I walked to work on Tuesday, the first day of school, through my neighbourhood of hodgepodge families. I watched the kids, dripping in the early-September humidity through their best new clothes, bought especially for today. I remembered what it felt like to be so young, greeting the possibility of the new year, armed with fresh Caboodles and crisp notebooks and virgin coloured pencils.
When I was little, I spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of grown up I would be. This comes with being an overly-introspective child, the sort who worried about her future and her worth and the good she’d offer the world when she was in single digits. I wondered who I’d be and where I’d be and with whom I’d be doing it.
There’s a worthwhile mental construct — “What would 10-year-old me think of the woman I became, the woman this little girl now is? Would she approve?”
I went through a period in my early-20s when I was ashamed what she’d think, that I hadn’t made her proud. The reasons are varied and wholly of my own making. I was unkind to my body. I lived through friendships and relationships that did not serve my heart. I worked too long and too hard in a job that wasn’t right for me, believing I wasn’t worth more. I spent a lot of time alone, in my head, but not in a positive way.
And then, over time and into my mid-20s, things turned around. I wish there was a silver bullet I could point to, something magic that fell into place, but it wasn’t like that. But the days got better, good, then great, even. I repaired my broken relationship with my body. Friendships that pulled me down were severed clean. I found a job that felt more like a calling, where I was paid well to do work I love. I still spent a lot of time alone, in my head, but it was a positive introspection, about making myself better and building a good life and seeking adventures.
I’m now two years shy of 30. Twenty-eight, by all manner of measurement, is still very young. But it’s also happily inside of adult, with many adult milestones behind me, and many still ahead of me. I hear a lot (too much!) that life gets harder as you get older. The responsibilities pile on, time speeds up, the occasions to grieve come with greater frequency, our days become much less ours, the mundane of the grind is the norm. All this is true. But what doesn’t come with this diagnosis is how much better equipped we are to handle both the petty grievances and crushing blows, and to embrace more deeply and appreciate the beauty and luck and wonder we experience.
My husband has a frequent turn of phrase, where he thanks me for our adventures. More and more, as I grow, I think of these adventures not in the literal sense of exotic locales and countdowns and trips and indulgences, but the adventures we create together each day. It goes back to remembering the water all around me, to appreciating the mundane and the extraordinary equally — as momentous, and even necessary.
I look at those kids walking to school and I wish their future selves well. I’m confident the 10-year-old Maria in the bunch would be okay with where I ended up, this far. She’d cheer me on as she watched me build my days.
(Photo: my own)