She was bubbly and giggly. “Oh you’re so cool. I want to be just like you when I grow up!” she said. She was 25, to my 32. And my first reaction to this compliment was to feel old.
Then I thought about it.
The term ‘grown up’ infers a completeness, and I consider myself gloriously incomplete. I hope that I will continue to be. As we grow up, all that we are comes together. We are the sum off all our parts, all our experiences, our achievements, our flaws, our skills… but we continue to want… it is that wanting, that niggling incompletion that makes us hungry to keep on growing.
I like that hunger.
When I was younger I had a list of things to do by the time I was grown up. I would speak three languages fluently, I would have written a couple of novels, I would be this perfect being that I had dreamed up when I got there.
With the blessing of growing older my goals have changed, because my mind has too. I have realized the importance of the little things – the enormity of patience, of thoughtfulness, of being humble enough to put another’s needs before your own while holding onto who you are. I have found satisfaction in a well dug garden, and reward beyond measure in the smile of a child.
Through motherhood I have realized the superficiality of my teenage worries, that my feet were too big, my breasts were too small and I had freckles. FRECKLES dammit!! This was enormous stuff.
Isn’t it an exciting thought, that one day today’s enormous stuff will feel just as small? That one day the goals we have, fulfilled or not, will look so very different from where we’re standing?
That there are new goals just around the corner? New revelations to be found? New experiences to be had that are just waiting to blow the old ones out of the water?
I still want to speak three languages one day, and I will write those novels, but the perfect being I had dreamed up will probably continue to elude me. Not because I’m not good enough, but because it’s meant to. As long as I keep reaching for it I will keep growing… and the sum of my parts will be greater for it.
I try not to ask my children what they want to be when they grow up, we aim for happiness every day instead. I will teach them to set goals, just as I do, but the most important thing I want to teach them is to not see any age – any achievement – as the place where you’re “done”. It’s the doing we’re here for.
Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013