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On Adulthood

Last week I think I had a quarter life crisis.

My immune system finally gave way to a head cold/flu virus that has been going around among my friends and all I wanted was to take a couple sick days and be taken care of. But that is not reality when you’re a grown up. Even on the days I missed class, I still had to do homework, clean up after myself, and think about a million things at once. I frantically sanitized my apartment with a Clorox wipe in one hand and an orange juice in the other-willing the germs to vacate my body and my home. And in that moment I realized: I do not like adulthood. It sneaks up on you and by the time you realize it, it’s too late to run.

One day you are standing bemused in the Tupperware aisle.

One day you are helping one of your best friends address her wedding invitations.

One day you find yourself elbow-deep in the top of your toilet, fixing it from running, and you realize “For the first time in my life, there is no one bigger to do this for me.”

And all at once the reality washes over you. You are an adult. Part of you frantically grabs at the remaining wisps of childhood but a bigger part of you knows it’s useless. Any Disney Princess merchandise you buy or DVD’s of your favorite 90’s TV show you watch will just be a substitute for a time that has passed.

There is nothing quite as simultaneously exciting and terrifying as adulthood. The prospect that your life is really taking shape and you are old enough to make choices about what to pursue is thrilling, if a bit overwhelming. You have a perpetual sense that you’re doing everything all wrong, but you’re doing it the only way you know how. You have an almost cruel awareness of your own naivete, but lack the benefit of hindsight.

One of the things I’m praying this semester is that I would step forward into adulthood with grace. For the girl with the baby Pegasus stuffed animal on her bed and the Spaghetti O’s in her pantry, this is easier said than done. I think the hardest thing to accept is the sense of nomad-icy. You wrestle with it all through college and it only gets worse as graduation approaches. You forget how to turn off the fireplace at your parent’s house and you panic. This place used to be your house. It used to be home. You used to know it backward and forward. At some point over the years it has become your “parent’s house” and you can’t for the life of you trace back to the time when that change was made. You keep opening the wrong cabinet to get a cup out because that’s where the cups were always kept but now they’ve been moved. One day you dial the familiar number labeled “Home” in your contact list and you get an automated message saying the number is disconnected. We’ve moved to cell phones now so your parents have (wisely) gotten rid of it. This number you’ve known all your life: the first number you ever learned, the number you’ve written on every document since kindergarten, the number you called when you were back from the field trip or ready to be picked up from your friends’ house or on the side of the road after a car accident, that number doesn’t exist anymore.

So you sit in the floor of your embarassingly pink childhood room and you read a Little Golden Book with your American Girl doll in your lap. And before you put her away, you hug her tight. Because as ridiculous as it is for a 22 year old to project her own feelings onto a doll, you do. You feel a little guilty for leaving her in the closet all these years. You’re grateful to her for being there with the same wide eyes and rumpled outfit she had last time you played with her. And some days you just desperately need the simplicity of the life you led when it was all Little Golden Books and American Girl dolls.

There’s really no neat way to sum it all up. Like anything else in life, all I can do is let it point me toward Jesus. He told those who wanted to follow Him, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” He knew the occasional loneliness of setting out to live the life you were created for; of leaving behind what is comfortable and familiar and walking forward into the unknown and, sometimes, unwelcoming. The good news is that even as everything around me changes: as friends get married and everyone moves in 100 different directions and stability starts to seem like more and more of a luxury: He remains constant. No matter how weary I grow of cleaning my own sick germs or attempting to thrive in our busyness-prizing culture, He sustains. No matter how things on this earth stretch me, He is home.

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