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will I ever

I have to warn you: This is not a happy post. Nor a funny one. Nor a helpful one. Nor a pretty one. Proceed at your own discretion. You have been warned.

What I want to say today is the following: Will I ever grow up?

Maybe you are one of those people who believe that growing up is very much overrated and your first reaction right now is to say: ‘Girl, why would you want to? Be glad you’re not grown up!’

Or maybe you are one of those who never had to think about it because your growing up just happened and you’re thinking right now: ‘What are you talking about woman? You’re thirty years old, of course you’re grown up.’ (Okay, maybe you didn’t know my age, but let’s assume you did.)

I used to think that all grown-ups knew what they wanted and had sound reasons for the things that they did. I’m still not fully over the shock of discovering, somewhere in the middle of adolescence, that grown-ups had no clue themselves. They were only figuring things out as they went along themselves, and often they went along blindly. Sometimes I still wish that realization had never happened.

Let’s take a quick look at what being grown up means. Of course, what that really means is that I am looking at what it means to me. And there are two sides to it. There is the emotional, inner side. On that side it means taking responsibility for yourself. Knowing what you want and having a goal. Knowing how to go about achieving it. Knowing yourself. Being secure in your identity. Knowing what are your passions, what are your weaknesses and how to keep each in balance.

Then there is the factual, outer side. On that side it means having a place to live. Paying taxes. Dealing with bureaucracy. Saving money. Taking care of retirement. Having financial stability. Owning furniture, a car, a computer or TV. Having stability. Having a plan.

(I’m leaving out anything relationship-related, like a partner or kids or friends, because that relies on other people as well as yourself.)

I’m afraid of the outer part. I long for the inner part.

Unfortunately, I can’t really get around paying taxes and dealing with bureaucracy, but I can refuse to own furniture or a car or thinking of and planning for retirement – and I do – but I really can’t imagine being without a computer. Half-half, I guess.

As to the inner part… I used to have no idea who I was. I made it up as I went along. I’ve become much better at being honest with myself, listening to my own voice, getting to know myself. Especially the last two years have done wonders for me in that area. I still have problems with knowing what I want, and even more, with knowing how to go about achieving what I want. Or how to be able to stick with it.

Today, more than on any other day recently, I feel like my mind is just a big swarm of flies. Thoughts buzz around, settling again and again on the same spots, only to take flight as soon as I approach. It’s a buzzing, shifting mess and I cannot sort it out. I have new ideas, I have old ideas refusing to die down, and all the while my stomach is fluttering from nerves and the back of my neck is prickling. It feels like I have forgotten something very important. Like I’m about to miss the one and only chance I have. Like I have to step onto the stage and perform and I have no idea what.

I don’t know where I’m going. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m very busy all day, but when I look at what I’ve done, there is nothing I can show for it.

So my question is: Will I ever grow up?

Or, if you want me to re-phrase it: Will I ever know what I want? Will I ever have a clue? Will I ever wake up and just KNOW?


signs of growing up

I survived! The first day of being thirty, and I neither feel particularly older, nor did I spontaneously develop wrinkles over night.

Yes, I did check quite closely in the mirror this morning. Why are you grinning like that?

I dreaded this threshold for a long time, but now I’m past it, it seems that neither wrinkles, nor growing up, happen over night. It’s easy to check for wrinkles, it’s a bit harder to check for signs of growing up, but I’ll be going with these for the moment:

  • you don’t get joy out of the fact that you managed to go over the speed limit, as verified by a digital “speed-awareness” sign, on your bike
  • you don’t sing along to your music while in the middle of town
  • you don’t admit to the insurance guy that you have no idea what he’s asking you about on the phone because you’ve just never had to think about it/never were interested in it/never could be bothered – and even if you do, you feel guilty about it

I think I’m good.

Unless you know any other “you’ve grown up” signs? If you do, please let me know. I need to make sure nothing is sneaking up on me.

the big one

Tomorrow is my birthday. No, really, it is. And it’s not just any old birthday, it’s the one with the big ‘3’ in front. For the first time. I’m dreading it.

Don’t get me wrong: I love my birthday. It’s insanely important to me. I’ve only ever met one other person who is as crazy about her birthday as I am, and she is the eldest of a large family as well. We think that might the clue to this feeling of ours, that our respective birthdays are the most important days in our lives. The one day when it’s all about us. No, change of personal pronoun. The one day when it’s all about me. I get to choose what is eaten, who is invited, what is being done, where I go, what music is being played… and I don’t have to respect anybody’s wishes and I don’t have to take a step back. It’s the one day in the year where I feel totally unabashed about being the centre of attention. Actually, it’s the only day in the year when I like being in the centre.

Also, I’m just happy on that day. I wake up with a good mood, I dance and sing the whole day like some annoying Disney heroine, I love everyone and tell them repeatedly (a bit like being drunk) and nothing can spoil my happiness – I can take anything in my stride on my birthday.

The downside of that: I’ve always taken it as a milestone. Because it is so important to me, I keep measuring myself on that date and compare how I ‘did’ during the last year, what developments I went through, what I succeeded at, where I failed. And because tomorrow is ‘the big one’, I’ve been trying to take stock of the whole decade in the last few days.

I found myself looking at what I wanted at twenty and how much of that I achieved. The answer isn’t pretty – it’s ‘Not much’. I haven’t sailed around the world, I still do not speak more than the two foreign languages that I could already speak ten years ago, I haven’t published a book, I’ve never ridden a horse or went paragliding. The list goes on, but I think you might get the idea. On top of that comes the realization of my present situation: unemployed, living with my parents, out of money, out of ideas, in debt, no practical work experience to speak of.

I *did* warn you, didn’t I? It’s not pretty.

However, the most important resolution I have made is not to whine anymore. Not even to myself, and most certainly not to my friends. So instead of looking at the deficit side (what I wanted and didn’t get), I want to take a look at the plus side. And I want to share it with you. So this is my list of all the things I achieved in the years between twenty and thirty, in no order whatsoever:

  • finished three university degrees
  • lived in six different towns, three of them abroad
  • made a huge number of friends
  • stayed in touch with most friends
  • lost some friends, but learned from the experience
  • fell in love
  • fell out of love
  • never quit writing
  • learned to go out by myself
  • learned how to be alone and to rely on myself
  • taught at two different schools
  • went through a severe psychological crisis and worked hard to come out of it again
  • survived a potentially dangerous illness
  • climbed mountains by myself
  • travelled with friends and alone
  • discovered new music and went to lots of concerts
  • never gave up my belief in humanity’s goodness, although often questioning it
  • helped people who needed help – not always, not everyone, but every time I could
  • read massive amounts of books and learned about humanity
  • connected people
  • never stopped trusting people and faring quite well with that policy
  • gained self-confidence
  • got experience and knowledge in a huge number of areas: love, friendship, how to listen, when to speak, what to say and what not to say, people in general, group dynamics, music, writing, myself, thinking
  • had lots of fun at so many concerts, parties, gatherings
  • saw beauty in all the expected and in even more unexpected places
  • never gave up questioning the world and reflecting my actions
  • never grew up to the point of giving up my dreams

I like this list. Some of the points might be repetitive, but I wrote them as I thought of them. This has helped. I think I’m ready for tomorrow now.

It’s time to go out and celebrate in style and welcome the 3 into my life.