The Graceful Flail: An Ode To Adulthood.
Being an adult is hard work.
We wake up early, we go to bed late, we regulate early bedtimes to make those early mornings more manageable and push those late nights so the mornings start fresh. Half the time we’re autonomous and half the time we’re reporting to others. Our finances. Our whereabouts. Our missteps. Our intentions on how to make a life out of an existence.
I remember telling a friend once, in the midst of a trajectory shift, that I wanted to move forward in my career. But, secretly, I told her – my twenty-four year old self thinking she was revealing something unique – I loved the fact that I had no one to report to but myself once I was off the clock.
Yeah, she guffawed (ps, is there any better onomatopoea than “guffaw?”). Enjoy that while it lasts.
And I thought, is that what it is to be an adult?
To lose yourself to others?
While environment and company certainly come into play, we’re inherently born as who we are. And so the idea of adulthood is somewhat of a fallacy. Same being, different experience. And what I find fascinating is that the more people I talk to, the more people I find feel as if they’re just “faking” this adult thing. We’re all just trying to make sure we seem cool-calm-collected to everyone else. Accountable. Responsible. “Adult.”
But really, we’re all in the same boat.
My years have always been muddled in my mind. My age has always been permeable. I vividly remember thinking with a mind I did not feel my body was grown into, and specifically remember instances of holding back communication because I did not feel my peers would understand. Half the time I feel I am eternally seven and the other half I feel eternally seventy two. The latter is my soul. The former is my spirit. The reality is somewhere in between.
I still love fairies and mermaids, and my heart melts a little when I see a stuffed animal on the shelf. I talk to three year olds like they are thirty and seventy year olds like they are twenty seven. I refuse to judge anyone based on their age, a vow I made to myself when I was eight years old and felt the patronizing effects of those who talked to me as if I was a child.
To believe that “adulthood” comes with legal status is grasping for certainty. Because the fact is, a LACK of certainty is one of the hallmarks of adulthood.
Being an adult doesn’t mean you have all the answers. Being an adult means you’ve made peace with the fact that you don’t.
So where do we go from here, adults? If we know what we know and we know what we don’t know, and we’re fine with it all, does it mean we stop searching? Does making peace mean complacency? Is that why, ultimately, we are so resistant to reversing triggers and shifting trauma and changing our self-talk for the better? Is it to fabricate drama, because we’re so worried that without it, we’re left without something to chase?
Of course not. The search never stops. Quite the opposite, really. When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. When we’re at peace with not being able to solve the puzzle, we can get to creating our own beautiful jigsaw. When we’ve accepted what isn’t, we can truly start looking for what IS. Complacency isn’t an acquiescence into adulthood, it’s the death of the human spirit.When we know we’ll never know, we can begin our quest for what else is out there. Click To Tweet
Laying sprawled out on my couch the other evening after dinner, half watching Top Chef and half getting lost in my own head, I looked around the room and marveled out loud at life. I don’t think twenty-four year old me could have ever envisioned this. I don’t think she could have ever conceptualized life like it is right now.
Because twenty-four year old me thought that adulthood meant grasping to make things work. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was what happened when you turned yourself over to the world to be its caretaker. Twenty-four year old me thought adulthood was a time in which you knew exactly what you wanted and those things matched up perfectly to everyone else’s Wants. Twenty-four year old me though adulthood was losing yourself and calling it “finding yourself.”
But I know better now. Or should I say, I don’t know, and that makes me know a whole lot better. I’m confident in what I know and confident in what I don’t know. I have 70% of my shit together but the other 30% is flailing in the wind like one of those Wobble Men at the car wash (which I just Googled btw and are actually called “Air Dancers” which definitely seems like a much more adult name than Wobble Men).
And I think I like it best that way. Conscious knowing and unknowing. Constant grounded flailing. A sense of community, but also distinct uncertainty and loneliness that no longer shakes you like it once did. They’re all normal; the high highs and low lows and everything in between. And whereas I once thought adulthood was reporting to others and losing yourself, I now know that what I once thought of as reporting to others was really assimilating to fit a mold that didn’t even exist.
To be adult is to know you don’t know. To be an adult is to forego societal assimilation in favor of radical self-acceptance. And to be an adult – it’s to flail gracefully, and in the flailing notice how you’re catching air.
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