This post over at Simple Mom about wedding gifts was written for me.
My lovely wedding china that I can’t bear to part with is in a box at a relative’s house. Not getting used.
Sure, the knives and the baking pans traveled with us overseas but the idea of the wedding registry, of collecting a lot of items that would signify the beginning of married life, a lot of things that I thought would mark my entry into adulthood, that idea and aspiration has long since faded.
When I read that Simple Mom post I wished I had known then what I know now:
Owning stuff doesn’t make you an adult.
In my 20’s I watched as my friends got married and bought houses. While I was following my own path, trying to make it to the 2004 Olympics, they were building homes and careers.
I loved what I was doing but I was jealous of what my friends had. The mortgage payments, the home renovations and the retirement plans – it all seemed so adult. I felt like my gypsy existence was a sign of immaturity.
When I explained my lifestyle to non-athletes, the twice yearly cross country moves, the constant search for new apartments and always living with the uncertainty of making or not making a team, I felt like a kid. Who else would sign up for such an unstable and mostly possession-less life?
My dollar store kitchen, the Aerobed I slept on and my mostly spandex wardrobe were signs that I wasn’t an adult.
A mortgage isn’t a sign of maturity.
Eventually I got all the things on the list. The home, the renovations and the employee dental plan. I got married and had the china, the sofa and the Kitchen Aid mixer. I became a parent. I had an interesting job.
I had all the trappings of adulthood and yet, I didn’t feel that adult. I had silly fights with my spouse and went to bed angry. I bought things on credit. I pined for more and better stuff.
Adulthood = Emotional Maturity
As I simplified my possessions I started to feel like an adult. Not necessarily because I had less but because I knew what I needed.
Without the distraction of stuff and the drain of wanting more, I’ve been able to work on really being a grown-up.
Hallmarks of Adulthood:
- Delayed gratification: I’ve learned how to save for something, how to wait for something, instead of putting it on a credit card.
- Knowing what brings happiness: it’s so easy to confuse the temporary high of a brownie or a new pair of jeans with real happiness. It’s a work in progress (like all of this list) but I’m getting better at finding the root of what gives back to me, more sleep, more time with good friends, more walks in the sunshine, more writing projects that scare me and challenge me.
- Less pouting: I’m slowly becoming a better partner to my husband. If we have an argument I’m trying to be more like him: forgiving and ready to apologize and move on.
- Giving freely: I don’t keep a scorecard anymore. You know those mental lists of who has done what for each other. Sometimes my husband gets more time on his own than I do on the weekend. Sometimes I get more of that child free time. Still working on this one as I am fiercely aware of who gets to sleep in more.
You can’t buy any of the above in a store or apply for it from a bank.
You have to work on it, you have to accept that you’ll be less than perfect or even fail sometimes. You have to accept that there is uncertainty in being an adult. That you can’t control others actions or reactions. That it’s a hopefully long and slow road of learning with no real end in sight.
It certainly isn’t as simple as having a checklist of furnishings you want to buy for your den or leasing a new car.
Being an adult isn’t as easy as buying something but it’s infinitely more rewarding.