On Growing Up

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Yes, I am the When I Grow Up Coach, but sometimes I feel like I’m a bit of a fraud.

Here I am, a 31 year old woman who thinks of myself as a 15 year old in every way but the engagement & wedding rings on my finger.

Yes, I see and acknowledge and feel proud of my accomplishments.

Yes, I know all of the many past experiences I’ve had and how much they’ve shaped me, how much I’ve learned, how much I’ve grown, how much there is still left to do & experience & accomplish.

But I look around & see some of my friends, both older & younger, & see the homes they own in the suburbs & their kids & their early-to-bed lives & think that I have a looooong way to go to physically & mentally be in that Grown Up place.

Part of me looks at that & states matter-of-factly,  “Part of my soul will die if I ever move to the suburbs”, with only the slightest bit of overdramatization. I look at all the trees & the strip malls & the cars that are second homes & I think to myself, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!”

And then I come back to the city, to our tiny apartment where a day isn’t over until something has fallen on either Luke’s or my head. Where the computer is literally 3 feet from our bed, & where we have to turn on the TV so as not to hear each other pee – the bathroom is that close to the living room.

I dream of space, and light, and rooms, and stairs, and driveways, and bright blue skies and dark nights with lots of stars and private outdoor space (outdoor space!). But I also dream of walking out of my front door and being at a dozen great restaurants, boutique clothing stores, dance studios and gyms, galleries and theaters and public transportation, and big parks that are calling for picnics and runners.

I realize that these two pictures don’t go together, at least until Luke & I have our first $6 million in the bank and are able to buy whatever we want, wherever we want.

So now my Grown Up Self is saying to Be Responsible, pick the space & the air & the strip malls now that Luke & I are really, seriously, really seriously looking to buy a home this year. We’re not getting any younger, we’re going to have at least 1 rugrat in the next 5 years (it’ll be earlier than that, OK Mom?), & we can’t all live on top of each other.

Meanwhile, my Kid Self is saying, “BOR-ING! I want coffee shops, and nightlife, and a neighborhood that’s moving & shaking & alive & breathing & full of STUFF! TAKE ME THERE NOW!” My Kid Self is a bit of a whiny brat. But I know that I need to listen to her. She’s valid too.

So I guess that’s what growing up is. Redetermining your priorities and what’s going to make you happy now that you’re at a new place in your life. Living in Manhattan, thankfully, doesn’t hold the same weight as it did when I was 26 & would have to be escorted out by men in white coats if I ever had to leave. But it doesn’t have to be Manhattan or Michigan.

It’s OK to not want a house in the ‘burbs. Or not want that now, at least.

It’s OK to take a deep breath & say, “It’s a priority of ours to have space & not break the bank, but it’s OK to not take that to the extreme. That doesn’t mean we have to go to Idaho or somewhere where half of our current budget would buy us a mansion, while here we’d be lucky to get 900 square feet. It’s OK not to do that. It’s not what we want now.”

Within the last week our dreams and goals and realities have become clearer. And even though The Kid could be a brat sometimes, we don’t have to ask her to leave. We don’t have to do it 10 years from now, either. By then, our priorities might have shifted and it might be a relief to move to a house in the ‘burbs – not a soul-crusher. And if not, it’s OK to make our own rules as to what Growing Up means to The Wards. To our family. To our livelihoods. To our happiness.

Growing Up isn’t a box that you grow into, one that’s been predetermined by the rest of the world (“Now that you’re married & 31, you must buy real estate & have 2.5 kids & be a great cook & purchase a mini-van & spend time weeding & harumphing over bills”). Growing Up is learning how to make changes that align with your new priorities – ones that seem to be different on a weekly basis, and might not be the same as your neighbor’s or your best friend’s or your Mom’s. And knowing how to acknowledge your needs & that difference & put the wheels in motion to make the choices that will support that.

I guess, in a nutshell, Growing Up is about bravery. And discovery. And change.



    • says

      I knew you'd understand, Danielle. I just wish there was a magical place within the boroughs of NYC that has all the space we want while not being $6m.

      We'll get there. I know that the first home we buy together will be a great one.

  1. cindy says

    i love thinking and reading about growing up experiences. it's never very black and right, is it? i feel like it's been something that i have resisted for a long time, but now i am more at peace with it. but as you say, i think we are the masters of our own destinies. and we are free to think and act on what we think is best for us at that particular time, in our specific state. growing up isnt the same for everyone. and it means so many different things. you just do what you have to do!

    • says

      EXACTLY, Cindy! So well said. I think what it boils down to is that Growing Up does not equal house/kids/dogs/suburbs. It means assessing your wants, need & priorities, discovering what's right for you & your family, & having the balls to act on it. The Kid in me wants to go out with friends 4 or 5 nights a week, but the Grown Up in me knows it's not the way I want to spend my money or reach my business goals. So, I make my Grown Up & my Kid happy by seeing my friends twice a week, putting money towards my house fund & devoting 15 hours/week to my business.

      I guess, too, then, it's knowing when to listen to The Kid, knowing when to compromise with The Kid, & knowing when The Kid is just being…well…a Kid.

  2. says

    First, I have to state that this is my favorite post EVER. I just got home from a grueling day and it was the first thing I saw — and the day became better :). What is so interesting is that I'm experiencing the same inner conflict, confusion, and discovery. Yet, I'm trying to squash the grown up in me! Well not totally squash, but find a balance between being a kid (e.g., doing fun and creative things) and being a grown up (i.e., my automatic state). For me to find that balance, I need to stop growing up!

