When I grow up I want to be a detective.
I want to be an marine biologist.
I want to dance.
I want to be like Ruth Naylor.
I want to be like __________ (insert the names of a number of people I love and admire here).
I want to read all the books.
I want to write.
I want to visit Australia.
And New Zealand.
I want to study the weather.
I want to open a quilt shop.
I want to play the cello.
I want to go back to school and be a microbiologist.
Several months ago my oldest was deep in the middle of a sharp learning curve going from student to civilengineerwitharealjob and I tried to tell him not to sweat it. Truth is most of us “grownups” are making our way through unfamiliar territory and sort of making it up as we go. Not because we are not smart or capable, but simply because things have to get done and we may not know exactly how to do them until we jump in and do it.
As a kid, I remember thinking my parents were so old. All grown ups were so old. When I turned 44, I remember looking back on my dad (who died at age 44) and realizing he was still just a kid in a grown-up body just doing what needed to be done and tackling new challenges as they came up and making his way and having so much of his life ahead of him. Sobering to think of my mom, who’d been a SAHM so many years all of a sudden finding herself entirely responsible financially and otherwise for 6 kids. Terrifying!
I used to work with a bunch of twenty-somethings and I knew when they looked me in the eyes they saw an old person who somehow ended up in charge of them. What they didn’t realize–what I failed to realize until that point–is that at when I looked back into their eyes I saw a peer, for whatever our age we are merely the sum of our parts.
We are the rambunctious toddler rebelling against nap time (which most of us now regret).
We are the dejected elementary school student slowing walking home in the rain in a large crayoned paper grocery bag after the Thanksgiving play our mom didn’t make it to because she just gave birth to her fifth child.
We are the awkward jr. high kid who was the second person in her entire school to get braces and who was teased mercilessly about locking braces with the first kid, who happened to be a boy.
We are the teenage girl who got stood up for a dance by a stupid older boy from another school who said “You’re a nice girl and that’s not what I’m looking for right now.”
We are the small fish in the giant ocean of BYU who fell asleep in the back row of many of her classes because she could not sit still without falling asleep.
We are the new missionary just arrived in Belgium in an emotionally challenging companionship who prayed every day the first two months she was there that she’d just get hit by a bus so she could go home.
We are the BYU alum who got her dream job as copy editor at the local free newspaper only to learn everything the hard way after they let the editor go and passed on all the responsibilities to her.
We are the twenty-something new mom being told by her doctor that the postpartum depression that made her burst into tears every time the phone rang and feel so guilty about being so overwhelmed was all in her head.
We are the thirty-something SAHM with the free range children and the perpetually messy house who learns to find joy in every day but not quite in all the daily chores that get undone in five minutes.
We are the forty something woman with a keen sense of the power welded in words that either tear down or lift and who feels either the weight and biting edge of those words or the loving strength they with which they carry her and wishes more people would use their words carefully.
We are the nearly fifty-year-old woman who missed the computer age and had to fake her way through it when she went back to work part time after 17 years as a SAHM and once fell flat on her face in front of one of the owners of the company because she’d never used a laptop and had no idea how a touchpad worked. (She later her redeemed herself and once her IT guy brought her homemade cookies because she troubleshooted a problem he couldn’t solve simply by Googling.)
We are the fifty-something woman who left a job where she was perfectly capable and perfectly comfortable to take a leap of faith into a job she could never have imagined but which, turns out, she can by some miracle do and who every single day looks out her car window somewhere along her commute and thanks God out loud for the beauty of the earth.
We are the strong but–like the rest of us–flawed woman who throughout all those ages has lost too many people to cancer–including both her parents, has seen miracles, has loved with most of her heart–even the hurt parts, and who works really hard to see the cup as half full even when she’s afraid it might crack, and who feels perfectly confident saying that growing up is overrated. Hang on to the joy of a child seeing something for the very first time and the fearlessness of youth. Life is better that way.
[Day 42 of Ann Dee Ellis’ 8-Minute Memoir.]