As a child all I wanted was to grow up. Milestones were measured by a year or two rather than decades. The first day of school, becoming a teenager, the start of high school, sweet sixteen, drivers licence, graduation; all marked on the calendar and counted down with anticipation.
Wanting to grow up, but not be like the adults I knew was worrisome. They seemed to have lost imagination; their lives appeared stagnant and predictable. It never occurred to me that responsibility was a serious matter, nor did it cross my mind that they were doing the best they could. I lost sleep over an imaginary line I had to cross; the point of no return when I would become like them.
Outrage crushed my excitement; years of anticipation exposed as a lie. They came clean on Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Tooth Fairy; I settled into the reality that the truth about growing older was too much for any child to bear. So I waited. I wondered if it would be merciful; would it come in the night? Would I fall asleep a child and wake up an adult? Would it erase any memory of my former self, or would it suffocate me with lingering flashbacks to a simpler time?
Waiting was more excruciating than the anticipation. Like watching paint dry; day after day and it was still tacky. Rebellion eased the pain. I was smarter than it; I had its number and wasn’t going down without a fight.
Days turned to weeks, months, then years. I woke up one morning and knew something had happened overnight. Laughing out loud was the only response I was capable of. So unexpected was the understanding that I would always be the same. Blinding clarity replaced dread.
For the first time in my adult life I could breath. I forgave everyone in my life for not living up to childhood expectations. Storybook cut-outs were replaced by people I loved. Suddenly they had dimension, their flaws beautiful, their mistakes understandable.
Best of all – I knew I never had to change.