealing with this. It scares the hell out of me. It is my one, desperate prayer most of the time…Not Yet God. Please NOT YET.
This was a stupid post to write while I’m at work. How to explain the teary eyes…I’m really worked up about selling football tickets???
So, that’s what I’m thinking about on this 9/11, a day that a lot of people in America grew up very quickly. And as I read this I feel like I may have written something like this before, but perhaps that’s just because I have a lot of conversations in my head about the same old junk over and over again:) Anyway. I’ll end with a quote from one of my favorite authors ever, which makes me think that maybe I’m ok as I am:
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown up we would never be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability…to be alive is to be vulnerable.” Madeleine L’Engle