Maybe We Don’t Ever Grow Up

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I have a folder on my laptop titled “Future Apartment” overflowing with photos I’ve snagged from Tumblr. Magazine cut out ideas. Intricate DIY decorations that down deep, I know I won’t ever actually do myself. My nail polish is always chipped and I could never quite master the cutting snowflake streamers thing in kindergarden, so the idea that I’m going to sit down and try to make anything is a little far-fetched. But that’s the thing about growing up, we fantasize more than we ever want to admit. We tuck away hopes quietly, hoping nobody will point out the flaws in our expectations. That’s why we keep blogs private, or put words like “aspiring” in front of dreams we’re told are too lofty. We’re scared. And I understand why, but maybe we shouldn’t be.

When you are 20-something and relating all too well to Taylor Swift songs (confused, lonely, and happy without ever understanding why), you don’t want any other voices to remind you of how far you still have to go. So instead, we slip into secret daydreams. We don’t vocalize the fears or enormity of how unsettling growing up can be. But I wonder, what age do we hit that suddenly imaginations, these beautiful and celebrated things we have during childhood, somehow translate to having our heads in the clouds? At some point, someone told us these imaginations get packed away with boxes of toys and clothes we outgrew, but I’m calling bullshit. It’s not true. Our imaginations take off at warp speed as we get older, we just decided to start labeling it something else. Growing up is not what we have become convinced. Maybe we never grow up.

When you’re 20-something and told you have everything at your fingertips, you think that just maybe you do, until someone tells you otherwise. When you’re 20-something and trying to unlearn things like self-sabotage and waiting for people in bars who never show up, you forget that there isn’t supposed to be one end goal. One path. Only one way to survive your twenties. Taylor Swift was kind of right. You can fantasize and still be a functioning part of society. We encourage kids to dream, but stop championing adults who still do? No, that’s not what growing up is supposed to be.

If we really grew up, there would only be one direction we go. We only would go up. And honestly, that’s far more stressful than it is inspirational. I think we grow in so many ways. We take steps back. We go sideways. Maybe we even go the “wrong” way down a one-way street, but still get to our destination. Half the time, we don’t even know the destination. GPS voices and Google maps have us convinced we need to know where we are going at all times. We don’t. Every moment has purpose. You are doing exactly what you’re supposed to do. Why? Because there isn’t ONE thing you’re supposed to do. Don’t forget that.

I’ve decided I don’t want to grow up. I want to learn something every single day. I want to fall down, notice bruises and decide to get back up. Or maybe, I stay on the ground for a little bit. I want to go in circles, and then realize the circle was actually just a super loopy trail. I’m fully prepared to admit there is so much I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t know a whole lot more than I actually know. But I know this: I want to grow, but not just up.

We don’t need to abandon daydreams. We don’t need to be ashamed of our focus, or lack of focus. This obsession with ascension will hold us back, and I don’t want that. The ups will lead to downs. Eb and flow. The tide is going to come in, and guess what? That sucker is going back out eventually. Aging is inevitable, but maybe, just maybe, we never truly grow up. TC mark

Ari Eastman

✨ real(ly not) chill. poet. writer. mental health activist. mama shark. ✨

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