Whenever I talk about growing up, I use the term “big kid.”
A costume change (see also: my foray into the “business casual” world) is “putting on my big kid shoes.” Pushing past emotions is “putting on my big kid face.” Moving households and changing furniture is “getting into my big kid bed.”
It’s a bit strange, using such juvenile terms. I get that. But this “big kid” terminology works. It works because, even if it’s just a distant memory, almost everyone knows how it feels to be told that they are now a “big kid.” Step it up. Here’s your new title, now go earn it. Be brave. Growing time is now.
It’s uncomfortable, exciting, challenging–and yes, “big kid” moments continue long after you outgrow the physical definition of a “kid.”
It’s no longer my parents and teachers telling me to what time it is. It’s more of a voice in my head, reminding me that this next step is BIG. And, naturally, that I need to be BIG to greet it effectively.
…though really, I don’t know what exactly being BIG means.
In a lot of ways, I’m still just a little girl. I’m a little girl in stilettos, and lipstick; I’m a little girl who does her own laundry and sleeps in a bed across from Capitol Hill; I’m a little girl who seems pretty confident while taking the Metro. But rest assured folks–I am the clumsiest, goofiest, daydreamiest little girl ever. I get all kinds of blisters from my metaphorical big kid shoes. My big kid bed is a pretty lonely place. And those steep escalators out of the Metro station? They terrify me.
And so, I think about growing up all the time:
How do I grow up without losing my sense of wonder?
How can I grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally, socially, and professionally (whew!) without one of those worlds sabotaging the others?
How exactly do I go about creating one of those “home” things? And how does a big kid respond when “home” suddenly doesn’t grow with them?
Once I establish a “home” with all the big kid fixin’s, can I bring it with me when I travel? No? But, isn’t traveling the best way for me to grow, too?
Do I even have control over any of these things?
This list might make me sound like a total stressball. I promise I don’t just sit around worrying all day. I love growing up. I love learning. It’s just that sometimes, while I’m on that journey, these questions come up.
And the answer to all of the questions? I don’t know.
I can guess the answer to that last one, though. Do I even have control over any of these things? So far, it doesn’t feel like it. Not really. Yes, my choices matter. Yes, I ultimately am the one who decides to put on the big kid shoes and the big kid face. But if I didn’t make that call…
Well, I would be pretty cramped in those little girl shoes.
The people around me would be pretty cramped, too. As we grow up, we have to change to greet our new discoveries. We adapt. Mostly, we learn what we can expect from people, and what we can expect from ourselves. That we all need a little help sometimes, but we still shouldn’t count on anyone. That we are more capable than we ever thought possible, but that we can’t do it alone–though, some days, we’re going to really have to try.
In my article A Semi-Informed Guide to Surviving (or maybe even enjoying) Young Adulthood, I wrote this:
“My latest definition of “growing up” has been the process of realizing 1) how very alone and 2) how very not alone we are. Growing up means always playing with loneliness and interconnectedness, because life is a whole lotta both of them.”
As I sit here, feeling homesick, feeling loved, feeling alone, feeling like I have community (and trying to articulate those feelings, because that’s what big kids do), one thing is for sure:
It’s big kid time. This is what growing up feels like.
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