On the Art of Adulting...
Something big happened this year, and as much as I had dreamt about making the biggest deal about it, I didn't. Turning 40 is something you only do once, and in our culture we tend to either celebrate it or sweep it under the rug.
But I didn't fall into either of those categories. September is a busy month, and although I had planned to do a photoshoot to document it- my dress didn't fit and I was crabby about it. And it was super hot. And we have three kids and a job and life like a current swept me past the date farther and farther down stream away from taking the moment.
I was reminded at the small shindig I did throw for myself how our parents celebrated. Black ballons, tombstones, and banners reading "Over the Hill" or "Lordy Lordy Rachel's 40" was the norm. I chose to celebrate with macarons and tea.
And I asked myself, did my parents' generation have any friends at all? The whole black ballon thing was a little overkill, don't you think? But on second and third thoughts, I considered that maybe they were onto something we absolutely are not. My parents knew how to adult.
"Adulting" is a relatively new term, but I gasped when I saw it for the first time. Who made up this word that explains exactly how I feel, and why I am so tired? Embodying everything I hate about life? Like going all over town to find the perfect envelope for my Christmas cards and end up only purchasing them on Amazon? Like paying bills on time, telling other people to brush their teeth, carlines, schedules, and buying toilet paper instead of watching it just magically appear?
For the last decade I have looked at the phenomenon of growing up with disdain, crying the first time I realized I had to make a schedule to help my kid be a better human because I didn't want to be one of "those" moms. But as hip as I felt in the moment, walking into a room in which you long to be respected for your wisdom and experience at 40 is difficult when you have built a reputation for simply being cool (aka unreliable, unprepared, but exceptionally well-dressed).
Unlike our parents who got an enormous shoulder-shake by the arms of their black balloon-bearing buds, the crassness of each banner shouting "You're an adult now! You better get your freaking life together!" I had an epiphany after reading some self-help books. I had a horrible headache last week, and I did my usual thing and sniffed out the Advil from the most "adult" person in the room. After finding relief, the thought came to me:
Why can't I be the one with the Advil?
The books I have been reading have been encouraging me to "thank" that little girl on the inside of me: the one who everyone has always taken care of, provided for, and coddled, and instead take the role as a provider. And buying a big, fat bottle of Advil to keep at the salon would be a great first step at a more grown-up life. A step of faith (if you will) for all of the more adulty things to come (putting my keys in the same place, buying fancy towels for the bathroom, and asking Siri to send me reminders).
But after much thought, there are so many more benefits to being an adult that I have already been embracing than only being prepared, and I thought I'd touch on them here.
1. You get to wear whatever you want.
Did your parents hate the way you dressed in high school? Were they always getting on your case? Welcome to adulthood, where you get to wear just about whatever you want all of the time. Pajamas to Walmart? Done. Pajamas to church? I mean, if you want, but don't be surprised if someone asks you politely if you'd like prayer for anything.
People often say that if they dressed like me their friends or teenage daughter would think they looked crazy, but I'm here to say that you have one short and very precious life. If you are feeling two different colored parrot earrings then you just should. We're 40. We earned it. We get to wear whatever we want.
2. We get to eat whatever we want.
Here's the deal with eating, and I hope it helps someone. When you are a kid, you never knew when a donut would appear. Could it be today? Could it be 6 months from how? It's like you'd turn a corner and there would be donuts! "How many can we have? Can I have 3?" But when you are an adult, you can have donuts anytime you want. So, do you need to eat three when you get to work today and BAM there are donuts? No. You need one, because tomorrow you can have another because... you got it. You are grown up.
One of the most important (and albeit less fun) parts of being grown is that you get to know your body. You know the things that make it feel great, but also the things that will get you sick (and thick, for that matter). Discovering what foods energize us, comfort us, and fuel us is a privilege only adults have earned.
3. We get to love ourselves.
This is the big one, and it can start so much sooner than 40. For years I have compiled lists of things I have wanted to change about myself, and in the beginning it was all physical. I wanted a smaller nose, a smaller gut, smaller breasts, bigger lips, and longer, curlier hair. Then the sense of lack moved to what I didn't possess, ie better clothes, more shoes, a bigger house, a better salon, better clients, and better friends. And finally, and maybe out of pure boredom I criticized the person I am: forgetful, disorganized, not a "natural born leader," lacking in talent, lacking in time, lacking in resources and ability, and oh remember you will never be anything because you're fat (wait, how does that one ALWAYS get in there?).
But that hurt little girl on the inside- the one we talked about above, who will never amount to anything on her own- I have let the Lord step into her library. I have let him compile The Jr. High Years, and put the tattered, tired old volume on the shelf. Rachel, and the Crappiness that Followed her Parents' Divorce goes right up there next to it, followed by The Years that Stole Rachel's Voice, and my old favorite How-to's: How to be a Terrible Wife and Mother, and How to Fail at Everything you Begin.
The joy of loving yourself comes in reaching up and grabbing one of those volumes to show someone else that life doesn't have to end in the muck and mire. There is an answer to every problem, a window to every closed door, and a soft space for your children to lay their heads when you are all out of pillows.
And when I am tempted to pull one of those volumes off of the shelf to prove my lack to myself, there is a truer truth in God's Word. I love myself, because my lack gives the opportunity for God to generously provide.
So before you totally discount being an adult, remember there are some definite upsides. Donuts whenever, pajamas whenever, and the opportunity to provide the wisdom of years of imperfection made beautiful.