// Becoming Adult // Standing on Your Own Two Feet

Some people grow up too fast. Others never want to grow up. I've always been somewhere in the middle of that, hoping to maintain childlike whimsy while becoming a sophisticated, well-rounded adult. I'll say, though, that my 20s has been a JOURNEY, and a shock. It hasn't been easy. At all. Truthfully, it has been a time of unrest, fluctuation, and change. My career aspirations changed, my relationship status, opinions about the world and how it works, the way I eat, my desires—just everything. For a good portion of my 20s, I went through a rough period of depression because I didn't know why I felt so uncertain about everything. I thought, "Will I ever feel normal again?” I would look at everyone around me and wonder how they managed to be so on top of their life.

I struggled with this inner dialogue and ultimately resisted the growing process that was merely beckoning me into new wisdom. I've since discovered that there is no such 'normal'. There is only *what I was* and *what I am today*. We, as humans, never stop evolving and that’s not a bad thing, even though it feels painful sometimes.

There’s a concept in art and music called ‘chiaroscuro’ which means 'the distribution of light and shade (or darkness)'. According to the dictionary, in painting it denotes "the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade, especially to enhance the delineation of character for general dramatic effect". We have in us both light and darkness, peaks and valleys. 'Scuro' (shade/darkness) is an essential component to the greater whole of who we are and part of what makes light (Chiaro)...well...LIGHT.  I frequently meditate on how beautiful this concept really is.

Bottom line: In practice, once I accepted and let go of how I felt I should be feeling, living with my new reality became so much easier to embrace. 

There are three takeaways from my 20s:

1. I don't know. Yep. You heard me right— “I don’t know”. This phrase is at the top of my mantra list and I love love love the idea of groundlessness and welcoming the unknown, standing in solidarity with uncertainty, the ‘not knowing’, sans crutches. Maria Popova describes it well:

I placed the practice of the small, mighty phrase “I don’t know” at the very top. But to live with the untrammeled openendedness of such fertile not-knowing is no easy task in a world where certitudes are hoarded as the bargaining chips for status and achievement.
— Maria Popova

and Szymborska, too:

This is why I value that little phrase “I don’t know” so highly. It’s small, but it flies on mighty wings. It expands our lives to include the spaces within us as well as those outer expanses in which our tiny Earth hangs suspended. If Isaac Newton had never said to himself “I don’t know,” the apples in his little orchard might have dropped to the ground like hailstones and at best he would have stooped to pick them up and gobble them with gusto. Had my compatriot Marie Sklodowska-Curie never said to herself “I don’t know”, she probably would have wound up teaching chemistry at some private high school for young ladies from good families, and would have ended her days performing this otherwise perfectly respectable job. But she kept on saying “I don’t know,” and these words led her, not just once but twice, to Stockholm, where restless, questing spirits are occasionally rewarded with the Nobel Prize.
— Wisława Szymborska via Brain Pickings

2. There will come a time in your young adult life when you must make a concerted effort to find whimsy and awe in your everyday life. This looks very similar to gratitude. It’s not less magical because you’re trying to remind yourself how to see it. Put your ego aside and live this truth.

You must not ever stop being whimsical…
— Mary Oliver


...and you must not ever give anyone else responsibility for your life. 
— Mary Oliver

 You are responsble for your life. As much as there are days that I want to be held and protected and reassured that everything in life is going to work out and fairytales do exist, at the end of the day, no man, no friend, no other person (.period.) can take responsibility for your life. This isn't to say those people can't help. My default is to lean on others and I'm proud to say that in the last decade I've started to embrace being a bit more self sufficient. Nobody's gonna get that shit done for you. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Do the work of taking responsibility to stay positive, uplifted, and forward-moving in your own life. Look, I get how hard this can be. Seriously, more than you know. Grieve, be sad for a sec. Do your thing. But keep taking steps forward, however small they may be. Sometimes forward looks like backwards, but it's still forward.

And do not give anyone else the responsibility for your life. It is yours to take. 

That’s it for now. I don’t know if this is helpful or familiar to anyone else, but it’s been my experience. If this is you too, how did you take this unsteady period of time and make it all it could be? Sometimes being a bit more transparent helps all of us see that we're not as alone as we think we are.