A few things happened over the past week that made me wonder whether or not I had officially grown up:
1. My parents got smartphones and tried to jump into the 21st century without training.
2. I finally watched the Game of Thrones finale and started pondering if it was too late for me to be a warrior.
3. I went to the dentist (more on this later).
4. I had extra days off at work, which typically leads me to spend time thinking superfluously.
Age-wise, I'm definitely an adult, as I'm turning 30 in October (holla!). But growing up involves more than a numerical cut-off. It's about mindset: abandoning youthful ideology, recognizing hard truths, remembering to get an oil change, and buying your own self an ice cream cone. This doesn't come easy.
Right now, I'd say I'm 75 percent grown up. I have a job and health insurance, plus guest towels in my bathroom, which, if you ask me and I am, is the ultimate sign of maturity. I'm also fully aware that The Lion King was not based on a true story.
Yet 25 percent of me still believes you can make friends by sharing your dessert at lunch, and checks for bad things under my bed every night before I go to sleep. Considering I believed in Santa Claus until the fifth grade, it's no surprise I'm running behind grown-upness-wise. I was verging on age 10 when my grandmother accidentally broke the news about Jolly Old St. Nick.
"You're still pretending about Santa for your little brother, aren't you?" She asked me during a car ride over summer vacation. I felt like all the ice cream in the entire world had melted.
"Huh?" I said.
"Ronnie still believes in that stuff, so you need to go along with it for a little while longer. Don't ruin it for him."
I'd had my doubts, of course; I knew there were disputes as to who was the "real" guy. But there was also a bunch of proof: The Christmas cookies we left out that were eaten in the morning. The magic feeling in the air around the holidays. The news coverage of Santa's flight progress on Christmas Eve. The wish lists mailed directly to the North Pole. One time I even saw hoof prints in the snow on our roof -- you could put someone in jail with that kind of a case!
Therefore, I could never be sure Santa was a fraud until my grandmother destroyed him with her imagination ax. I've long since come to terms with the situation, but there are other things I'm unwilling to forfeit.
For instance, I was legitimately bummed when the dentist didn't let me choose what color toothbrush I got to take home on my visit. When did that start happening? It was bad enough they scaled back on toothpaste. LET ME PICK OUT A DAMN BRUSH.
Also, remember free cookies at the grocery store? Only for kids. It's really like that. FYI -- I don't not want cookies now; if anything, I want two.
Looking through photos, it's unclear where I'm at in the whole grown-up process. I appear most mystified by life around the time I received first communion at church. The Catholics lay a lot on you about Heaven, Jesus, and managing your sins, and it's hard to balance all that while also finding the perfect outfit ...
I also look pretty innocent here, searching for treasure in the leaves ... I'd have taken candy from any stranger that day, and I probably still would.
I think I am most grown up while chopping wood on my first and last camping trip. Super adult of me, right? I can tell by the level of how much it sucked.
Finally, I honed in on this picture at my grandparents' house in Florida.
They used to live in a big place on a lake with an orange grove, and everything in the world was possible. We looked for gators and went fishing and only once did my bubble of awesome burst when fire ants obliterated my bare feet; then I came back and obliterated them with my Keds.
Looking at that photo, I decided you grow up a little bit each time you learn what it means to lose something you can't get back. Time, of course, is the most significant loss to digest, but it's hard to understand the value of a minute. I only totally get it when I'm on my way to work in the morning.
When my grandparents died, when there was no more house on a lake with an orange grove, I grew up a lot. When Santa Claus stopped delivering gifts, I grew up too.
When I crashed my car a month after I got my license, and was forced to drive 200 hours with my mother in order to get another one, I grew up a shit ton.
Any time I wasted an opportunity to try something new or act spontaneously, I grew up because I was stuck with the end result.
Some people grow up faster than others depending on when they lose what (I'm talking to you, Teen Mom!). Some people choose to grow up by eluding their faith or fancy. You also gain things along the way.
The one thing I haven't lost is my imagination, and all the wonderings that once made me believe in Santa. I still think people are inherently good (except the bitches who work for United Airlines), I get really excited about rollercoasters, and I consider birthday cake one of the best things ever. Furthermore, to this day, I'm devastated by the death of Littlefoot's mom in The Land Before Time. What an emotional rollercoaster.
Most importantly, I continue to believe if you try really hard, one day it will work out. Whatever it is you're trying for, it will work out. Even if you want to be Batman like this kid...
You have to live with a little romance, or you'll never experience a miracle.
That said I'm hoping to be the next Arya Stark! I'm at least going to dress up like her for Halloween this year.
See, I'm like 75 percent grown up.