I’ve been feeling reflective lately. It’s probably a product of my being almost finished with grad school and getting ready to embark on the main course of my life. But I’ve been thinking about life, about relationships, about what it means to grow up, about what it means to make it. Is there a point in life where you think, “Yes. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for. This feeling. This moment”? For some people, I think this is a very tangible thing. I think they can look back at their life and pinpoint that exact moment where this thought, or a version of it, resided in their mind. I haven’t reached that point, but I imagine, I hope, that one day I will get to experience this. Until then, I sit and wonder. What does it mean to grow up? And, how do you know when it’s happened?
I can’t remember where I heard or saw the quote “Be gentle with your friends.” It’s probably something I made up or adapted from quote about being gentle with one’s parents, but still. It’s been on my mind. The other day, I’d intended to talk to my best friend about something important that happened to me. She was busy, as happens, so I told her we could talk later. Perfectly reasonable, right? Two days later, she asks if I still want to talk or if everything was ok. I told her, sure everything was fine. We’ve been friends for almost ten years, she knows when I’m lying. She asked if I was sure, and I said yes in that text tone that means drop it or this will end badly. Because by then, I didn’t want to talk about the thing anymore. It had made me mad, and I was not in the mood to retell the story again. I was still mad about it, but I was done talking about it. She made one more attempt to get me to talk, and I had to physically walk away from my phone for a while before I could answer. I dislike it when she continues after I’ve made it clear that we’re not discussing whatever it is.
In my time away from the phone, though, I started to think. I’m annoyed. Why? Because I wanted to talk to her and she was busy? That happens. That’s life. Deal. I’m annoyed. Why? Because I’m still pissed about the thing that happened? There’s nothing I can do about it now, and talking about it just pisses me off more. I’m annoyed. Why? Because I’ve had no interaction with a human who wasn’t a virtual stranger in over a week? Living alone, even temporarily sucks. I need meaningful interactions with people I care about and who care about me. I realize this, and not having this makes me cranky. It’s not her fault I’ve been alone for almost ten days. There was literally no reason to be so pissed at her.
Eventually, I calmed down enough to express myself in a way that wouldn’t punish her for trying to be a good friend, that wouldn’t push us into a fight, but that did make clear that I would not be discussing the thing at all and that I would get over it or not eventually. Is that growth? Is that a marker of being an adult, knowing when to engage? Knowing when you’re experiencing heightened emotions that may or may not have anything to do with the current situation and acting according to the situation rather than the emotion? Recognizing that ignoring the problem does not make it go away. I was tempted, seriously, to ignore her and not talk to her until the next time I had something to say/share/ask or she texted me for whatever reason. But that’s petty, and I knew I couldn’t do that to her. I kept thinking about the phrase “Be gentle with your friends.”
Someone once said that I am incapable of self-reflection. I beg to differ. Just having this blog is an exercise in self-reflection. That moment, though, when I stepped away from the phone and chose not to engage was also an exercise in self-reflection. I knew I wasn’t actually mad at her, because there was no reason to be mad at her. She hadn’t done a thing to me. I was experiencing my own problems, and she just happened to be there. A few days later, I got caught off guard by Mother Nature, and recognized why I’d been more peeved that usual.
However, that brings me back to my original question, “What does it mean to grow up and how do you know when it’s happened?” I recognized in that moment that I’d done something very adult. I was frustrated. I took a step back. I reflected. I responded. How often do we actually do this and recognize that it has happened? In that moment, I realized that I had become an adult. More than turning 18, more than turning 21, more than being able to vote, drive a car, get an apartment, plan a wedding, interact with disgruntled patrons. More than anything, I recognized in that moment that I could be, that I was an adult. I’ve had other moments that have made me question, realize, and come to terms with my adulthood, and I may talk about them, but this moment was profound.
What was the moment you realized you were an adult?