Thursday, July 15, 2010

Living and Loving my Adulthood

This is the first time in my 22 years of being a legal adult, that I have truly embraced my adulthood.  Don't get me wrong, I haven't been on the hunt for the fountain of youth, and I don't care about wrinkles, gray hair and death, although I do want to hold that off for as long as humanly possible.  I wasn't afraid of aging, I was afraid of losing my young-ness. So I held on to it as hard as I could.

Specifically, it was the twenty-something CJ I held on to.  I didn't intentionally try to keep her around, but she was there, in my mental grip.  CJ reminded me of what my life was supposed to look like.  Who I was supposed to be as an artist, a writer, and a woman who always danced to the beat of a different drummer (as my mom used to say).  She was who I saw myself as, and I held her tighter and tighter as I moved further and further away from her. However, in the illusion I had created, she and I were still the same.  As a result, I never felt like an adult, even though I existed and navigated a very adult world.

I can recall, about three years ago, having my first moment of clarity.  My husband Jon and I were in the kitchen of our old house unpacking groceries. He started sharing with me that one of his female friends from college had scored a role on one of  those TV shows featuring a gaggle of bratty,sex-addicted and malicious teenagers.  I had just seen the trailer for the new season and I said excitedly, "Oooh, is she playing the bitchy new girl?"  Jon froze, his hand reaching into a grocery bag. His facial expression hung somewhere between a frown and a laugh. "Noooo," he replied slowly. "Umm, she's the mother."  He threw me his, "Are you crazy?" look and laughed. I suddenly realized that I, a 38 year old mom (at the time), assumed a women the same age as me was playing a college freshman!  I laughed long and hard, but that incident was the first indication that my perception of myself was - off.

I gradually started to notice I talked about what I used to do.  I talked about the fabulous experiences of my past.  I had great stories and they were always in context with the topic of the discussion, but they always featured twenty-something CJ.   Yes, I've been to Paris.  I had my own radio show in college.  I sang at the famous Blue Note Jazz Club the night Ray Charles was there. Blah, blah, blah, blah blah.  I never re-counted my exploits as faded memories because they were still vibrant and vivid in my mind.  It always seemed like...just yesterday.  Well, until I started counting back the years. The brutal truth was that my greatest adventures were 20 years behind me. 

I finally got it through my head that I was not that twenty-something CJ. I was a chronically bored grown-up with a husband and three kids and had to take responsibility for my current boring, restrained 41 year old life.  I know, I know! Things happens in life, and it doesn't always turn out the way we expect. So we change and adapt. I  totally understand - but dang! I could be doing SOMETHING that felt like me. Growing up and maturing was one thing - living in a hectic, fast paced, boring rut was another. So I took responsibility. 

I don't want anyone getting the wrong idea about my entering grown-upville. Taking responsibility for my life didn't result in me coming to my senses, digging my heels in and getting down to grown-folks business. I didn't miraculously start fulfilling the duties of a middle-aged, newly minted SAHM mom with acumen and zest.  I am no cookie baking PTA president/den-mother/mini-van driving soccer mom.  I took responsibility of the fact that I had let my life slip into something I didn't want.  For me, true adulthood began when I decided to live out of who I was instead of living up to who I was supposed to be. 

I pish-posh the great myth that you have to give up your Self to be a great mom and wife.  I do not agree that somehow the mantle of womanhood means no more playing in the rain, or dancing as hard as you possibly can to very loud music. I have come to the conclusion that I AM a great mom and wife because I give them the best of myself that grows and expands with every birthday.  My children are getting to know the real me and I love that.  My husband gets to experience the woman he fell in love with 18 years ago, but in greater measure as I get older.  My new motto is, "Do you, love big, have fun and get the job done!"

My young-ness is in full force, but it took becoming a grown-up to recover it.


  1. You are how old you feel at heart dear...and being a mom does not need to take away the fun in you.. Glad you grew up enough to see that you dont get replaced by grow and add on the role of mommy and wife :)
    Great piece..

  2. Great post. I often wonder, as i think these things, as to where I am and what i 'lost' - how much do i 'blame' being a mother for this change rather than just fessing up to the fact that that is just a comfortable excuse for me not holding myself accountable? The first thing we learn as new mothers is that there ARE enough hours in the day - we suddenly realize how much can be done on so little sleep but as time goes on we blame being a parent on sapping our time when the truth is it might sap our energy but there is still time for us...if we want to find it. Just a few less zzz's. Thank you for this post and for making me hold myself accountable a 'no excuses' kind of day.

  3. Great piece and so honest! I had one of those moments last year when I was pushing the kids in the stroller in our neighborhood. Someone I didn't know walked by and said "hi" and I wondered in my head if they thought I was the young nanny. Ha! In my head sometimes I'm still 22, even though the gray hairs ON my head tell me I'm 38. Good for you for reconciling it all.

  4. Thanks guys!

    Alysia, That is hysterical. One day I thought I really looked good and a lady asked my if my kids were my grandchildren! (Sigh)

    It is so true that we sometimes fall into the trap of blaming our responsibilities for the fact that we are not being accountable for who we are and how we are using the gifts we have been given. Thank God for the writing!!

    Aysha, thanks for reminding us that we are not defined by the roles we play, but the roles we take on are defined first by who we are.


  5. Hi CJ --

    stopping by and following from MBC's Simply Follow!

    What a great post and one that many of us can identify with! I don't think we ever truly think we are the same age as the women staring back at us in the mirror.

    The great thing about NOT being 22 anymore is that the knowledge and experience we've gained along the way has enhanced who we are rather than take away from who we were.

    Nice to meet you!


  6. Thanks Dee,

    That is absolutely right. In fact, although in my mind I related as a 20something - I always said I would NEVER go back to my 20s - because in actuality - alot of it kinda sucked! (smile) I will check out your blog. Thanks for the follow!

  7. They say youth and beauty are truly wasted on the young! ;-)

  8. "For me, true adulthood began when I decided to live out of who I was instead of living up to who I was supposed to be."

    This started happening for me somewhere around 30 years old. Thank God! I certainly couldn't have continued the identity crisis nonsense of my twenties into my thirties. I wonder what I'll be saying about my thirties when I'm in my forties :)