Every day, I get little reminders that I grew up. I’m no longer a bright young man who’s going places. I’m already at those places. These are the places. Today, I am a full-fledged, card-carrying, tired-more-often-than-not grown-up.
Some of the daily cues of my adulthood are subtle, while others aren’t. For example, I got out of bed this morning. That’s a sign.
I know that sounds insane because everyone gets out of bed, but that’s not really the case. When I was younger, that snooze button was like cardio for my hand. I would slap it with all the power of then-Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson and push my entire day away 10 minutes at a time. Usually, I made it out from under my comforter with just enough time to sprint to school by the homeroom bell…or first period. Hopefully.
Some mornings, I didn’t even make it at all. Instead, I’d concoct a bizarre story about traffic accidents, cars that wouldn’t start, and last second pretend-family emergencies to tell an apathetic manager at Blockbuster video. Whether it was a part-time work shift, doctors appointments, or plans to play mini-golf, I managed to miss quite a few appointments all for the lure of staying asleep.
I don’t do that today. In fact, some mornings, I physically leap out of bed in order to get my head out of sleep-mode. The moment my eyes open, I don’t focus on ways to get out of the day ahead. Instead I focus on the hundreds of things I need to do during that day ahead. Sleeping through them isn’t even an option.
It sounds like a sad 70s folk song, but there are lunches to pack, plans to make, and people to take care of. The days of staying bundled in bed with obligations looming are long gone. They’re so gone, in fact, that I no longer give myself that internal “congrats on being responsible” like I did in my 20s and early 30s. Nope. Today, I just do it. Get up, old man.
These moments aren’t specifically about people with children either. I know some might see the above example and think that’s the implication. Sure, kids push the process along, but many daily affirmations of adulthood transcend anyone calling you “mom” or “dad”. In fact, I saw one yesterday that we can all relate to.
I was heading back from dropping my daughter off at school when I spotted a boy walking on the other side of the street. This is really a visual thing and I want to describe it as best as I can. This kid had both of his arms up and bent in front of his head. It looked like he was rowing a giant invisible boat with the oars up next to his ears. Then, with each row, he marched his body forward in a jerky motion. While all of this was going on, he rocked his head front and back to the rhythm of his walk. It was as if he was a boat-rowing robot dancing The Running Man.
And that’s how he was walking to school.
Oh, and – believe it or not – that wasn’t even the craziest part. The craziest part was that there was a kid regular-walking by his side and casually carrying on a conversation with him. No reaction at all. Just walking and talking with the Rowboat Running-Man Robot. He acted like it was something that just happened all the time.
Yeah. As an adult, I can’t walk down the street like that. None of us can. I know because I thought about doing it myself the moment I saw him. Immediately, a part of me wanted nothing more than to row a giant invisible boat down the street. It seemed the like the greatest thing ever. Luckily, before I began my rhythmic voyage, I actually pictured what would happen if I did.
I could envision the kids screaming and the school safety monitors radioing for help. There would be sirens, early dismissals, and emails from the school to worried parents “about the incident involving a deranged man dancing outside morning drop-off.” I’d have to explain what I was doing to the police. It would be in the Town Crier newspaper. My kid would have to change schools. It would be a whole big thing. So, I just kept walking like the grown up I am.
Once I took myself out of the scenario, I thought about seeing another adult do it while walking home. At best, you’d imagine he was making fun of someone – and that’s awful. In this case, the risk of walking through your town, at 40, while doing some ridiculous dance isn’t worth the reward of “not caring what people think”.
The non-dancing friend also represented a piece of our lost childhoods too. Most adults would never walk casually along with a friend doing this. I tried to visualize what it would be like if someone in our circle just randomly started walking rowboat robot style at a school function or something. I could hear the gossip now.
Did you see her doing that dance at the bake sale? I was so embarrassed. Oh my. Those poor kids. Bill said he think she huffs paint.
It stinks in a way, because we all want to be able to go crazy occasionally. I see my daughter dashing around in circles and screaming gibberish. It’s awesome. I loved doing it as a kid and I love doing it now. If the library had night classes for running around in circles and screaming gibberish, I would totally take them. Heck, I’d teach them.
Adulthood has its advantages, though, and it stretches beyond buying alcohol and naughty magazines. I now get to make decisions and have people count on me to do the right thing. I can be be a role model and a fine upstanding member of the community, if I want to be. Those are things that bring me pride and self-respect. They may not be “fun” in the traditional kid sense, but they make me feel like a better person.
Still, it would be nice to cut loose and do a breakdance for no reason or lay in bed with the kids one morning to watch Paddington. So, I still do as long as it’s appropriate to do so. I might not dance in front of my kid’s school or watch TV in bed at 9am on a Monday, but there is a time and a place for everything. I may have to act like an adult most of the time, but not all of it.
Find your time. Find your place. Then do your thing. You’re a grown up, but you can still act like a kid when the moment is appropriate. That’s one of the decisions you get to make, as long as you remember to make it.