There are certain monumental moments in a person’s life that are commonly tied with growing up and maturing. Milestones like a baptism, the first day of kindergarten, graduations, getting a drivers license, a first drink, wedding, first house, having a baby, etc.—these are the things that end up in memory jars and photo albums. Sure, these are the things that we will label “will remember for the rest of my life” and these are the things that we will tell our kids and grandkids about. But then there are the moments that won’t necessarily be treasured forever but will be felt most deeply in the moment—these are the things that hit us hard and, I think, the things that we should actually remember, for they are what guide us and ground us.
It’s quite strange to me, but I’m realizing now that the well-known milestones (birthdays, graduations, etc.) aren’t the ones that scream “You’re growing up!”. I’ve never really been much of a birthday person, but I know that many people respond to the commonly-asked birthday question of “How do you feel?” with a dull “exactly the same”.
It is quite unfortunate that this happens. Perhaps I wish that I could actually feel older and more mature on each birthday and that I would actually feel like I’m smarter and more accomplished after each school year. I wish that during these milestones, I could just turn a switch and I would feel something different. That’s how these moments are supposed to feel because that’s how they’re advertised and promoted, but that’s typically not the case.
For me, the very specific and underestimated moments are the ones that make me feel the emotions that the more well-publicized milestones are supposed to make me feel. For example, I’m in that grey-area between teenager and adult but I don’t really feel like I’m maturing because of my age. Instead, the moment that it hit me that I was growing up was when I was at the grocery store and reached for the dark chocolate instead of the milk chocolate that I have been reaching for my whole life. And yesterday in the car, I found myself opting to sit in silence rather than the usual: blasting loud radio noise! These moments stick out to me because I have spent many years of my life labeling certain things—dark chocolate and silence included—as adult things. Maybe I’m overly observant or randomly emotional, but for me, these are the little moments that hit me real hard, the moments that leave me thinking, the moments that remind me of who I am and who I’m becoming.
I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot recently, but I’ve really noticed it for a while. Somewhere along the way, I’ve seen my evolution through my most insignificant and most random changes. During late elementary school, I realized that I lost that carefree innocence of not caring what I looked like when I started throwing out any shirt with a stain. But did I notice my childhood slipping away when I started shaving? No, not at all. And when I was in middle school, my recognition of greater independence and responsibility hit me not when I got my first cell phone but instead when I forgot to bring my clarinet to school and had to sit instrument-less through an entire band class. When I hit puberty and began physically growing, I felt like I became a woman not when I got my first period but rather when I started sharing a wardrobe with my mother.
There are certain moments that are accepted rites of passages, but I think the smaller, more unique-to-you moments are the ones that should be scrapbooked and cherished. And though my sudden enjoyment of dark chocolate nor my newfound appreciation for quiet thought will probably never make it to my Instagram page, they somehow made it to this blog post and are part of my story that I take with me always.
I guess what I’m saying is that in this awkward half angsty teenaging and half trying-to-adulting phase in my life, I’ve learned from experience that trying to learn from other’s experience may not always be the best way to learn. Thus, I hope to pass on the message that no matter what you have been told is the norm for how to grow up or when to grow up, don’t let it rob you of finding your own adventure. In reality, you cannot carve your own path—complete with your best unique and quirky milestones—if you’re too busy following somebody else’s.
Ultimately, we’re all trying to find our way in this world.
Good luck, stay present in the moment, and just enjoy the ride.
P.S. I may be starting to love dark chocolate but I have not yet succumbed to the world of coffee dependency.