I guess we all get to that point. You know, when you stop relying on other people to fix your problems, asking why something is done a particular way, or being a “yes” person. Some might call this hitting your bullshit threshold; others, your thirties. And still others may assert that you have, in fact, become an adult.
I’d like to think I’ve been this way for a while. I mean, sure, the whole cross-country, starting-over thing required a particular adult-like commitment; but mostly necessary naivety fueled by a flight response. But even while we were in California, I still felt more like an adult impostor than a bona fide adult.
But then, relatively recently, I woke up, thought about my day, and adulted. I listed out all of the insane to-do items in my head while making coffee and feeding the dogs. And then I acknowledged the enormity of the tasks at hand, reminded myself that only about two of the innumerable things I should get done actually will get done, and then snapped out of it because the dogs had to poo.
And then I did it all again the next day, and the next, and the next. I just sort of stopped looking to others as the “people I want to be like when I grow up,” and stopped mentally interviewing everyone I passed on the street with the question, “And how exactly do you make adulthood look so effortless?” I just gave in to the internal metamorphosis that’d apparently been in-process the whole time and went with it.
The dream I’m having jars me awake. As I regain my bearings in the real world, hints of light begin to redefine the bedroom furniture, conjuring them out of darkness.
Joanna stirs in Toby’s crate, which she annexed last night as hers – at least while he slept, comfortably swathed in a warmed towel on the living room sofa. The unmistakable ba-du-dah from her jumping onto the trunk at the foot of the bed is my 1.5 second warning of impending tongue-to-ear-and-face licks.
I lift up the covers in a feeble attempt to redirect her attention, hoping the sheets’ encasing warmth will cajole her into a few more moments of slumber. Shockingly, she accepts this olive branch and settles for fifteen minutes, during which time I slowly pull myself out of shallow sleep to embrace the inevitability of morning. Somehow their atypical sleeping arrangement last night afforded me an hour more of sleep – an unexpected treat made all the more enjoyable by having the day off.
The luxury of time off is something I once took for granted – draining my stores once a few hours accrued and days were replenished. But now as the singular driver of a nonprofit development department, I’m finding it nearly impossible to take time off – for obvious reasons. Departmental restructuring and strategic planning and diversifying funding streams seep into my dreams more frequently now, compounding generalized exhaustion and providing more mental fodder for the next day’s sprint. It’s not as though I dislike what I do; it’s more like I’m frustrated by wanting to do so much – realize the latent potential I see, but am too thinly spread to bring to fruition. This is yet another lesson I – a self-proclaimed control freak and perfectionist – am learning to make peace with: trying to do all the things and help everyone is a collective exercise in madness which will ultimately lead to burnout.
Leaning against the counter while overseeing the pups’ sloppy eating, I give half-hearted thought to going in. But instead of stealthily sneaking out with my car keys, I will myself to pick up a book and settle onto the sofa, at which point my mobility is completely curtailed by breakfast-bloated chihuahuas. Toby stares up at me, pitter pats in a circle on my stomach, and settles in for a much needed nap; Joanna, however, not so subtly maneuvers for a better position – traversing the tops of the sofa cushions whilst keeping an eye on her slumbering brother beast. Her leg brushes his side as she skirts along, and he growls lowly, threatening action unconvincingly. Albeit commendable, her tenacity works to my detriment given her insistence on using my hoodie pull-string as a pacifier. constricting its billowy comfort around my head as she lulls herself to sleep.
With my neck contorted and legs and book pinned, I acquiesce and give in to the nothingness of the moment – something I both detest and begrudgingly welcome. Because I know in about twelve hours I’ll be soundly asleep, my mind wandering to a backlogged to-do list.
Until then, though, I’ll continue to embrace this newfound acceptance and ownership of adulthood – and the self-confidence and commitment it takes to exercise and wield it every single day.
Because there will always be something to do, something to sideline expectations, something disastrous, and something enthralling – and it’s up to me to accept all of these inevitabilities, the entire package, and glean benefits from each and every moment.
That’s real growth.