Skip to content

Growing Forward

Photo by Pixabay on

As a child I was convinced adults had reasons for everything, much of which they refused to share with me. They appeared in control over their lives and most of mine. Since their edicts and practices were dictated to me with ruthless autocracy, I was eager to reach grown-up status in order to attain the same mastery. I assumed the path set out for me was the only road to adulthood, a far-off destination I’d achieve after developing to a certain age. Imagine my bewilderment when I discovered that wisdom and seniority did not climb hand-in-hand, and most of the expertise was guesswork at best.

Photo by Rick Leal de Sousa on

There came a period when I studied shelves of self-help books because I believed they could help me adult. I was feeling so unequipped as a person. Everyone else seemed so confident about their career goals, so sophisticated in their relationships, so undaunted by doubt and debt. I thought: if only I can organize my cupboards better, create a spreadsheet of future financial planning, learn how to unclog my drain, then I’ll land safely into life. But, after tidying my pantry, balancing my budget, and purchasing a tub full of pipe cleaners I was nowhere nearer to maturity.

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on

These days I’m fully aware growing intellectually and emotionally isn’t an endpoint but a continual process. Gone are the indelible rules I thought defined adulthood as a right of passage. One can successfully graduate school, buy a house, become a parent, and accumulate wealth. Still, life will find a way to fall apart along the ride. There are no guarantees, it’s all risk and uncertainty. But, as the world goes through iterations of expected perfection, I remind myself to allow space — for the death of dreams, for the pain of mistakes, for the grief of loss. Because no transformation occurs without these.

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on

I often wonder what sort of child I would be today. An angst-ridden one desperately clinging to illusory dictums, increasingly disappointed by the vacillations of those in power? Or one who found joy in the unknown? Accepted the mess of it all, amidst a continuity of unfurling new leaves, shedding spring petals. I feel such a youngster still — a curious beginner exploring unfamiliar territory, digesting lessons with each stumble and fall. I’m as unprepared for the future as I ever was. I’m gripping my seatbelt and hoping there’s an emergency raft underneath the seat with printed instructions on how to inflate. What else can I do? And if that’s not being adult, I don’t know what is.   


In 2013 Kelly Williams Brown published “Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps,” and introduced the term permanently into our lexicon.

What are some methods you are trying out to help manage adulthood?.

48 replies »

  1. Wonderful post and thought-provoking insights. Much of the way we think remains with us through the years. That’s my experience anyway! While I am considered ‘senior’ now, i don’t feel mature most of the time! Yes, I do wonder how I got here! 😊

    • Haha, Isn’t it strange how we all share such feelings of uncertainty and confusion yet are expected, once “adults,” to somehow be fonts of knowledge? I appreciate you sharing your experience “growing-up” and thank you for the kind words.

  2. Oh it’s all so true! I had the same wild ride – from a shy and insecure child to a young adult trying to make sense of adulting and pretending like mad (as I now suspect everyone does). It doesn’t come with a manual no matter how much our parents may try to give us one. Wouldn’t it be a perfect joy to be able to relive our childhoods with the wisdom we have now?! I remember about a year ago I wrote a post with this: “About a month ago I stood and looked around in the kitchen/dining/living room of our small apartment and from nowhere, unexpectedly, the thought arose How did this happen? How did I get *here*?”
    I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all random, and in moments when I can see clearly a bit of a joke.
    Happy life travels! Onward!
    PS Ha! I notice my friend Keith has discovered your blog. I stole Onward! from him.
    PPS re your reply to Lynette – none of us have it all figured out, well, except, for me, I’ve figured out following intuition is better than any alternative.

    • Haha. Onward is probably the only advice worth listening to. I agree with you that it clearly is all a “bit of a joke.” I can’t even say that I trust my intuition very much, but in recent years I’ve come to the conclusion that trying to calculate risks and outcomes is a muddle best left to the betting professionals. I appreciate your wise words on this topic. I’m off to read your post about adulting.

  3. Oh how much I was looking for the day to come when I could finally call myself a grown-up… only to find out it’s far from what I had envisioned it to be. Now I know that adulthood and maturity don’t always come hand in hand as for the latter is more of a choice. The truth is we will — should — never stop learning as there is no way for us to know everything.

  4. It seems to me that life may at first seem like an incognite, and we try to find our way by the need to take a path from our choosing, or not depending on our personal environment, opportunities, or lack of them, during our childhood and youth, but the reality of the famous saying: “Character is destiny,”
    It tends to prevail and we owe it to our character, what we do with it, and the consequence of what we do, to become who we are at the end of our lives.
    A wise friend told me during my youth: “Look, the seed of an avocado tree will only grow like an avocado tree, how it grows will depend on the type of soil it will grow in, good or bad.”
    At the end of life, we all become, who we are, by taking the paths that we chose at a given moment, we are the consequence of all our actions, for better or for worse.
    Like the famous song we all did it: “My Way.”
    Of course we all may think differently according to our own life experience.
    The only important thing, it’s to be at peace with it.

  5. Hi BT,
    ” …growing intellectually and emotionally isn’t an endpoint but a continual process.” <<< Truer words.

    I used to hold my parents as beacons for how to behave as adults, and as I got older, I realized they were just making it up as they went along. They were as confused and messed up as other adults I knew, and they passed that along to my siblings and me. So … fast forward to my adulthood, and like you, I'm still trying to manage. It's constant ebbs and flows (hopefully more flowing!) and along with it, recognition that the adults who influenced me (whether positively or negatively) tried their best.