    I am starting to think that clinical psych grad students should not be allowed to have blogs and/or comment on them — I could write 10 pages!! Simply stated, favorite post!

    Your younger Grown Up twin!

    • says

      Ever, Carolyn? Ever ever? Wow, I am so touched!

      And yes, you've accomplished so much at such a young age (let's not talk about it) that you must have a lot of grown-up in you. I actually just bought the Feelgood List from upupcreative & am forcing myself to NOT make it a To Do List, but a Me Time list. You have to bring something silly/fun/creative into your life every day. I'm still working on that.

  3. says

    First of all, Michelle, I just have to say this is the first blog post of your's that I read as it's the first time I saw you had a blog today when it happened to catch my eye in my Twitter feed.

    As @MariSmith would say #iLove it! I found myself laughing out loud several times. Myself 32 w/out the 2.5 kids (one is more than enough for me) and no engagement ring (or man, for that matter) I related to so many things that you mention in this blog post.

    It seems my priorities shift from week to week as well and I find the Grown Up in me is finally starting to understand that I must drop the things that are no longer important to me, the instant I realize that (even if that means that someone may not "like me".)

    Reading your blog, in a sense, gave me the permission I needed to do that. And the feeling is a happy one. (for lack of better word).

    I look forward to connecting more with you on Twitter and reading more of your blogs!

    Michelle Mangen

    Owner, Your Virtual Assistant

    Neenah, WI

    • says

      Thanks for your comment & your kind words, Michelle! I'm so glad I made you laugh – it's always a goal of mine to keep this blog fun, even when talking about things that are more personal/serious/vulnerable/freakin' scary.

      It seems that we're a lot alike – I, too, have been struggling with my people pleaser tendencies lately as they no longer serve me. I can state from personal experience that once you get the Negative Energy Givers out of your life, and surround yourself with those that give you a mutually beneficial relationship, your whole life becomes more of a celebration. Sure, it may be tough while you're going through it – cutting out/letting go of people & activities that don't do you any good – but believe me when I say you come out of it with a great big exhale and much more happiness.

      I look forward to getting to know you better too, Michelle! Especially since you have 2 "l"s in your name. 1 "l" Michelle's always make me way :)

  4. says

    well said! i'm at a different place in my life…44 yrs, 17 yr old son, married for the 2nd time, several homes under my belt. but, i completely understand were you are and respect that you are really thinking things through and doing a little soul searching.

    • says

      Thanks Ann Marie! I have a feeling that Growing Up is something that starts when you're on your own for the first time and never stops. Even though that thought scares me, I know it won't feel like a struggle in 15 years. Hopefully, by then I'll know how to beat to my own drummer & how to do what's best for me & my family without any outside influences that make me feel like I SHOULD be doing X,Y, & Z. Or, if there are those external influences, I'll be able to recognize them right away & shun them.

  5. says

    Michelle, i love this post and thank you for sharing. i love thinking and reading about growing up experiences too. Have a lovely merry happy day and love to you! I finally got to your Student Blogroll page on Holly's blogging class! It's soo nice to meet you and your such a warm cute person. :) Love to you!

    • says

      Aw, thanks Jacqueline! I really appreciate you reading & commenting, & your sweet words. Looking forward to getting to know you better!

  6. says

    I agree, I don't think it has to be an either/or situation, you can have it all. I am 36, married, and have a 17 month old son and sometimes feel pretty grown up. I have bills to pay, work responsibilities, business building responsibilities, and all sorts of responsibilities I never thought I would have.

    Of course, I also have a pretty great comic collection, a shelf full of video games, a lightsaber application on my iPod Touch, a collection of different yoda figures, and the entire 7 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD. My wife and I have been known to spontaneously break into dance in public places and do all sorts of bizarre things to make our son laugh. My students often ask me if and when I plan on growing up and being like their parents, to which I always reply:

    I don't plan on growing up and being like your parents, or mine.

    So don't try and pick one or the other, I truly believe there is always a way to achieve both. We are a different breed of adults than those that have come before.

    • says

      Have we spoken about my husband's love of Star Wars & the fact we're currently going through the "Buffy" series (Season 6 just ended last night, & it was GOOD)! Seriously, we're gonna hafta meet up one of these days.

      Yes, we are a different generation in so many ways! And it's not really our parents that are pressuring us to Go Suburban (my stepfather is from Brooklyn & he's kvelling that one of "his kids" might move there!) – it's just the image I had in my own head of what it means to Grow Up. And the fact that part of me DOES want more than 800 square feet of space, and quiet, and outdoor space of our own. But we're not there yet – & we might never be. It's about knowing what will make you the most happy & then going with that – and realizing & accepting the sacrifices that'll have to go with it.

      And Growing Up certainly doesn't mean being boring & no fun! I have people on Twitter that tell me all the time "I'll never Grow Up!" & I say, "Please don't!" No boring librarian types here!

    • says

      You're right, I did. :)

      Wait – there are EIGHT seasons? We thought there were only 7! We've been watching this for what seems like 10 years, so we were seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Oh, well. At least Buffy is back to some ass kicking & not being pouty & depressed all the time. Willow turning evil was AWESOME.

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