When my car broke down last spring in the Gunks, I was content to sleep in the parking lot of a tire shop in New Paltz until morning but a friend jokingly said, “Grown-ups don’t sleep in their cars!” and convinced me to come have a glass of wine and crash in a bed, instead. (The wine and company were both much appreciated.)
The house that I stayed in was nestled away in the quiet woods, a short jaunt to the Gunks cliffs. I was used to dirty shoebox apartments or the back of my car, though, and it would be a lie if I said that I didn’t feel a small sense of shame—staying in such a beautiful home while my car was on its last breath, the refrigerator back home unstocked, and my bank account severely close to being in the red. I’m pretty much the worst at adulting, I concluded.
Sometimes living in NY feels frustrating because I’m constantly meeting professionals my age, and it emphasizes how far away I am from figuring it all out. I wind up playing the “what if” game a lot: “What if I finished college? What if I picked a career path?” Unfortunately, you can’t live in parallel dimensions—that’s when you’ll get stuck. There are certainly those who get to high places fast, but for others, well, it can be more of an experiential thing. We’re all going to measure our successes differently, that’s for sure. There are lots of people who get their lives on track faster than others, and I’ve always been a little envious. But if at any point in my life I had known exactly what I wanted to get out of it, I don’t know that I would have ever found climbing.
And the cool part is that all of that contrast is what defines us (well, I guess that and experience.) We all need the dark and light. The sweet and the bitter. And may our lives be all the richer for it.
Life is never going to stop being scary, but lately, I’m finding that I don’t really need much beyond whimsy and peace, laughter and love, friends and family. I thought I was in a huge rush to grow up and hurry past all of my mistakes, but I’m not anymore and instead, embracing the lessons if I can find them. My success in life is measured by things like campfire dinners, swims in rivers, pitches climbed, miles driven—in takes and falls and sends. I’m successful because I am happy doing all of these things.
Maybe I am growing up.
But please don’t tell anybody.