    In turn, I try my best by being kind and helpful, always remembering we are imperfect beings. 🙂

    • Yes, indeed! I think the sooner we learn this about ourselves and our adult caretakers, the better we can adapt to the ebb and flow of life. Thanks for chatting with me about this!

  6. Thank you for the post BT. For me the life vest at the bottom of my seat has come in the form of faith. Something I never would have expected in my teens and early twenties. It has given my life meaning and purpose, for which I am grateful. I hope you too get to see your safety vest as we continue to fly along this path of adulthood!

    • Thank you for the beautiful wish. I remind myself that my greatest “safety vests” are the people around me who’ve also learned how to live amongst grief and cruelty and loss whilst working hard at maintaining their hope and faith and unconditional love.

  7. I found myself nodding along as I was reading this wonderful post, Atreyee. I especially love the title. You capture my own experience of growing up and older so well. At 53 I still feel ill-equiped for the future, although I have learned along the way to appreciate those tiny moments of peace and beauty that can be found in every single day if we allow ourselves to pause and notice. I’ve never wondered what kind of child I would have been today, but you now have me thinking . . . mmmm, what I know for sure is that I am glad my formative years were before TV even came to SA.

    • I’m glad I don’t have to navigate the ubiquity of digital technology as a child, but perhaps not knowing any better I would’ve managed to bungle my way through it successfully. I appreciate your insights on this and I’m always delighted to hear that you enjoy my posts, Jolandi!

  8. I’m reminded of a conversation I had with a fellow consultant late in my career. Consultants, supposedly, are the experts that a client brings in to fix problems that the in-house folks struggle with. The reality often was, we were as new to a problem domain as the client. The other consultant and I admitted to each other that our real skill was, “fake it ’til you make it.” Maybe, due to broader experience, or from being used to being thrown in the deep end more often than the permanent employees, we’d get to the “make it” part a little quicker, and could disguise the “fake it” part more adroitly on the way there. And maybe the more astute of the clients would notice.

    Sound like Adulting?

  9. Wonderful musings. Your last paragraph encapsulates the whole world so well: Curious youngsters, unprepared for the future, gripping our seatbelts, that’s what we are. You wonder what kind of child you’d be, I wonder what kind of a parent I’d be. Both of us are equally out of time. Nothing left to do but grip.

  10. Good god, I’d hate to imagine what kind of child I’d be in this crazy world. Technology has become the 3rd parent.

    When I was growing up I was mostly annoyed by a mom who never seemed to follow through on her promises. As I got older, I understood how difficult it is to stay true to your word. As a teacher of third graders, I try to not over-promise. xo

    • “Technology has become the 3rd parent.” Ha! I love this!
      Yea, turns out according to psychologists most of us “adults” are just trying to undo/cope with what we endured in childhood, so I hear you! XO

  11. This is a wistful post with a sobering conclusion: “I’m as unprepared for the future as I ever was. I’m gripping my seatbelt and hoping there’s an emergency raft underneath the seat with printed instructions on how to inflate. What else can I do? And if that’s not being adult, I don’t know what is.”
    I can relate to that conclusion, and I think it summarizes the (exasperating) human condition perfectly.

    • Haha. Sometimes, I look back at my younger self and wonder how I ever thought that things would completely clarify themselves as I got older. It’s totally the opposite. Everything gets much much more confusing. Thanks for stopping by and hope this finds you having a wonderful week.

  12. I think one of the beauties of life is that we keep learning every day. And with that come experience, wisdom, and maturity. Yet, we want our minds and antics to stay young, so every new day brings a contradiction of us pulling each way – getting older, remaining younger…

    Great piece. I think a lot of us can relate to this. When I was a kid, I always thought my mom had to answer to everything. Now I realize she just sounded confident more than anything. Maybe that’s adulthood? Sounding like we know everything and acting with authority. 🙂

    • Oh I love this: “so every new day brings a contradiction of us pulling each way – getting older, remaining younger…”! Yes. It does seem like we have to learn to live with that duality/constant tension. I agree. I think more people just pretend confidence than anything else, especially people in the public eye. I like to go the opposite way and just be open about how I still don’t know much and probably never will! Hope this finds you safe and well in SA! 🌸

  13. Excellent, thought-provoking post and I very much agree. I will be retiring in less than six months and am now supposed to be a wise elder. Hahaha. 😁 Not really. I am ending my career at almost the top of it (not the very top but up there) and am still figuring out how to manage adulthood. There are a few immutable things I have learned, but there’s a lot of mystery, as well. I suppose you could say that I’ve relied on a sort of informed instinct and have gone with that. I also listen to the ideas and opinions of others, because my way of seeing and interpreting is not the only way. That has helped me to inform my decisions and way of relating to others fairly successfully. Cheers.

    • Ah, thank you both for the encouragement and for the advise. When I was younger I thought the point of adulthood was to have it all figured out, but I’m also learning to embrace the mystery.

Send A Note

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Buy My Books
Follow Bespoke Traveler on

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog:

Join 19,287 other subscribers


Thank you for your support. Donate button


Click the envelope below to sign up for the Bespoke Traveler newsletter:

Bespoke Traveler Newsletter





%d bloggers like this: