You learn yourself with age. Your movements become less clanky, you know to pack Tylenol in your bag because you always need it after a three hour flight. You begin to flow through even the simplest of daily happenings with more ease: you know where the baggage claim is, how much the butcher will charge, what time to start dinner, what you always (frustratingly) overpack, to your awkward and burdened dismay.
You learn what “red flags” look like. What your gut feels like. What your inner voice sounds like. What happiness means. Where you’re uncomfortable. Even feeling tired and lost is better than complacently going through the motions of a Designer Life a parent or preacher or professor chose for you. It means you’re identifying there’s something else for you. Even if it arises through a fiery resistance, you start to weed out what it is you want by ripping through what it is you don’t.
You learn what shoes keep you comfortable for an entire day’s worth of exploring or shopping or working, you start choosing from a place of knowing, as opposed to a place of trial. The virtual infinity of possibility starts to recede and the more you marry your thoughts to your inner, instinctive feelings, you see with an unprecedented ease the things you could want, the places you could go, the people you could be with… and be happy.
You never have to take a math class again, not if you don’t want to. You don’t have to go on a date without having them (awkwardly) meet your parents beforehand. For the most part, you’re never really stuck anywhere, not anywhere that you can’t save up or try hard or figure out a way to leave. You don’t have to interact with the same terrible people every day. You are no longer legally bound to be in one place, under the guardianship of one set of people.
There are new jobs opening every single day, and you can apply for them. There are credit lines and finance plans and cousin’s basements across the country that you can move to. There are planes leaving to every place you’ve ever dreamed of going in the next minutes, hours and days. You learn that the world never opens up, you step into it. You receive what you have the courage to ask for.
You can buy the puppy you always wanted. You can have your own home in which you make the rules and buy all the Oreos you want. You can seek medical care without the requirement that your choices be approved (and signed off on) by someone else.
You learn to move with someone else’s body, not just your own. You learn that real beauty isn’t who best pretends to be something they are not, but who best emphasizes and compelling conveys confidence in what they are.
You start reading because you’re interested in things, and you start to learn in ways you never could before, things that actually aide you in your everyday life. How to marinate a Thanksgiving turkey or file taxes or why the required reading in your high school English class was required or why your parents harped on table manners and how you’re thankful they did.
And you learn how not to do things too – who not to listen to. When not to let yourself spiral. When you’re shaming yourself for no reason. How society is warped and the ways you’ve been disillusioned. Who it only stresses you to friend and follow, who you accept as your family because you’re born to them and who you make as your family because you grow with them.
The point is that the trend of the day is to belabor gawky daily life without realizing that the discomfort is a natural part, a crucial part, a teaching tool. You end an awkward conversation and know what to discuss next time. You learn. You teach yourself what you want yourself to know. You gradually, but surely, cultivate the life that is your own.
The discomfort is what tells you that you haven’t quite arrived – you aren’t quite at the sound place, the better place, the truer place. But the more you weed out illusion, the more you see the small sprouts of that love in your everyday life. In the ways you pack Tylenol for yourself and choose quality shoes and stop dating people who are wrong for you.
The only thing scary or awkward or uncomfortable about growing up is if we don’t refocus on why the whole world does it. Not because they have to (which, I guess, they do) but maybe more importantly because there is nothing more wonderful than the first time you realize you’re stepping into the life you want by settling into the person you are.