My husband and I had a meaningful conversation with one of our kids recently. I still marvel that this human being, so big and handsome and full of life, started his journey inside of me. There are times I look in the mirror and find I’m disappointed in the way I look. Having babies, aging and Oreo cookies have taken their toll. I know my self-image isn’t a good one. Certainly it’s not of God, He loves me and scripture tells me He looks upon the heart. But, in an effort to be transparent, thinking about my heart doesn’t help me when I can’t fit into my shorts, you know?!
I’m working on it, ALL of it. My self-image as well as my health and well-being.
And I would do it ALL again for the sake of this child of mine.
Anyway, what I was trying to say before I got sidetracked thinking about my ill-fitting shorts was, how much I love to sit and have lengthy conversations about real life adult stuff with my children. It amazes me to watch them grow into wonderful people…and to think I had a part in it blesses me so deeply.
Our conversation jumped from one topic to the next and eventually landed on the rite of passage between adolescence and adulthood. Goodness, those years can be perilous.
I remember my own journey from high school to sticking my toe in the water of adulting.
It’s like, finally, you graduated, packed up your earthly belongings and galloped off to college with joy and anticipation. College is code for staying up as late, eating whatever you want and basically, doing what you want and it feels freeing and wonderful. But, then a few weeks, months or even a year into secondary education and you realize you’re sick of chicken nuggets and the other unidentifiable foods you’ve been eating for more days than can count. You’ve won all the video games and staying up late doesn’t feel as freeing as it used to; it feels tiring.
I remember I couldn’t wait to move out of my parents’ house. Oh, life was going to be so grand. No one to answer to, no one telling me to clean my room or wash the dishes. I was going to do what I wanted, when I wanted. There would be an endless supply of money and, of course, I would marry a prince. I had it all worked out.
Funny how reality can slap the fiction right out of you.
Well, I guess some of it came true, I did marry a prince of a guy.
But, in my REAL life, there are ALWAYS dishes to do, and not just a room to clean…a whole house!
Life just didn’t go the way I’d imagined and learning to accept that was difficult.
When I was young and freshly “escaped” from my parent’s house, I quickly learned you have to have money to eat so a job was necessary. So much for “no one telling me what to do.” I needed a place to stay and because money was tight I needed a roommate. It didn’t take long for me to long for my own room back at my mom and dad’s. And, you guessed it, I had to do my own dishes.
My point is, being an adult seemed a lot more glamourous when I wasn’t one.
That was the point I was trying to make in our Cracker Barrel conversation between mouthfuls of baked fish and steamed broccoli.
Adulthood is not the easy peasy life I’d imagined it to be.
I remember trying to figure out life between the years of being told what to do and finally being able to make my own decisions. It’s like no man’s land; you’re not living at home but not you’re really at home in a college dorm or apartment. I wasted a lot of time, procrastinated too much, and avoided things that were too hard. No one was telling me what to do and I thought I liked it that way until I began to feel like there was no point to anything I was doing.
Ever felt purposeless?
Ever wondered what the heck you’re supposed to be doing with your life?
I still feel that way sometimes!
I was given the senior discount at a local restaurant recently. I’m not quite old enough for that, by the way, but it makes the point about my age.
I knew even LESS about what I was supposed to be doing back in those young “fresh out of the house” years. We make decisions in college that affect the rest of our lives and hope to high heaven we‘re doing the right thing. If you had asked me at eighteen what I wanted to be when I “grew up,” I would have told you something outlandish, and I would’ve meant it. But, also at eighteen, I wasn’t doing a whole lot to make any of my bigger than life dreams come true.
I didn’t know how to.
I knew I wanted good things, but the road from being oblivious to greatness isn’t on Google Maps.
I did learn this…stumbling into real life happens by experience.
Successes and failures. One after the other, one building on the other. Until you wake up one day and realize you’ve been “adulting” for a little while and you might just have the hang of it. Don’t say that too loud because, you know, jinxing and all.
After a long, especially meaningful conversation, I said something to my child that resonated deeply in my own heart. It was like the Lord helped me to put into a simple phrase what I’d been trying to say with a thousand words unsuccessfully.
Real life hurts a little.
LIVING hurts a little.
To me, becoming an adult is learning to be your best. It’s learning what matters most to you. It’s figuring out where you want to be and busting your chops to get there, one step, one success or failure at a time. It requires mental toughness and physical tenacity.
It ISN’T easy.
Living is work.
Living and adulting means getting up each day and DECIDING to keep blazing the trail that becomes your life.
It’s a mystery that continues to unfold.
It’s your story.
And there’s not another one like it.
I think when we realize there’s no perfect way and no way to be perfect, we find joy in the journey.
And when we can finally see joy in the journey, we’ve become a full blown adult.
We sat so long at the same table in Cracker Barrel I felt guilty for the poor waitress. Don’t worry, we left her a good tip! You know, I love the kind of meaningful conversations that aren’t planned. The ones that cause you to linger over a second cup of coffee and leave you feeling hopeful, even if your back is hurting from sitting in a straight back chair not meant for loitering.
It’s just another reminder that real life hurts a little.