3 Things 2016 Taught Me About Growing Up
With the year coming to a close, we hear the murmuring everywhere. Our friends say it, our coworkers say it, our families say it. We even say it ourselves. "2016 sucked."
Sure, 2016 had a few rough patches – but that's not to say that it was a complete and utter pit of despair and anguish. Amidst the lows were some highs; highs that I can say surpassed all other high points in my life thus far. Few years have brought me more challenges, more happiness, or more growth than 2016 did. It cracked me over the knuckles a few times, scolding me for my childish mistakes, but it was the best life-lessons teacher I could have asked for. I can confidently say that 2016 was the year I (finally) began to realize what it truly means to be an adult.
So, grab your champagne glass and let's toast to 2016 and the three things it taught me about growing up.
#1: Life Isn't Perfect
Life isn't perfect. Everyone knows that – including me. I've always known that to be true. So why am I always meticulously making plans, knowing I'm just setting myself up to be surprised, crushed, and (sometimes violently) pissed when it doesn't pan out the way I wanted it to?
This dark side of me really surfaced this year as I prepared to get married in October. So, for those of you who are married or engaged, you understand the excitement and horrors of planning for one of the most important days of your life. You want everything to be perfect, because (knock on wood) you'll only be doing it once. The pressure is epic: as the bride, you alone hold the power to either create or destroy your happily-ever-after fairytale...one ring to rule them all. [Insert Isengard Theme.]
So, as many modern brides do, I found myself scouring Pinterest for inspiration, planning down to the most minute detail. I poured countless hours into making sure that everything was accounted for. That everything was "perfect".
But – surprise, surprise – when the day finally arrived, it wasn't perfect. Lots of things happened that I hadn't put in my planner. There was scattered rain throughout the day; some guests went to the wrong address and missed the ceremony; I even got red wine spilled on my dress. But some of those unplanned, unexpected moments were the ones that touched my heart the most: hearing my husband read his vows to me, crying during my dad's speech, embracing an impromptu dance-off to Don't Stop Believin'.
It wasn't a perfect day. But those small quirks, hiccups, and surprises are what made it ours. We couldn't compare our wedding to anyone else's, and they couldn't compare their's to ours either. It's the imperfections that make life unique and beautiful, and our wedding day was a prime example of how much truth that statement holds.
#2: Time is Yours to Take
Think back in time for a moment. Not to college, not even to high school or middle school. Think back to being a little kid, playing in the mud and building tree forts in the woods. Time was like molasses, slow and easy and sweet. Every day was an adventure, and you the explorer. The minutes between sunrise and sunset seemed infinite, and you soaked it all up, fueling yourself for happy dreams before starting over again the next day.
I've wondered a lot over the past year when and how we lose our childlike sense of time. I've wondered why, as we grow older, time seems to fly by faster and faster with a momentum that we never challenge. After reading Thich Nhat Hanh's You Are Here, I began to understand why this might be.
The difference between our adult selves and our child selves is our grasp of the present moment. When we're young, the past doesn't drag us down and the future doesn't frighten us: instead, we find comfort in the present, embracing it with open arms. As adults, we begin to overanalyze our pasts and overplan for our futures, leaving us in this stressful in-between state that feels more like purgatory than the present.
As adults, we have to take a chapter from our childhoods. We have to take a step back from the nuances of everyday life now and again and really feel the present moment, in all its sadness, happiness, and everything in between. We have to remind ourselves that time will always be moving, but the pace is up to us – and that's a hard lesson I've learned over the past year.
#3: Home is Where You Make It
My life up until my early 20's was spent moving around the Midwest, hopping from one small town to another not-quite-as-small-but-still-small town. But 2016, of all the years I've been alive, has greatly broadened my horizons. It's been the rude awakening I needed to learn just how much of the world I haven't yet discovered, and just how much my adult self is yearning for it.
I moved with my now-husband in the summer of 2015 to start a new job in New York City. The culture shock of New York was something I struggled stomaching. In my first few weeks of working in Manhattan, I took just about every train in the wrong direction (it's not as intuitive as you'd think), surprised my coworkers by knowing what sushi was (c'mon, we're not that uncultured in Michigan), and got spit on by a homeless man (I really wish I was kidding about this one).
I struggled with a homesickness to which I thought there was no remedy, longing for the familiarity of home. It's taken until the end of 2016 for me to realize that it's not the city's rough exterior that's the problem. It's not the oblivious tourists, the shoulder-checking commuters, the Starbucks employees that never say "Good morning". The problem has been me all along. It's my definition of home that's kept me from embracing this new place and all the beauty and opportunity it has to offer.
I now can see that home isn't always going to be the town you grew up in. It isn't where your parents are, or where you went to school. Home is where you make it, and in my case, it's where my husband and my cat sleep at night. As long as I'm with them, I'm home, and I'm happy.
In closing, here's another cheers to the lessons learned in 2016 and to a brand new chapter of adulthood in 2017. What about you guys? Any how-to-adult lessons you learned this year?