When you're younger and grown ups talk about being an adult, they often refer to bills, employment, and family, among other things. BUT there is so much more to being an adult, so much more to being grown, and those are the things I wish I was told. I wish I was prepped a little more for this process. What are the things they didn't tell me you ask? Let me explain.
1. Nobody told me that candy wasn't going to be a legitimate foundation for friendship.
At first glance, this statement seems funny. Like, what are you talking about Felicia? I mean that when we were little kids, we made friends through treats, sharing candy or food, trading cards or games etc. We decided on friendships through a give and take process and usually the friendship lasted for as long as we were willing to share. But when you get older, that doesn't work. Friendships actually have to be based on substance; figuring out what kind of person you want to be and figuring out what kind of people can be around for that. Friendships are birthed, friendships are maintained and friendships are terminated, all through work. We have to work at being friends with people, and we have to realize that sometimes it doesn't work out, either the way we want it to or at all. When we roll back the layers of friendship, there has to be something of substance at the core. We can't just be in friendships for the heck of it, just because that person gave us "candy". Sometimes, we have to be willing to turn down the offer for the superficial candy in one friendship for the nourishing food in another.
That brings me to my second point:
2. Figuring out who we are is a never ending process.
When we're little, we think we have life and who we are going to be in it figured out. We repeat the infamous "when I grow up, I want" line so many times, ready to tell others how we've envisioned ourselves in the future, how we've made plans for the kind of person we want to be. No one tells you that for the majority, if not all of us, those plans don't actually happen or they don't happen the way we want them to. The process of identification is a long, hard, and painful one. Over and over, who you think you are is smashed to pieces and rebuilt. Suddenly, it's (you) not fitting perfectly together, and that hurts. A lot. To be crushed, to find out there are parts of you that hurt other people, to lose friends because of who you are or who you refuse to be, makes you want to curl up in a ball and never face the world again. "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What do I mean in the lives of...?" "I never thought I would" "Did I do that?" keeps coming to your head. You find yourself thinking about the steps you've taken to end up where you are and sometimes can't help but think about what would have happened if you took another route. No one tells you that happens when they talk about adulthood. No one tells you that when you're convinced you'll be one thing, you'll probably be something else as well. No one tells you that you'll make mistakes, where the consequences are lasting and still have to learn to look yourself in the mirror and love what you see. No one tells you that you will utterly crumble under the "person" you've built because that "person" isn't the person you're meant to be or rather the person you're meant to stay.
3. As you figure out who you are, you figure out those around you.
Becoming an adult means that you can no longer totally (you gotta maintain a little tiny bit) walk around in ignorance. Life isn't full of fairy tales and magical creatures; it's filled with people, emotional people, and you have to learn how to navigate that. You have to learn how to work with people, help people, recognize personalities, discern emotions, and most of all LOVE people. When I was a little kid, to not say hi to the people my mom introduced me to was frowned upon but it could be chalked to my little kid-ness. As an adult, I won't get very far ignoring people. When I was a little kid, I could pinch other kids and be nonchalant when they cried. As an adult, hurting others matter, and it sometimes ends up hurting you. As an adult, life becomes more focused on relationships and it is important to know what to do in those relationships so we do not step on people, use people, hurt people, etc. We must learn how we operate so that we can push each other to be the best we can be individually.
Talking about people brings me to this:
4. Your superhero is actually human.
I think personally this might be the hardest one for me. Growing up, I saw my parents as superheroes, and to this day, I still do somewhat. But it had to, and still has to sink in that they are human. The reality of this is especially real to me as I experienced my father succumb to his mortality, and because of that, it's even realer. It's hard to imagine my mother, this lady that juggled four children and a husband while going to school, getting two degrees hurting. It's hard to imagine my mother, this lady who never made us feel like we were struggling crying. It's hard to imagine my mother, this lady that never missed anything forgetting. It's a hard, hard thing. Growing up, it doesn't seem like anything fazes them, but when you're older, you realize that the same things that hit other people hit them. As you grow up, you realize that they are growing up too. Sometimes when my mom forgets stuff or keeps asking me what I said, I get frustrated. But, I realized that this frustration is not because I'm angry, but because I'm sad. Sad because I realize that her mortality is showing. I remember when I first went away to college, and in conversation with my mom I said, "Mom, I'm not coming back to NY, I'm staying in Philly". By the time I graduated, my tune had changed to "Mom, I'm definitely coming back home, even if for a little while". It went from not wanting to go home on the weekends and during break to wanting to go home every free second. When I have to leave my family to come back to Philly, I often tear up because I want to be where they are. I know that they are not gonna be here for forever and I carefully weigh what I'll sacrifice seeing them for. Life is so precious, yet so fleeting, and everyday as I look at my superhero and the rest of my family, I realize that I want to spend as much of it as I can with them.
My final point:
5. Our need to belong is heightened and the level of nurturing shifts.
When we are young, we have a deep need to belong. Whether it's to our family, our friends, or to a person, we are relational creatures and strive to belong somewhere. When we get older, that doesn't go away; it just looks different. We may not do what we used to, or make silly decisions as we were children, but we still strive to belong to something. Whether it's a group, a title, a church, a school, a person, a name, a job, etc., we find some way to say that we are a part of something, fit somewhere, belong somehow. It's not a bad thing but no one tells you that it will still happen. You won't just get older, find out who you are, and live on a island with a population of one. You will need to recognize where you should and shouldn't be and what you should and shouldn't be a part of. The new level of nurturing plays a role here. When you're a little kid, you need that kind of nurturing your superheros give: kissing your boo-boos, carrying you to bed, wiping away your tears, telling you no monsters are under your bed, etc. But nurturing doesn't stop when you get older: it just shifts. Granted, I don't need you to check for monsters under my bed, I need you to advise me on the ones that may be in my friendships. I may not need you to wipe away my tears, but I need you to tell me whether it's worth it to cry. I may not need you to carry me to bed, but I need you to tell me when to reel it in. I don't get older and no longer have a need for my nurturer; in fact, in some instances, I need you more and I need to know that I belong to where the nurturing is.
All in all, there are SO many things I'm learning as I grow up and it is NOT easy by any means. I experience the best of times and the worst of times, but I continue to grow nonetheless. Though sometimes I wish there was a manual, I'm confident I'll be A-okay in the journey of adulthood. It's a beautiful thing. <3
Until next time,