When I was a teenager, I often used to wonder what it would feel like to be an adult. To be a grown up. I pictured myself in lots of skirt suits with a bun in my hair, having everything figured out as I drove my fancy car to my super important job. I would buy expensive lattes and wear bifocals and silently judge everyone. I would have credit lines at Talbot’s, Coldwater Creek, and Chico’s. I would probably wear linen scarves and tinted pantyhose.
I dreaded that day. But I was sure it was there in my future somewhere. Maybe it was too many viewings of watching Growing Pains’ Mrs. Seaver going back to work at the local news channel with her updo and practical pumps.
Now that I’m in my thirties, I realize that thankfully that ‘grown up’ day will probably never come. While I may never have a perfectly balanced checkbook or the shiniest car in the cul-de-sac, or even ever live in a cul-de-sac, I also don’t think that I will ever have to face the day when I become a different person.
Throughout the years, my Mom, Dad, and 102 year old Grandmother have all told me at different times that they still feel young at heart. That none of them feel their age, they still feel like how they did in their twenties. This has always been a great comfort to me, because I’ve never liked the concept of adulthood.
Although I have felt some welcome mental changes in the past few years. I don’t find myself agonizing about petty things like my appearance or worrying as much what others think of me. So maybe being grown up has nothing to do with the women’s section of JC Penny and everything to do with self acceptance. And I accept that I’d rather spend an afternoon riding my bike or dancing to cheesy pop music than organizing my closet or clipping coupons. The best day I can imagine is an afternoon with my 5 year old niece playing with toys or swimming with her in my parents’ backyard.
A few years ago when I was staying at my sister’s house over Christmas, my niece who was 3 years old at the time knocked on the bedroom door. I was sleepy and laying down in bed, so Ila crawled in next to me and put her head on the pillow. Both of us were on our backs with our eyes locked at the ceiling, our hands folded across our stomachs. I asked her if she wanted to talk about life. She said very matter of fact, “Alright…I like the park.”
I laughed at the seriousness of her statement. She was right. This was her life. She knew that she liked the park and she was gonna tell me about it. I agreed that I also like the park, and she continued to tell me that she really likes the swings and the slides.
I remember thinking at that moment that little Ila was probably the wisest person I’d ever met. Often as people get older and you ask them to talk about life, they tend to tell you all the things they don’t like, whether it be dissatisfaction with their career or a fight they got into with a significant other. We become conditioned to lead with the crap, the negative, completely glossing over what we love about our life.
But here was Ila, airy, free thinking, chatting up a storm about her love of an active day in the sunshine. THAT is what being an adult should be. The complete embrace of the good in the world. I think about this talk with Ila many times. It was the first time I truly felt a real connection to this little person, really felt like she was a kindred spirit.
So forget looking up to the uber successful with their piles of money, iPad apps, and personal drivers. Forget waking up one morning feeling like a grown up, all mature and practical and satisfied with myself. Instead, I wish to be like Ila, twirling around the front yard in my party dress, dreaming of my next day in the park.