I swear sometimes I am STUNNED I am not still 18. When the weather is nice and the sun is shining, and when I am driving with the windows down, and when an 80s song comes on, well then I just KNOW that I am a carefree young wisp of a girl driving her big old car and strumming to the beat. So imagine my shock when I hear strange sounds coming from behind me and turn to notice two small children demanding things like snacks and “better” music and look around to realize that I am actually a 40-something in a minivan. I feel like the Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime” when they sing “…And you may find yourself in another part of the world; And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile; And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife; And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?”
Yes, while the teenager lives strong in my mind (and my daughter’s too—she once said to me, “Mom—you’re only 41! You’re practically a teenager!), there is ample evidence to prove that’s the only place she still lives: I catch my reflection in the side mirror and think “Who the heck is that old lady?” I interact with teenagers and they call me “m’am” and “lady.” My body groans and creaks when I get out of bed in the morning. I’m practical. And I can probably name only a third of the artists currently topping the charts. (But I can spot a Def Leppard song from a mile away).
I’ve talked about this before, but the funny thing about aging, to me anyway, is that because I still feel young, and probably because I am short and usually wearing jeans, most of the time I just feel like I’m “playing” grown up. You see, you all got the manual on being an adult; I must have moved that day. Some days it seems to me like the entire rest of the grown-up world has it together. You’re all so smart! You’re so organized! You’re so official! You have nice furniture and investments and lawn services and you know where to shop for the best deals on avocados. You know the best back roads to avoid construction and you know what that rash on your child’s neck means. You can whip together a healthy dinner in 20 minutes and you can fix the broken dvd player. You know how to clean up grease stains and you keep up with the laundry. You have accountants and all your documents are up to date. You use your smart phones as calendars and task planners. I can’t even turn on the dvd player and I make the same meals every week and I always pay too much for avocados. I pick the wrong lane in traffic and in grocery stores. I have messy piles instead of organized files. My paper calendar is filled with scribbles and to-do lists (in multi-colored pens, no less).
But, what does it mean to “be a grown-up,” after all? Is there a right way to do this thing? Once I stop comparing my version of being a grown-up to your version, I can actually embrace my inner teenager and all she still encourages me to do… like dancing, even if the music is not from the 80s. Or laughing at really, really silly things. Or singing at the top of my lungs, really badly. Or appreciating the greatness of multi-colored pens and comfortable jeans. Or saying “heck-yeah!” to lemon shakeups and treats from the ice cream truck. Or painting my toes purple. Or swinging on the swings. I mean, I can do all that stuff as long as it’s before 9 pm. Because, I am a 40-something after all. Let’s not go crazy here.
How can you appreciate your version of “grown up”?