Saturday, March 28, 2009

When did I become the grownup?

I wonder if I'm handling my 40s well. I always imagined that by the time I hit 40 I'd be married (nope) with kids (none that I can see, unless you count various adults in my life) a homeowner (renting and currently relieved to do so) and with a career (wait, how did I miss that one?). Here I am, living in sin with my sweetie, parenting any number of people though none are biological, in the same financial mess as most of my peers (retirement? wait, let me stop laughing) and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I'm not the grown up.

Except sometimes I am.

For example, a couple of weeks ago I was at an event where an older friend took ill. Only a few of us were around when this happened, but I found myself in the position of making the decisions. Should we call the EMTs? Should we send our friend to the hospital, even though they didn't want to go? What do we do next? I was the youngest person in the room, but I was the one calling the shots. Maybe it's because I'm bossy. Maybe it's because someone needed to be decisive and the others were having more difficulty putting their emotions aside, while I could. I don't know why, but I do know that I was the decisive one because someone needed to be.

Afterwards I found myself thinking, "When did I become the grownup?" I asked my sweetie and he told me that I'd been the grownup for years, the one people could rely on, the one who remained calm. Hell. Does being the grownup mean I have to be boring now?

I hope not. There are good things about being a grownup. I can get a new tattoo if I want. I can eat what I want when I want. It's easier to not care about what other people think. I can make my own decisions. I can choose what part of adulthood I want to embrace.

When I was a kid I marveled at how grownups seemed so self-assured and knew the right thing to do all the time. As I grow older, each birthday I wonder, "Is now when I start feeling like a grownup?" I suspect I'll ask that question until I die and, depending on if there's an afterlife, may continue to ask. I think part of the secret of being a grownup is that you learn to fake confidence more effectively. You've learned that it's better to move forward than to stay in stunned indecision.

Some days I'm fine with my 40s, thinking that I'm just not living a conventional life. Other days I grieve. But I do know that I'm trying my best and trying to treat those I meet with compassion and dignity along the way. What else can I do? We make the best decisions we can in any given moment.

My friend was fine, by the way. I'm glad I was able to help them and maybe that's enough of a reason to be a grownup from time to time.

(c) 2009 Laura S. Packer

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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