I’m not a grown up, but I’m starting to learn some things about growing up. When I was younger (and maybe you can relate), I was pretty certain that I would mature as I accomplished milestones. Brett and I refer to this as “checking things off the list.”
Go to college- Check
Get married- Check
Buy a house- Check
Have a baby- Check
(In that order…)
I was under the impression that the hallmark experience of aging was moving through this checklist. I would feel more like an adult at each stage. I would be more mature once I owned a home than I was when I was renting. The pinnacle of self-actualization was giving birth, and so on.
You may have come to realize this is patently untrue. If you haven’t, allow me to say- catch up.
The true universal experience of getting older? In my opinion (and let’s be honest, that’s what you’re here for), is the slow, sweet fading of caring even a little bit what other people think. (Or, in the language of my generation- having no fucks to give.)
I think this process starts in your early 20s, a fraught and judgmental time, when you slowly step out of the fog of being a monster (teenager) and start thinking the most important thing in life is defining yourself. As you turn the lens inward, you are at once ceasing to turn it outward and your concern about how your friends are spending their evenings or your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend who is a ballet dancer or some shit just stop mattering. I might refer to this as “Not My Business Syndrome.” If you knew you a friend’s partner was cheating on them, and you hesitated for even a moment about telling them… then you know what I’m referring to. It’s a keen sense of “I’d Rather Not Get Involved-itis.” As you obsess about the minutia about what having bangs says about you to the world (trendy, fussy, unconcerned about having a sweaty forehead), you allow less space for things that used to really matter. It was at this point I stopped disagreeing with my friends all the time and realized that maybe they weren’t actually my friends to begin with.
Your mid-20s are a time when the scatter map of your peers is widespread and disorienting. You are both jealous of the Christmas Card family and disgusted. You pity your single friends and their Tinder disasters but envious of the freedom, the stories, the unwritten endings. This is the time of getting fired for tweeting about your boss. This is the time of losing your job at a start-up that went under. This is the time of moving to Portland. This is the time of realizing that “defining yourself” is thinly veiled narcissism.
And, if you’re me, and in this scenario you are, you approach a milestone and in some cases succeed (Brett Moser) and in other cases fail spectacularly (have you heard the story about us trying to buy a house?) and uncover that what happens inside a decision rarely looks the same from outside a decision. You arrive at the conclusion that life is intensely personal. Everything is a Monet. You may be lucky enough to find a person to share that mess with, but you slowly stop worrying about cleaning it up for the comfort of others.
As a people pleaser, this has been a bit of a revelation for me. In unpacking some complexities that live within me, I have felt less obligated to present my feelings up in such a way that is easily digestible for everyone else, because, bluntly, I don’t owe that to anyone. I love to communicate and I love to connect and share. This is an inherent piece of me. But whether my story resonates with you says very little about me and much more about you and as I age, I worry less and less about editing it so that it will. (Allow me to pause here to kindly say, I love you. You matter to me. I want to hold space for you. All these things can be true at the same time.)
It’s this sense of “You do you” or rather “I do me” that feels a bit like a universal truth. Not everyone owns a home. Some people don’t want to be parents. But the best of us, gradually and sincerely, recognize our own power, stop renting space to the opinions of strangers, and free ourselves up to learn the lessons of the next decade.