In an email exchange the other day with a family member, I was told I needed to "grow up." Apparently, the person doesn't think that the way I approach life is mature enough...grown up enough...that for whatever reason my choices in life are wrong.
To that, I say:
Sorry. It had to be done.
When I was six years old, my biological father was killed by a drunk driver. Six. Years. Old.
When I was twelve, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.
At thirteen, my step-father left my mother without any warning.
A year later when I was fourteen, my mother's cancer returned.
I was fifteen when my mother died.
I miscarried a baby at the age of eighteen.
When I was twenty, I delivered my son 2½ months early. We both nearly died that day.
At twenty-five, I was a single mom with two kids trying to make ends meet without screwing up all our lives.
You want to talk about being grown up? Let's talk.
Being grown up means not using your misfortunes or mistakes as excuses for not doing the right thing. It means drying your eyes, standing up straight and carrying the hell on. And you save the tears for later, because rising to the occasion with dignity and grace is more important than getting sympathy. It means that even when you want to throw in the towel and have someone else take care of you for once, you trudge on...oftentimes without support from family or friends - not that you don't have them, but because they just don't know what to say. Being grown up sometimes means you have to bury your own pain because dealing with it hurts worse than pretending it doesn't exist. It means that when you've got hungry mouths to feed, you do what's necessary to quiet those tummies. Being a grown up doesn't mean you get to rely on drugs or alcohol to smooth out the edges, nor does it mean abandoning the people who depend on you most. It means you forgive those who have hurt you and those you disagree with and you put yourself in their shoes for just a few moments and look at life from their perspective. It means you move past the anger and bitterness, not because you necessarily want to, but because it's the right thing to do. It means not holding grudges or keeping someone hostage in or from a relationship with someone else. It means you give of yourself until it hurts because that's what you do for the people you love. And for those who love you back.
Being a grown up means that when you've done all these things and the opportunity comes along to have fun, you take it. You take it because you didn't have that chance at six. Or twelve. Or fifteen. Or eighteen. Or even twenty-five. You take it because finally, for once in your life, you've done what you had to do and you refuse to let someone else make you feel guilty for enjoying your life and all the fun you have living it. You take it because you're tired of being told to "grow up" when you know damn well you did so thirty years ago. And not because someone told you to, but because you had no other choice.