When did you realize you were a grown-up?
By John R. Greenwood
My first realization of becoming a grown-up occurred after passing the half-century mark. You might think getting married at the age of nineteen, some thirty-four years earlier would fit the essay more appropriately but after contemplating the topic thoroughly, and after being bare bones honest with myself, it became clear when the true defining moment occurred. Losing your last surviving parent, regardless of your age, is going to clarify, not who you are, but who you believe you are. That event made me realize I was now a true grown-up. The loss of a parent will always be a life-altering event. Becoming a gray haired orphan changes something inside you. Even as an adult, if you have a surviving parent, you are still someone’s child. The dynamic of your life changes when that last parent is no longer there for you. The ability to gauge personal success or failure becomes murky. From your earliest recollections, a child’s goal is to please their mother and father. When you suddenly lose that barometer of parental approval, you are thrust into grown-up status. That is true whether you are a teenager or an AARP cardholder. At fifty-plus and parent-less, the transformation from child to grown-up is now complete. There is no one left to please but you and your spouse. The path of life now widens just a little and in some ways, it can be enlightening. Your only audience left is the spouse who has become accustomed to your (small list) of faults. As a card-carrying grown-up, you now care more about enjoying an uninterrupted nap and less about the opinion of others. Being a grown-up is being out-on-a-limb with no net. It is all you. No one left to field the blame. From newborn to parent-less grown-up you belong to someone. From that day forward, you belong to yourself. What do you want to be now that you are a grown-up? I have always wanted to touch nerves, pinch emotions, to stir a motionless being, to activate laughter, to bring a tear to a dry-eyed statue, to push a frozen soul, to pull a frightened friend from darkened depths. The time was never right. The day was never long enough. Now I am a full-blown grown-up. I miss my parents. They wanted the best for me. We do not always know what is best. Sometimes you have to figure it out on your own. For those adults searching life’s classifieds for something to buy, you have the money but you’re not sure what to spend it on. Blow it on your dream. Risk it all. Let it ride. Gamble on happiness. By the time you realize you’re grown-up it may be too late.
I wrote this piece for and submitted it to a contest in a magazine a couple of years ago. For the contest you were to write about the first time you knew you were a grown-up. I haven't heard from them about winning a trip abroad so I guess it didn't place first. My life has taken a wonderful turn recently and writing is a large part of it. Being involved in the Hubbard Hall Writing Project and having Jon Katz as our quarterback has become one of the most enlightening opportunities I have ever experienced. And we're just beginning! I pulled this out of the archives and as I reread it, it seemed an appropriate compliment to the current status of my life and the others in the the group. It's funny how life keeps circling around picking up pieces here and setting them off to the side there. Always returning to the past as you try to maneuver the future.