I don’t normally share personal things on my blog, but my Facebook friends thought that this could potentially fit here–as an expression of life through the eyes of a writer. What do you think? Would you like to see more pieces like this?
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a grown-up. I wanted it when my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles would gather to play Balderdash or Taboo or whatever the current game craze was and I’d beg to play or at least watch and ninety-eight percent of the time my mom would reply, “No, this is grown-up time.” I wanted it when I was at the grocery store during lunchtime and I’d ask to get fast food instead of cheese and crackers and she tried to explain why she wasn’t making that choice. And I really really wanted it when eight-thirty rolled around and bedtime was enforced.
Life is full of irony, and now I don’t usually play games even when invited to, budget and diet keep me from as much fast food as I could wish, and even though I can now stay up as long as I want, half the time I just want to sleep.
And yet I keep waiting to feel like a grown-up. I go to a party or gathering of some sort and I don’t know the right things to say, or how much it’s polite to just talk to one person you like and how much you should mingle, and I don’t know whether to give people hugs or handshakes. So I sit a little bit apart after awhile, look at the stars, try to calm my mind, and wish I were a grown-up.
I find I can’t quite seem to stick to a diet or budget, and I make these plans and end up abandoning them when I get stressed and I wish I were a grown-up, and I buy a couple things I probably shouldn’t buy, and eat a couple things I probably shouldn’t eat, and I wish I were a grown-up.
I try to use an ATM for the first time and I take a wrong turn somewhere on the touchscreen, and it refuses to spit out any money, and I grow much more discouraged than I should. Why am I not a grown-up yet? Grown-ups know what to say, and they know how to be wise with money, and they certainly know how to use ATMs! I text my mom to tell her I fail at being an adult. She tells me she fails at being an adult at least once a day.
I don’t want to believe it. Of all people, parents can never fail at being grown-up. It’s practically their job description.
I drive down the highway one evening, jamming to Chris Tomlin over the bluetooth speaker. I glance at the GPS. About five minutes from home. I pass the exit right before the exit I need to take. So far so good. I am driving. I am on my way home from socializing. I am choosing good music. I am succeeding at life.
A car is stopped in front of me in the dark. I panic. I gasp. I start braking, but I don’t know exactly how much to brake. If I slam too hard, I’m afraid of losing control of the car, but if I don’t brake hard enough–the car is right there–suddenly there’s a bump and my chest hits the steering wheel lightly.
Time freezes.The car in front of me is silver. I stare at it. Cars whiz by along the highway.
It pulls over to the shoulder that happens to be beside us. For a fraction of a second I want to just drive away, but I know that’s not right. Or legal. I pull over behind the other car and just keep staring at it. Waiting. Who will emerge? An angry man? A teenager? A stressed mom?
After too long, the door opens and a girl about my age steps out, blinking in my headlights. I get out and ask if she’s okay. She’s shaken. We both are. Her rear bumper is dented. My license plate is cracked. I am calm as I get out my insurance card and we trade information. I am calm as I watch her slowly drive away. I am calm as I walk back to my car and open the door.
I am not calm as I close the door behind me. I am shaking and sobbing. I pull slowly off the highway and into the first parking lot I see, a barbeque restaurant. The restaurant is closed. I hyperventilate. I start to throw up a little and I open the door in case I get sick. I’m sweaty all over. My chest hurts a little. I am mostly just thinking one thing.
I have failed at being a grown-up.
A friend calls to check on me, because I apparently texted her in my initial panic. She can’t understand me very well. I keep crying and almost vomiting. She tells me to call my dad and let her know when I have.
Call my dad? If I call my dad, he will know I have failed as an adult.
This is when the realization subsides my sobs a bit. I want to be a grown-up so badly I’m willing to not tell my dad I was in a car accident in his car?
I call him. He walks me through what I need to do. He comforts me. He prays with me. He keeps telling me I shouldn’t feel stupid, because apparently I told him I do. I finally tell him I’m okay, I just need to calm down a little, and he hangs up.
I wait to stop crying.
I’ve known for years that being a grown-up wasn’t board games or fast food or lack of bedtime. I learned after awhile that it also wasn’t having a credit card, knowing how to drive, or buying your own computer. I know now that it’s also not perfect social graces or budgeting or using ATMs or never being in car accidents.
In fact, I think for the first time, I have no idea what it is.
And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Maybe by knowing I will never arrive, in some way, I finally have.