Remember when you were a kid and people would ask you, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" What were some of your answers?
When I was little, I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a veterinarian, teacher, or baker. I'd routinely change my mind, but teacher usually won out, though, because I loved playing school and telling my stuffed animals what to do and giving them assignments. Eventually I realized that I didn't have the desire for more schooling at the graduate level nor the disposition to actually become a teacher once I graduated from college. But even at 21, it was still fun to think about what life would be like when I was an "adult". I thought I'd never be married and never have kids and that I'd travel to exotic locales and write to my heart's content, somehow inexplicably wealthy. How naive.
I think about how disappointed my 21-year-old self must be of my life today at 35. I met the love of my life at 18 and got married six years later. Had two kids pretty quickly after that. Realized that due to anxiety I rarely travel anywhere outside a 20-minute radius around my house. I do love to write, but don't do it often enough, and barely have 2 nickels to rub together. Because I desperately needed the money, I went back to work full-time after 2.5 years of being at home to a job that was...adequate, but not what I would ever call exciting. My 21-year-old self would probably be mortified at the path my life has taken.
And sometimes I do think I should be further along in life on the success spectrum, whatever that means, at the top of some hill looking down triumphantly and not slogging my way up to yet another unreachable peak. But my 35-year-old self knows those are just the whispers of outdated expectations and naivete. The truth is that life changes. Your hopes and dreams change. When you intertwine your life with someone else, when you bring little humans into your family, when you realize that love and pixie dust doesn't pay the bills - you realize that growing up has an altogether different definition. And that's totally OK.
And then, not even 2 weeks later, I quit that new job. 21-year-old me would be so ashamed and completely consumed about what other people would think. The me of today knows that no job is worth your happiness or sanity, as long as everybody’s basic needs are being met. I don’t need glitz and glamour in my life. Just peace.
I'm content with my life. I feel safe and loved. I have a roof over my head. I have friends to pester when the mood strikes. I write when I can and try to savor every word. I know that life and joy are measured in moments both big and small, not in increments of cash.
Growing up has been different than I ever thought it would be. But my life is what I make it. Me, today. Not some doe-eyed girl who knew as little as Jon Snow. The pages in the rest of my story are blank, but the hand that holds the pen, albeit a little more wrinkly and in desperate need of a manicure, answers only to me. And my inkwell is filled with hope and happiness. I hope yours is, too.
Prompt 1: Compare yourself to a plant or flower or tree. What kind of plant would you be? In what ways have you blossomed, flourished, and grown? What nourishes you?
Prompt 2: What is one thing that you'd like to do to contribute to your own personal growth? Why and how will it help you grow? (Bonus points if you set a date to do/start that thing and post about it in the illuminate Facebook group so we can cheer you on!)
Exercise 1: Write a haiku about a moment of growth that you've experienced. (A haiku is a Japanese verse form of poetry most often composed of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables. A haiku often depicts the essence of a specific moment in time.)
Exercise 2: Write a story (fiction or nonfiction, it's up to you) about someone who has matured or come of age. Things to keep in mind as you write: Who are they in the beginning? What is the catalyst that changes them? How are they different after? Try to show - not tell - the reader the growth that has taken place in the main character.
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