On Finally Growing Up…

Posted: November 19, 2013 in Featured Content, Life Lessons
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I’m 35 and in many ways, I feel like I am still a kid, although on some days, and in some ways, I do feel unimaginably old. I don’t know if there are people out there that can relate (I’m sure there are), but even though I was technically a “grown up” for a long time and did all the things that grown ups are supposed to do (got married, held a job, had a child), deep down I still felt as though I was an imposter. Any minute, someone would see that I was just pretending to be a grown up, and the facade I had built would crumble.

My dad, Bruce, Aunt Shirley and me circa 1979

My dad, Bruce, Aunt Shirley and me circa 1979

It’s funny, that the times I would expect this unmasking to happen are probably the times when I was actually becoming more of an adult. I have had several moments where I had to be the grown up, and in doing so began to accept, once and for all, that I couldn’t keep living my life as though I was still a kid. That I couldn’t keep believing I wasn’t responsible for my part of the things that went wrong, or didn’t have to accept the consequences of my actions or inactions, or that hiding behind the (not literal) leg of a real adult would keep me safe from all that was scary.

It was when my husband left me three years ago that I really knew I was going to have to become an adult. I was on my own, with a small child, and had to piece my life back together one day at a time. It was a frightening reality to face.

I alone was responsible for my life.

Me circa 2012, a "grown up," air quotes included.

Me circa 2012, a “grown up,” air quotes included.

It was also a strangely freeing feeling, knowing that my life could be what I chose. However, it’s taking a long time to truly understand the full meaning of that thought. I made some grave mistakes along the way to understanding this reality, and those mistakes are what I’m faced with repairing today.

I’ve never really spoken or written about this before, so my first attempts at it are halting, tentative. Nobody ever wants to admit they’ve screwed up, or that they let destructive or unhealthy forces make make the choices they should have been making all along. I accept that I had a part in the destruction of my marriage, that if it was a good as I wanted to pretend it was, he wouldn’t have cheated. I accept that before March of 2012, when I finally got serious about my health, I was hiding behind my weight and the excuses I made for why I wasn’t fat, just big-boned, genetically cursed, or meant to be bigger.

Those things I was able to wrestle with on my own, to understand and deal with for myself. I forgave my ex-husband for the things that he did that hurt me, and took responsibility for the parts that were mine to fix. I lost 75 pounds over the course of about six months, and have kept the weight off. I have changed and fixed things that I was unhappy about. I quit a job I hated, pursued a lifelong dream of writing, and got back in the dating world, where I met someone who was totally unexpected yet exactly right for me. None of it is perfect, but it’s all mine, and if there is of any of it that doesn’t work, it’s up to me to accept it, or change it.

It’s a huge change in thinking for a person who has long been tied to the identity she thought was her: shy, introverted, just an observer. It’s how I lived my life.

And it’s bitten me in the ass several times over.

It’s a very strange thing, to try to untangle yourself from . . . yourself. Or the view you’ve always had of yourself, anyway. Am I really shy? Or does being an introvert just make it seem that way, even to me? Are the things I let happen because I was scared of dealing with them the result of things “out of my control?” Or is there no such thing as out of my control . . . because no matter what happens Out There, I always have control of my reaction to it and the choices I make because of it.

After all, isn’t that what being an adult really is? Accepting that only you are responsible for yourself, how you treat people, how you deal with the things – both good and bad – that come your way, and whether you can look back and stand by your choices rather than regret them.

What do you think? Did you magically feel like an adult at age 18? Or is it something that comes with experience, wisdom and time? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!


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