When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be a grown-up. When I was a grown-up, I would be “finished.” I would know everything I needed to know, be free to do whatever I chose, and never, ever cry again because I could solve all my problems myself. I was pretty sure I’d never worry about anything or have to do anything I didn’t want to do. All in all, is it any wonder that kids are in such a hurry to be a grown-up?
But here’s the thing: we’re never “finished,” are we? There’s no final finish line we get to cross, after which life is an endless joy. There’s no end to the “character-building moments” and “life lessons” and “fresh starts.”
This is a chronic struggle for me… grasping the idea that there isn’t a finish line, except for possibly death (but even that’s only a transition, in my mind). I want to be “done.” I want to have it all settled. I want to know what it’s going to be each and every day from here on.
Except that I don’t. Because as much as I crave stability and certainty, I get bored incredibly easily. I want to — need to — be constantly learning and growing and changing or I quickly grow tired of myself. I have the demeanor of someone who is cautious, but I have always surprised people with the leaps of faith that I have taken. The truth is, my head may prefer the carousel, but my heart knows I can’t live without the roller coaster.
That’s not to say that I’m fickle or unable to permanently attach to people or places, because I am quite the opposite. I have more than one friend whom I have known since I was in diapers, and, although I love traveling, moving from place to place holds no real allure for me. I was always the girl with the long-term boyfriend when I was younger, and I’m still acquainted with most of the men who ever claimed me as their girlfriend. It isn’t different faces or horizons I need, but people and places who continually challenge me.
Having said that, even as I sit here, waxing philosophical on my keyboard, I have to admit that I hate the uncertainty of life. I have finally grown up enough that I don’t seek an ending just to have one, but I am no more comfortable than I ever was with allowing it to unfold gradually. I want a crystal ball that tells me how this relationship will end or what my next career move will be or whether my breasts will tragically begin to sag as I age. I want to know if my children will be okay, whether my parents will pass peacefully in their sleep, when my next appliance will fail. Sometimes I am amazed by those people who seem to have everything under control… as if they really do have a red phone to the universe that informs them of every bump and hurdle in advance, so that they can handle it all with an aplomb that makes the rest of us look like Keystone Cops in our own lives. How do they seem to anticipate every problem and come prepared, like some eternal Boy Scout? In my pettier moments, I suspect these people are simply so anal-retentive that they spend every waking minute preparing for every possible outcome and thus convince the rest of us that they are divinely competent and capable. Similarly, I envy and admire the people who can delight in the uncertainty, the unknown, the blind spot, even as I skeptically wonder if such people truly exist or if their bravado is simply concealing the same mild angst I feel.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, these are not things that I lose sleep over. But they do trip me up and send me sprawling onto the metaphorical floor with a complete lack of grace that unnerves me. And so, I wonder…
I wonder if there will ever be a time when I feel as if I have figured any of the important stuff out. I wonder if I will ever be free from the self-criticism of “I should have known.” I wonder if I will ever feel completely competent and fearless and in-charge. In short, I wonder if I’ll ever be a grown-up.
And I think we all know the answer to that is no; I’ll continue to be a work in progress and a child at heart. And I guess that’s just as it should be.