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Growing Forward

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. I LOVED this: “I remind myself to allow space — for the death of dreams, for the pain of mistakes, for the grief of loss.” You are very wise, you know, yet you never seem to lose your wonder for the world. And you express it all so beautifully.

  2. Such an insightful piece of writing and thoughts ~ much of it matches mine. Your opening thoughts about the eagerness to become an adult and to attain the knowledge and wisdom for a smooth and steady life 🙂

    Finding joy in the unknown seems to be the gift adulthood has given me, even when I watch those around me proceed with a life of steadiness and security… but I also understand this is a myth. Change and adaptation to me seem to be the most important part of life, for as you mention, “death of dreams… pain of mistakes… grief of loss,” while disheartening, are also the very things that make up a life well lived. 🙂

    • I so appreciate your thoughts on this! It’s so tempting to wish that there are easy answers, but the real beauty does indeed lie in doing the daily thoughtful work and sitting with the uncertainties.

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