Thursday, March 15, 2012

I wanna be me when i grow up...


My photo today is of a bouquet of my daffodils. I wrote about the first few blooms in yesterday's post.  From two tiny blooms to an entire jar full of beautiful flowers overnight!  I posted a few more photos on Flickr.  If you click on the image above you'll go straight into my Flickr feed.  The vase is now on my nightstand bringing me great joy (and keeping Fluffy from becoming ill because she wants to eat the flowers).  

I'm writing again today, inspired by a prompt from the Scintilla Project.  Of today's two prompts, this one spoke to me in the most meaningful way, although the thoughts still feel a little jumbled in my isn't so much of a a telling of colleague Robbie might call it a personal journey in "sense-making".  The prompt says...
When did you realise you were a grown up? [Note...I pretty much stopped there as that sentence is what I wanted to write on...but here is the rest of the prompt...]  What did this mean for you? Shock to the system? Mourning of halcyon younger days? Or the embracing of the knowledge that you can do all the cool stuff adults do: drink wine, go on parent-free vacations, eat chocolate without reprimand?
Words matter very much to me.  My word choice, whenever possible, is done with great thought and care.  I tend to prefer written word over spoken word for the ability to choose words with greater care.  Therefore, it's important to start today's conversation by saying that the dictionary definitions for "grown up" and adult are very, very similar.  So, I'm going to take a stab at making a distinction between the two - and it's one I've made many times before.  

I didn't do/haven't done the two things that societal standards tend to say make us a grown up....getting married and having children.  While this certainly doesn't mean I'm not a mature, responsible (sometimes too much so) adult, you should know that I don't always think of myself as a grown up (or at least my definition of a grown up).  I may drink a glass of wine with dinner, own my own home, drive my own car, and travel completely on my own...but those things and the freedom to do them without permission...makes me an adult - not a grown up.  

You see, as the title of my blog describes, I want to be me when I grow up.  Stated another way...I will be grown up, when I'm truly and authentically me....and I'm that way 100% of the time.

I know from my own experience, and I don't think I'm alone here, that many of us adults don't get to be who we really are - meaning we don't speak and act in a way that is authentic to our true self - one hundred percent of the time. I am not saying, nor do I think for one second, we're trying to lie or be disingenuous. However, we all must make choices at many turns in the road about how to maneuver in complex and challenging social contexts, political situations, and through varying group dynamics.  Sometimes we act in ways that aren't genuinely us to protect others and sometimes we do it to protect ourselves.  

It's a reason why word choice matters to me. If I can choose the right words I can deliver even the hardest of messages in an authentic way.  That being said, there are still times when it's simply not possible to be completely genuine.

I think the biggest sources of the things that keep us from being genuine are family/friendship dynamics and work dynamics.  Speaking from personal experience, I know there are things that I don't say within my family/friends.  Don't get me wrong - I'm pretty blunt and honest with my family and my friends...they might even speak up and say so in the comments.  If I don't agree with someone I love on a direction they are taking, I rarely hold back.  

But some conversations require more emotional energy than the resources I have least at the time.  I think of conversations on politics, religion, and family dynamics that I've just held back from.  I can think of examples of this at work too.  And, in those moments - whether with family or with coworkers - I'm not being me, and I'm not being, by my definition, a grown up.  

It's not just about being genuine in our words though.  It's also about being genuine in our actions.  My best friend Gayle works with a group of college honors students.  She and I were having a conversation recently about one of those students who was having a hard time choosing a job.  Gayle said something to me similar to this (I'm taking some license with the paraphrase I'm sure)... 
"They are like you...they can pretty much do whatever they want...and now they have to choose and they just don't want to."  
She's very right in that I could have done a lot of different things.  I was a classic "book smart", teacher pleasing kid.  And I made thinking that a girl from Indiana couldn't ever do the job I still dream about...being a marine biologist working with large mammals (whales, dolphins, etc.).  In that way, I made a decision at the age of 16 when I decided that wasn't a real job, that kept me from being who I truly wanted to be. 

As I get older I am actually finding it easier to be more authentic and genuine in my choices and actions...because I have the freedoms that you can only get as an adult.  As a kid, I hated art class. I thought (even though I had a really good art teacher) there was a right way to do art and that I wasn't "good at" art because I couldn't make my drawing or painting look exactly like the teachers'.  This was the thought process of a child whose goal was to please and who had to be "perfect" - whatever the heck that means.  As an adult, art has opened up a joy of exploration and discovery that I never could have understood as a child.  So while I may never fulfill a childhood dream, there is a joy and freedom in adulthood that lets me explore new passions and tasks in a way I couldn't even comprehend as a a way that is so much more genuine because I'm not trying to do it "the right way" or "the way the teacher did it."  I worry only about doing art MY way. 

I rarely stop to think about how my choice of math as a discipline reflects that childhood desire to please others and do what was "right". In the way most people (and myself included at the time I was making the choice) think of math - you think almost entirely of the right and the wrong.  Math is a beautiful discipline that I truly love and which has opened up amazing, amazing doors for me...but the initial choice was because it was the "right way" to go...not the way that was true to my heart's desire.

As an adult, I'm sinking, in a good sinking into the warmth and comfort of a hammock on a summer's day... more deeply into who I am ... realizing that perfection is a ridiculous goal and that we need to do those things which bring us joy and help us connect with who we are and where we want to go.  And we need to speak our hearts in the kindest ways possible ... and give others more than just a passing glimpse of who we are.  And...we need to do these things every day...savoring the ordinary moments that make life extraordinary.

So, I wonder dear readers, am I alone?...When was the last time you didn't say something that would allow you to be more genuinely you to protect yourself or someone else?  How did it make you feel?  What were your childhood dream jobs?  Are you doing them today?  How have you NOT been a grown up lately?  How have you been 100% completely and truly have you been a grown up?

Have you heard of the Scintilla Project?  If not, you can find out more here.  From March 14 to 28th...or as their motto so beautifully says "a fortnight of storytelling", I'll periodically be blogging using their prompts.  Want to see more of my Scintilla Inspired posts...check these out:

Scintilla Day 1: Life is a series of firsts


  1. I forget to be a grown up more often than I care to admit. But in those moments when I remember, I delight in the feeling and the knowledge that what others think of me doesn't really matter in the long run. Very provocative thinking piece!

    1. Cheri - this is a quote to keep, "I delight in the feeling and the knowledge that what others think of me doesn't really matter in the long run" glad you liked the piece. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I fall into that trap of saying things to please others...much more often than I care to admit. When I speak from my authentic, truest self, I feel free.

    Excellent writing here, and very thought provoking. Thanks for telling about the Scintilla Project. I have signed up and look forward to the other prompts.

    1. Deb - I'm so glad you're doing the Scintilla project too. I love your writing and your photos. Your poetry is always inspiring to me.

  3. i love this definition of adulthood, and i think i'm going to start incorporating it myself. thank you so much for this.

    1. Dominique, you're quite welcome - thank you for visiting!


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