I’m going to start by suggesting you read this post with grace in your heart and with a metaphorical seatbelt fastened. I don’t know what journey we are about to embark on, but if it’s anything like the thought process to bring my fingers to these keys, the journey will be turbulent at times, winding in its direction, and let’s be honest, there may be some long stretches. Trust the process, I hope to get us to our destination.
It’s been on my heart to write on this subject for a few months now. The topic of adulthood, and the question of, “What makes a well rounded, successful adult?” I don’t have the answers, but over the past few months, moments and epiphanies have flooded into my thoughts in response to this question. Mostly, out of my own desperation to, “Get my ‘ish’ together.” I wondered, is being a successful adult defined by a successful career? Does it begin when you experience sex? (For my sake, hopefully not.) Does your salary, your friend group, your morals, your car, buying a home, travels… does ANY of this define adulthood? I dug a little deeper. Beyond being responsible and marking the check boxes, what causes someone to be a really spectacular adult?
Picture this; You walk into your home… tired from your day of living as an adult, tackling your various responsibilities, saunter into your room and shut the door behind you. In that moment the chains and social constructs we place on ourselves as adults begin to fall… and once again, there you are… a child. We mourn like children, we emotionally throw tantrums and we sometimes cry out like children. Childlike excitement, hope, and even trust sometime surface. Pure. You in the most raw and rarest form. We. Are. Children. We were brought into the world as children and although we learn how we should behave as adults, to the core, there are childlike qualities in all of us, and I am often tickled by this. I find it to be no less than magnificent when these characteristics shine through.
I myself, get excited like a child. I still stand on the couch at the most intense part of a movie. Unfortunately, this isn’t always when I’m alone, but at this point its somewhat uncontrollable and I’ve stopped worrying about how others view me in that moment. Pay attention to the movie, people! As strong and “grown up” as we want to believe we are, we are still children. I think that might actually be a key part of what keeps us alive and thriving as an adult, if we tap into it.
Fresh out of school, I was blessed to be a nanny to two incredible families. The children were and still are some of my favorite little humans, and I recognize them as a gift to me. I remember watching them on the playground and learning some of life’s greatest lessons that I’ve ever been taught. Making friends was as simple as, “Hey, wanna be my friend?” and with one shrug, “Sure,” it was finalized. I’m now a firm believer that strangers could be friends you just haven’t met yet. When used without caution, I’m sure this mentality like any tool used recklessly could probably get you into a pickle here or there. But it’s actually become a catch phrase of mine and I’ve found it to be extremely useful. My inner child encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and start asking “why not?” and I began to see a different way.
The first time I really allowed myself to run with this was in the middle of an early morning, rush hour Starbucks run. Everyone was on their way to work, impatiently standing in the line for their coffee. The woman in front of me looked less than thrilled to be there, and I had the overwhelming urge to buy her drink. Awesome. I debated this for a good two minutes and then finally, my hand reached out and words began leaving my lips before my brain could retract the action. I tapped her on the shoulder. “Hi. Good morning, uh, um…” I fumbled for the right words, if any existed. I continued, “I know this is random, but would it be okay if I bought your drink?” Less than graceful, but the words finally made their way out. Sherri turned to me and looked confused. I can only assume she was wondering why the young girl was hitting on her, and when she realized it was just an act of kindness, she smiled and thanked me. As we waited for our coffee we had a conversation about what our day would consist of, which became about our lives and in turn, faith. Seven in the morning and I was already talking to a stranger about her life’s story and about God. I didn’t see that coming, but I’m grateful it did. Sherri began coming to the church I was attending at the time and when I go back to visit, I still see her. She tells me about her nephew, and what she’s been up to, hugs me and we reminisce about the awkward moment that started our friendship. She was a stranger, and she became a friend. Wild.
What if I had told my inner child to stay home that day? Take a day off and leave it to the big kids? I by no means earned a “badge of adulthood” when I reached out to a stranger, but I did conquer a fear. I’d also like to think that moment shaped a lot for how I do things now. The naive, or possibly wise inner child caused me to reach out, in this case physically and do something I may have thought was not worth while. To be honest, that day was character changing for me. I have had some really amazing interactions with people since then, and made some lasting connections. Planes, trains, grocery stores, you name it. Oh how I would have missed out on all of them if I hadn’t attempted to try out the lesson I learned from a five year old on the playground.
As the years have gone by I have held on to that lesson and used it most everywhere I go. Standing in lines is no longer a dreaded activity but a social gathering. However, there was much more to learn from that moment, and I’m just now realizing it.
I’ve asked God lately to change my life, change my heart and rock my world. I’ve spent most of my life claiming that I have an “all or nothing personality.” Meaning I am all in, or all out, all of the time. Grey, moderation, and the middle ground rarely existed for me. I’ve been stubborn in what I think I’m interested in, or not interested in. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I would guess I’ve probably been judgmental of those who aren’t as solid in their sense of self as I perceived myself to be.
