‘Do you think, Diana, that being grown-up is really as nice as we used to imagine it would be when we were children?’
‘I don’t know–there are some nice things about it,’ answered Diana, again caressing her ring with that little smile which always had the effect of making Anne feel suddenly left out and inexperienced. ‘But there are so many puzzling things, too. Sometimes I feel as if being grown-up just frightened me–and then I would give anything to be a little girl again.’
‘I suppose we’ll get used to being grown-up in time,’ said Anne cheerfully. ‘There won’t be so many unexpected things about it by and by–though, after all, I fancy it’s the unexpected things that give spice to life.’
~ Anne of the Island, L.M. Montgomery
The most unexpected thing about being grown-up, I think, is how the freedom of adulthood (It’s my life! My money! My roof! My lawn!) narrows into patterns of laundry-folding and bill-paying.
All those limits placed on child-you by the grown-ups in your life (No, you can’t watch that. Yes, you have to eat that. Take a shower. Go to bed. Be quiet. Don’t drink that. Get in the van: we’re going to church. Practice the piano. Study for your quiz) are still there, because the grown-up in your life is you. Now you’re the grown-up saying all these things to child-you, who is still there, filthy and sticky and stamping her feet and saying, “No, you can’t make me!”
Oh, yes I can.
The freedom granted by knowledge, by the possession of a car, a house, a job where you make your own money is a freedom that remains only by making responsible choices:
“With this knowledge, I go to bed at 11 PM instead of 1 AM; I eat salad and drink a glass of water at lunchtime instead of pouring Froot Loops over ice cream and making another pot of coffee.”
“In this car, I go to the bank, to the grocery store, to church, to donate canned goods, to work, and then back home again because I’m so tired now.”
“In my own home, I print out a cleaning list similar to the one my mother had and use it to tidy the house room by room, the way she used to, the way I absolutely hated as a child, when I had to help. In my own home I turn the television off because bedtime, or because it’s scaring me or making me sad. I put on an old movie or cartoons and fold laundry on the living room floor, like my sisters and I used to.”
“This is my own money, but it’s for socks and green beans and chicken and the water bill.”
And of course there are nice things about “being grown-up.” Using your grown-up wiles to try out a new recipe. Driving the car to visit friends or family or the beach or the library or the park or a little coffee shop. Practicing the piano in the sunshine and stillness of your own home. Using part of a paycheck to buy books and chocolate and flowers and pretty shoes and colorful gel pens. In many ways, grownupedness is just as nice as I thought it would be when I was a child.
But grownupedness is only this nice so long as I’m doing all the dull, boring responsible grown-up stuff that needs doing, and making all the dull, boring, responsible grown-up decisions that need making. This really aggravates child-me.
Too bad, kid. I’m the boss of you.