When I Grow Up

Life is a roller coaster, isn’t it? I love roller coasters. I love the build of anticipation, the adrenaline rush, the unexpected, and the thrill. Oddly enough, I don’t appreciate unpredictability when it comes to life. I didn’t dream much about adulthood as a kid. I never planned my wedding or built my dream house in my mind, but I assumed adulthood would bring some level of predictability and stability. HA!

These last few months have been a whirlwind of unpredictability. I guess you could say the last 34 years have been the same. In the last five years alone, I have moved to Orlando, gone back to school, changed careers, dated, met my husband, married, and am now in the process of trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my working hours as a functioning adult who contributes to society.

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Before Tim started his first week as a contract digital designer for Walt Disney Corporation (I just love saying that), we spent a Saturday in our pajamas doing two things he loves to do: watching old movies and building Legos. This is the part where I confess that never, in a TRILLION years, did I ever expect to marry a man in his forties who loves to build Legos. But you know what? It is one of the many things I adore about my husband. He is meticulous and creative, visionary and attentive to details. He sees what could be, and dreams “God sized dreams”, as one of my friends says. He uses Legos to expand his creativity and see blank space as it could be, rather than how it is.

So when he wanted to spend a lazy Saturday watching 1960s James Bond movies (because, let’s be honest, Sean Connery is the only true James Bond) and building a Lego City set, I obliged. Don’t get me wrong – I like Legos just fine. I do believe, however, that they are the herpes of children’s toys. They hurt, they pop up in odd places, and they never quite disappear, but I don’t mind building a house or two. I like visiting the Lego Store in Disney Springs because I can sit at a table and create whatever my imagination can dream up. I don’t generally enjoy following instructions, but I don’t know how to build an intricate hospital out of tiny blocks, so I used the instructions to build the hospital, helicopter, and ambulance for our Lego city. I had to take breaks to stand up and walk around, and I was not able to focus as long or as intently as Tim could, but I finished my sets.

While we built a mini-city, we talked about a lot of things, but mostly about what is to come. Tim would be starting a new job, I would be ending one. New adventures were on the horizon, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Is this who I wanted to be when I grew up?”

I started thinking about all of the questions most of us seek answers to as children and teenagers: what will I look like, be like, be doing, who will I be with, when I grow up? What will life look like 10, 15, 20, 50 years from now?

After processing some of this with Counselor Bob (see previous post about being back in counseling for myself), I came to see that I am pretty happy with who, and where, I am right now in life. Nothing is perfect, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, but for the first time in 34 years I can say I am pretty happy to wake up in my skin, to look at myself in the mirror, and to confidently offer myself to others on any given day. Just like everyone else, I have my good days and bad days, but I have an overarching sense of comfort and contentment with who I am and where I am in life.

I think most of us would say we want to be “happy” when we grow up, but I learned a long time ago that happy is fleeting. New shoes can make me happy, for a moment. But new shoes don’t bring joy, and that is what I feel today. Joy. If I could go back and talk to 8, 10, 15, 20 year old me, I would say “forget happiness”. Happiness is nice, but it is short-lived and usually pretty superficial. Shoot for the people and experiences that bring joy, because joy can be felt through sadness, pain, grief, and even anxiety. Joy is more sustaining, and it runs deeper than feeling happy for a moment or two.

Today, I feel more than happy with the woman I have become as a “grown up” (some people would debate whether I meet that criteria or not). I feel joy. And I look forward to seeing who I will become when I grow up even more, because we all have room to grow up a little.

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