Thank goodness I’m able to write all of that in the past tense. I’d like to think I’m evolving. (She said humbly.) What I mean to say, is that I’ve been very narrow minded in who I have allowed myself to be, and what I’ve allowed myself to experience. I haven’t allowed myself to be open to a different way. Using blanket statements like, “I don’t like games. I don’t really like small talk, or even country line dancing.” Those all seem so small, but as they add up over time, I wonder; what connections, experiences, what movements have I allowed myself to miss out on by avoiding things I didn’t like yesterday and assuming I wont enjoy them for the rest of my life?
I feel as thought something has been stirring in me. I don’t know if it started with a prayer of desperation for God to move, or if somewhere, someone was asking for that on my behalf. I can’t tell you the day or time a switch went off, but I can tell you something is wildly different in me. I have realized and accepted that if I truly want my life to change, if I truly desire for amazing things to happen, I need to be flexible and open. I need to stand in the grey, the middle, I need to allow the woman in the mirror to experience things she always thought she disliked and actually give it a chance. I am young, I am mailable, I am a dreamer with a childlike wonder, and for far too long I told that child what they did and did not like without ever allowing them to think of a different possibility.
All of this sounds fairly vague, and to some insignificant, but I am so encouraged by what feels like a fresh start. I get to relearn life through the same eyes, but with different views. What if my ideas are more than ordinary? What if I don’t assume the walls are too high and never try for the climb?
We hold on to things so tightly that we don’t allow them to slip from our fingers, become something greater in the open spaces and come back to us more fully evolved. We hinder growth with narrow mindedness. I’ve mentioned it multiple times, but I really do think a LOT and honestly a lot of those thoughts are dreams that I’d like to experience as reality at some point. These are the very same dreams that I myself have held onto so tightly never allowing them to evolve.
What things, dreams, relationships, ideas have you held to so tightly, or what boxes have you placed yourself in, that rob you of openness to thinking new fresh thoughts for yourself? What change and growth are you hindering yourself from?
So many incredible things have begun happening with this adjustment in the way I think. The most recent was especially impactful and confirming of this new attitude. For the longest time I believed that a forty hour a week, nine to five job was an unacceptable goal or aspiration. It was the easy way out, and allowed no growth. I believed this until a few years ago when I found myself in the middle of my eight hour work day, clocking off for my thirty minute lunch, and realized, I am happy here. I was grateful for a solid, consistent paycheck. I was excited that I had great insurance and not to mention the free office coffee, as crummy as that can be. I realized I had believed one way for so long, and it wasn’t until I experienced it that I could finally see and accept the other view. Although I saw all these benefits to what I used to find mundane, I continued to think small, I continued to believe I was stuck. How could my gifts be utilized in a “box”?
With this new mindset of “All things are possible,” and “Maybe you don’t know everything, Jessica!” I set out to give a presentation at my companies corporate office. I had a vision for what I wanted to write about and the idea to open with a short narrative… all the while in the back of my mind telling myself it would flop. The child inside of me begging, “Please please please, Jessica, just try.” It was like five year old Jessica in a toy store all over again. Shout out to my mom for putting up with me all those years, because that child was Per.Sis.Tent. Finally my internal self gave the reminder that I don’t always know how others will respond, encouraged myself not to write my idea off and instead, I asked a manager what she thought before tossing out the idea and settling for a powerpoint. Turns out, she loved the idea and encouraged me to run with it. The child inside was more than satisfied. I began writing a piece to open our presentation. I wrote for an hour, edited for a good minute, and called it done.
The next week, I opened with my narrative. I was not expecting the reaction I received. Eyes had welled, smiles were cracked, and a literal pat on the back was gifted to me. The audience was moved, the presentation was ushered in with my writing, and I had an impact. I nearly missed this moment because I almost settled with the belief that my idea was too ordinary to be of value. Moments later, I was asked if I would be willing to share my narrative to others in the company, asked if I would be willing to write other pieces and asked to back up our Director of Operations to help train new employees. Our company has over 500 employees, and the idea that I would be of any significance and that my story could be of value to corporate never crossed my mind.
Our thoughts are ordinary to ourselves, yes, because they originate with us. To share them with another is when they become significant. Have you ever noticed how most children believe they are a star? Whatever they are doing is spectacular and of importance, they can’t wait to share. They sing, dance, perform, and to them, their stick figure drawings are masterpieces. We need to hold on to THAT. I don’t know how we became so “humble” that it became self deprecating. That is NOT something I will allow to define my adulthood.
This world is so big. We are so small, and yet so unique. If we allow ourselves to embrace our inner child, the one who believes in us and encourages us to color outside the lines, I believe we could really shake things up. I am so grateful for the outcome I experienced in my career last week, and I know it’s probably small potatoes compared to other opportunities I will experience in my path, because we are made for greatness. All of us. We are all one perfectly chiseled (wouldn’t that be nice) puzzle piece to the grand picture, we just have to allow ourselves to be open to the new shape we are becoming.
All of that to say, I still don’t think I am able to fully understand or grasp what it means to be an adult, but something tells me that flourishing in adulthood is actually more about holding onto the inner child than it is to grow out of it. A posture of openness to what life is going to bring us, and an understanding that we are all children at heart who should never stop growing or evolving. For now, I’ll be living each day with open arms ready to embrace what it may bring, and listening to the voice that asks, “Why not?”. I will be choosing to respect my own ideas and dreams as more than ordinary, because to someone they may be extraordinary.