Sunday, January 9, 2011

Growing up? What's that?

One of these days I looked myself in the mirror and asked what did I want to be when I grow up? Where did I plan to be now in that scenario of my life I played out in my head as a child? And then I smiled and I thought “this is it”. I was raised to believe education is the best way for women to make it big. To reach for independence. To enjoy the simple little things in life. I wanted to be a detective and a writer and a student for ever and ever, and the way things work, I'm living the dream. I wanted a place of my own and a handful of friends I can hang with and count on. I’m here, but somehow there are plenty of people who still think I have a lot of growing up to do. As in get married and have babies. Make big bucks and move to a house in the suburbs. Buy a car and take the kids to piano lessons and soccer.
I see growing up as something different. I believe most of the roles people expect us to play have to be tried on. To see if they fit. That’s why we play all kinds on enactments of adult life as children. We try different jobs and we play house. We do the same as young adults. And some people decide it’s the real thing. But I believe in taking chances and knowing yourself. When people just assume the roles they were set out to play from early childhood, can we really call that growing up? Marrying your high school sweetheart fresh out of college and having a baby a couple of years after finding a stable job. Is that what growing up is all about? Because I’d rather call it settling. Not just settling down. Settling for what you were told your life should be like. Like microwaving a frozen diner instead of trying some amazing Thai cuisine. It’s true that most generations before us had a clear path before them and that saved them from experiencing a quarter-life crisis. But shouldn’t we consider ourselves lucky? With the amazing variety of options we now have, we can be the architects of our own lives.
My childhood best friend used to tell me she wants to graduate from college and get a job in a nice office and marry her one true love and have kids and live happily ever after. I guess this is it for her. I think she is soon to marry her first boyfriend, they’ve been together for the last seven years, if you don’t count the one when they first met in junior high. She got a job working for a multinational corporation and her parents must be really proud. Her life was a straight line towards her childhood dreams and I’m nobody to say that she is stuck or just settling. What I’m saying is that most of us don’t get to be like that.
Most people I know and hang around are actually extremely indecisive about their future even in their mid-20s. It might be that there is a common denominator that brought us together, while maybe people who couple early in life and marry at our age eventually  have friends that are more similar to them. What I wanted to say is that we are just as grown up as they are. And maybe more. Because we got to experience so many sides of life and we’ve been on our own and played house and tried all kinds of other wacky combinations. We traveled at least as much and met tons of people, we’ve questioned ourselves more and got to know ourselves better in the process. We didn’t take things for granted, be it religion or taste in men, and most times chose to think for ourselves instead of caving to the majority’s opinions and precepts. As far as relationships go, we’re the ones who won’t ask ourselves what would that have been like, because we went there and we already know. Being experienced and open-minded is what I consider to be grown-up. Because growing up should be more about growing than moving up towards a position set for us from birth. These indecisive people I know might marry and have children as well. But they will be the ones who make a grown-up decision to do so. The ones who can fully enjoy being mothers and wives/fathers and husbands as a personal decision they can celebrate, without looking back and thinking they could have taken a year off to back-pack around the world or given a chance to that cute person they used to know in college. So yes, I am all grown up now and I’m where I’m supposed to be. And I can go anywhere from here.

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