What does being an adult mean to you? And does the word have positive or negative connotations?
After an interesting twitter discussion, hot chick Janiece wrote about her take on the mythical adult; here’s mine.
I have always felt *old*. Controlled. Humdrum. Intense. Stressed. A bit melancholy. I’ve never been particularly good at relaxing, playing, letting go. Since I have been very young, I’ve tried to be the caretaker and the adult to those around me. The whole adult thing comes very easily to me, it’s acknowledging that life can be enjoyed that is a little tougher.
Certainly there are moments where I suddenly feel disoriented and think, whoa, wait — I’m just a kid playing house, how did I end up with my own grown kids?
Still, my life has mostly been a string of sobering moments that have made me painfully aware of my adulthood, my level of responsibility.
- At 15, I vividly recall helping my drunk father to bed, driving my migraine-stricken mother to the emergency room, and waiting up for my sister to return home from a school dance.
- At 25 I gave birth to my first son. My husband at the time slept through my labor and delivery and I realized how alone I’d be. Thank god for my sister and mom who were with me.
- At 27 my eventually-to-be-ex screwed up our money yet again, leaving us thousands of dollars in the hole, and me pregnant and destitute in a foreign country.
- At 30 I finally divorced the man, which cost me my faith, and moved halfway across the country with my job. My dad not-so-diplomatically informed me I needed to stop leaning on them emotionally, I was on my own there too, and I cried for hours.
- At 33 my youngest, at 5, had his worst asthma attack ever and ended up in pediatric ICU. Seeing him walk down the hospital hallway pulling an oxygen canister drove home my responsibility like nothing else.
- At 35, when he was 70, my father died. My mom, sister and I held each other up as we put his memorial together, and I closed down his consulting business.
- At 38, when he was 13, I held my eldest son through his first tonic/clonic epileptic seizure, then stood by as paramedics thought he wasn’t going to come back from it. He nearly died, and was not there for a very long time. It terrified me.
- At 40, when he was 15, I lived through several months of that same son’s violent, bipolar, psychotic break. (Related to previous? Probably.) Supporting a child through mental illness that I could not help and could not cure is perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, including the next…
- At 44, when he was 45, I lost my beloved husband to a sudden and unexpected heart attack. Saying goodbye to his cold, still shell and going on alone to support my family and continue my profession and my life was both a challenge and a comfort.
After those painful, transformative life changes I’m consciously trying to enjoy life more, to value family, friends, community and my own health and sanity. I’ve been an adult for everyone for a very long time, and now I choose to work less, to be less obligated, to be less well-behaved. I’ve kicked my kids out to a college apartment. I’m buying a condo and going to Europe.
I plan to grab onto life with both hands, travel, laugh, love and enjoy the ride.