I remember growing up in the seventies the child of middle aged parents. They had it all together…the family, the long-term career plan, and the retirement plan. They did grown up things like play cards with their friends, smoked cigarettes and drank lots of black coffee, had friends over for cake, and worked on home improvements. Naturally, I thought that was what it would be like for me. Oh, and they looked much older than I ever hoped to look. They looked like parents.
While I was in no hurry to get there, I wondered when I’d ever feel like a grown up. Generation X was turning out to be a bit different. My priorities were not on getting the great job I’d have until retirement. I was focused on pursuing things that made me feel good and made a difference in the world. Sometimes that meant leaving a job once my illusions of its importance wore off. So I was a job hopper, and a home hopper. The idea of a purchasing a house I’d live in for 40 years seemed not only unattainable, but undesirable as well. And all of this hopping, while serving me in the moment, still left me wondering when I’d feel like a grown up. I must have equated stability and roots to being grown up. Clearly in my 20’s and 30’s I was still far from that mark.
I saw clearly where I could easily go as everyone around me seemed to both long for a feeling of adulthood and simultaneously chase eternal youth. So I began to make some decisions and promises to myself.
I would not do that
I would age gracefully
I would move into acceptance of my years and wisdom
It’s easy to promise oneself those things when they are not really challenges at the time. But in making those commitments I seemed to have my first experience of feeling grown up. Suddenly, I was a bit more confident and comfortable in my own skin knowing I’d made some important decisions. The career hopping came to an end as I realized I was meant to work for myself. And this is where my sense of self-reliance, resourcefulness, resilience and perseverance kicked into high gear. I fully embraced the next layer of feeling like a grown up.
And then life finally crept up to put those long-ago decisions to the test. My 40’s arrived, gently and quietly, but quite palpable nonetheless. Each day became some sort of rite of passage. The day I bought the purple shampoo for grey and silver hair was neither celebrated by the cashier who registered my purchase, nor by my friends or family, yet I had walked into the store in one picture of who I was and walked out in an entirely different realm. There were no balloons or cake, just the inevitable duality of acceptance and resistance. I was determined to honor my body’s ages rather than to scramble for years already departed. And to my surprise there was another moment of richness where I felt like a grown up.
And it felt good
I was not running my life like my parents ran theirs. I was staying fit, embracing new directions more than ever, laughing more, exploring more, and settling into a groove at the same time. Being a grown up felt like being rooted when I needed it and having huge wings whenever I wanted to fly. Never before had I dove into my mind so deeply, my spirit so completely, and my body so lovingly. I found myself rewriting old limiting patterns and seeing large dreams come to fruition. Spirituality became self-evident rather than a quest, and love became far more unconditional than I’d ever known.
So here I am at the onset of being middle aged with more gray hair than my friends, less wrinkles than some, a body that is fit yet changing, and a future that feels like it’s 100% malleable and in service to my dreams. In each and every moment of this ride I sculpt new thoughts, wrangle with old ones that nip at me like a spoiled puppy, and laugh at all I think I know.
We are not the stories of our parents, nor are we the stories of our generation. We are the expression of the stories we choose in each and every moment.
What stories will you embody today?