Another year older. I don’t know that I’m any wiser (though I hope so–isn’t that what this growing up business is about?), but I’m certainly more self-assured. It’s not that I’ve evolved into some well-adjusted, together, enviable human being (not by a long shot!), I just find that I’m no longer so concerned with being that person–the kind everyone grows up imagining they should be. I worry less about appearances and decorum now, more concerned with satisfying my own metrics for happiness and respectability.
Take my birthday, for example. In years past I’ve felt pressure to celebrate, to put on a nice outfit and go out with friends for drinks. Isn’t that how it’s done? I thought I’d give that another shot this year, but when Friday night rolled around and the temperature plummeted, a bleak drizzle dampening the air, I messaged my best friend and said, Fuck it, let’s stay in. We watched the shittiest horror movie we could find, drinking vodka smoothies and bombers in our leggings and sweatshirts, only leaving the couch for refills. It was far better than any night out in a noisy, crowded bar with expensive drinks and all those pesky people milling about. On Saturday the rain continued and my tiny, grinch heart leapt with joy when I heard our neighborhood art fest was cancelled. I stayed in and made dinner for the family, thrilled to have once more evaded small-talk, forced cheeriness, and putting on real pants—all those supposed trappings of adulthood. (Can I brag for a moment without it being too unseemly? Of course I can, it’s my birthday! I made sun-dried tomato and basil focaccia with caramelized onions baked into the crust, herbed cashew ricotta, and a baby romaine salad with sliced apples and dried figs marinated in maple balsamic vinaigrette, topped with toasted walnuts. Restaurants—who needs ’em?)
The truth is, all these years later and I’m still no different than the person I used to be–the child who cared only about birthday cake and shiny decorations, the antisocial teenager huddled in a corner at the few parties she dared attend, the young adult with a penchant for drinking in the comfort of her own home and embarrassingly bad TV–I didn’t outgrow a single one of those things. The difference, now, is that I no longer feel I should. What I have outgrown is the nagging insecurity that I’m doing this whole life thing wrong, that my path looks a bit wonky and my colors are spilling outside the lines. Maybe that’s what growing up is–not changing who we are, but accepting who we’ve been all along. Or maybe I’m on the fast track toward being one of those crotchety old women with zero filter and a penchant for bizarre outfits, who the neighborhood kids whisper about in hushed tones of fear and revulsion. And you know what? That’s okay with me.