On growing up
When do we stop growing up and start growing older? Why does the anticipation and joy dissolve from aging, as we start to count our grey hairs and wrinkles with melancholy? As I round the bend toward 30, I have noticed a certain sadness that accompanies each passing year. Plans seem to roll by unmet, unseen. Rather than becoming more myself, as I assumed I always would, I seem only to move farther away from who I thought I was meant to be. Our comings of age are framed by an endless parade of milestones - graduations, school years beginning, school years ending, summers and falls, each with their own unique pleasures, growing bodies that require new clothes, growing minds that are fed new experiences. Being in a constant state of flux, you never have to declare -simply becoming is satisfactory. Everything is ahead of you, including yourself. Hard choices are on hold until the summer is no longer held like a ripe blue treasure between semesters, and your bones set and you begin the long trek toward getting older.
I have started to enter the phase where I am living more years as an adult than a child. In the same amount of time I have lived in Los Angeles, 6 years, I had once accomplished the following: I was born, breathed with my own lungs, opened my eyes, learned my mothers voice, learned the scratch of my dads chin, crawled, walked, got bruises, spoke a very first word, plucked out of the air like magic. I grew teeth from soft gums. I ate solid food, trying everything for the first time. I covered myself in yogurt and people laughed and took photos. I navigated stairs. I learned to ski. My parents got divorced and I created a detailed memory of how it happened even though I wasn't in the room. I watched Angels in the Outfield and Fox and the Hound dozens of time on a small tv plugged into a cigarette lighter while my mom drove us around the country in a van, navigating the interstate as though she could find a way through her grief. I started school. I made friends for the first time. I cruised the school yard in a tiny yellow and red plastic car. I was afraid of the ocean and my dad held me in his arms. When the waves went out, I felt like I was moving backward, and wondered at the mystery of it. My dad rubbed baby oil on my feet to get tar balls off. He was only slightly older than I am now.
Was his growing spurted anew with the birth of my brother and I, his own miraculous beginning echoing in each tiny cry, his youth held tightly in each tiny fist? Is that how we start growing up again, as we get older?
I suppose then, childless as I am now, I look for other tiny milestones of my days to celebrate - short of a first word, I celebrate a new skill, also seemingly plucked from the air like magic. Graduations are replaced by the raw and vibrant period of grace that follows each failure. We must look for the growing up that happens to us every day - the useful skills gleaned from dead end jobs, the new things felt and seen and tasted, new ways to count the seasons.