Well, here we are in February 2011! In some ways it's amazing how quickly time flies - scary even, when you consider that once, you sat there thinking that there were so many decades in front of you to pursue any opportunities you might want to. Now it's all about thinking ahead and planning a little so that things don't totally fall apart at a moment's notice. It's all "grown up" stuff now.
So, what is being a grown up all about anyway? It's a difficult thing to really capture succinctly in a sentence or two. Actually I'm not going far enough there - it's impossible! That's probably why I keep a blog and not a spreadsheet of little quotes...
I suppose the easiest way to quantify it would be to compare me now with me at the age of eighteen and see what fits, and what doesn't. Like clothing. I weigh about 17lb more than I did at eighteen; thankfully some of that is in the "good" places... So needless to say, most of the pants from back then are now being worn by someone else or, probably more likely, decorating the inside of a landfill. Similarly, the contents of my brain are completely different now than they were then, so points of view, tolerance, understanding - it's all different.
At eighteen, I was still escaping from the primordial slime that accompanied me as a new person in the world. It had been rough so far - that is very true - but I'd only just picked myself up after shooting out into the brave new world at the age of sixteen. I ate pasta for pretty much six months straight - so much so that one day, I boiled a pot and sat looking at it because I just couldn't eat any more damn noodles! Thankfully my taste for Italian food has returned with a vengeance, but other things haven't.
Developmentally, things becomes more complex the longer you live - if you let them, though some people are afraid to learn and remain very much on the simpler sideline during their earthly existences. If you open up your mind, however, and let the fear flow in along with everything else then a myriad of meaning begins to reveal itself. Like an oil painting, the bare bones of the piece are there as you approach adulthood but it can take quite a while to get even the under-painting done. Then of course, you have the details and the many layers to go as well. Maybe the finishing touches would be Nirvana. I don't know.
People's lives can be so very different from one another though - some have the good fortune to coast through without a hitch (rare!) whereas others have a pretty normal mixture of ups and downs. You've got a sliding scale from the benign to the interesting. Some people spend years in a seemingly endless assault course being battered half to death by other people or themselves. Some completely give up and die at their own hands - I had a great friend who did this back in 2008, and the hole that event left was immeasurable.
Others completely turn their lives around, no matter what's happened. I think they're probably some of the bravest people in the world because they're fighting a one-person battle against a number of different fronts, including their past deeds, their impulses, un-supportive people and often, tremendous guilt as well. To rise up like that takes a huge amount of positive strength, so in many ways it's got to be the ultimate indication of a good soul. The war takes place mostly internally, but it's an unwillingness to go down with the light that ultimately saves the day.
In so many ways, perhaps being a grown up is the realization that we all have so much more power that we believe we have, to do good things. To change things around us for the better and create something incredible that will last so much longer than us. When we're young, it's night or it's day. As we grow into matriarchs and patriarchs, we slowly begin to realize that the dawn and the dusk have a huge effect on the passage of time and what is to come. So even if we are afraid, we sit down and watch. And we let the light open our hearts to love, since we're all delicate regardless of our defenses...