I know I have written about this before, but it is a subject that fascinates me. I have spent my life under the mistaken assumption that some day, eventually, I would achieve the status of “grown up”, marking the successful transition from a child to a confident, mature adult. As a card-carrying grown-up, I would have a stable, gracious life, perfectly balanced. The young would come to me for my impeccable wisdom (exquisitely worded). As a younger person, I had every reason to expect this. Older people did appear to lead very stable (almost boring) existences. They were smart, certainly knowing more than I did. When I entered the Air Force, I encountered more proof. The Mature Ones were indicated by rank (and grayer or less) hair. To a second lieutenant in my twenties, those on the back end of their forties, sporting uniforms marked by oak leaves or a plethora of stripes, were the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge. Someday, if I lived that long, I too would be promoted to “all grown up”. As in so many things, I was wrong.
I am now somewhere in my fifties (some days even I dare not overly define my chronological age). I certainly have had some periods of stability (largely defined by 25 years of marriage to the same wonderful man), but I have yet to wake up and feel that I have been promoted to adult status. Better to define aging as a series of chapters, each with its unique set of challenges and growth opportunities. When I was in my teens and twenties, it was about solitude, school and starting on the path to self-sufficiency. In my later twenties, it was relationships, heartbreak, and, thankfully, meeting my future husband. In my thirties, I was a new mother, and felt that I had reached that part of the old chutes and ladders game where I unceremoniously slid down several maturity levels as I learned to be a more effective and self-forgiving parent. My forties and early fifties were centered on growing daughters and supporting my husband in the last years of his Air Force career, including time in Turkey. Most recently, as our oldest finished her final year in college and moved across the country, I stepped away from work and a full schedule to reconnect with my family and newly rediscovered passions of music and writing. Now, with both of us embarked on new work ventures, and our youngest fleeing the nest, my husband and I are musing over our next chapter. For me, this means that, as in my twenties, I am now pondering anew what I want to be when I grow up. The opportunities appear endless. Perhaps the better question to answer is what that next chapter will be on the path of life-long learning and living. Only God knows. Who wants to grow up anyway?