Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Flying the Coop

I have been recently thinking about when I flew out of the nest. You know, that necessary time when you must leave the nest, where you have always been warm and fed, for a life of independence.

I went to college at 17, and got my own place with a girlfriend during the first semester, but I was just mere blocks from my folks. So although I was “on my own”, I really wasn’t. When I graduated college at 21, I was so excited to get out of town, get my own apartment and turn into an adult. I was under the impression that this made you an adult overnight. And I was ready.

But I never counted on the bills piling up because maybe I didn’t budget so well. Or the nights where my house is creaking and I wished I could run to my mom down the hall. It has been years since my own “independence day”, and while I have all those kinks worked out and have gotten into a good groove of living on my own, I can’t help but wonder what my life would be like if I had stuck by my childhood aspiration, which was to live with my mom forever and we would take care of each other. I remember telling her that, and she said “Sounds like a good plan, sweetie.” Awww.

But obviously we need to grow up. Remember when we were kids and we had “growing pains” when we hit major growth spurts? I was the really skinny kid who would get a little chubby in the cheeks and then shoot up like a weed. But I remember those growing pains kind of hurt sometimes. It hurts to grow. Anyone who says it doesn't is lying. I've heard that it's possible to grow up - I've just never met anyone who's actually completely done it. Without parents to defy, we break the rules we make for ourselves. We throw tantrums when things don't go our way, we look for comfort where we can find it, and we hope against all logic, against all experience. We’re just big kids, really.

When I first lived alone, my single girlfriends were my salvation. We commiserated together, healed each others’ broken hearts, tried to make each other laugh. Think about it. If you are single, after graduation there isn't one occasion where people celebrate you. Hallmark doesn't make a "Congratulations, You Didn't Marry the Wrong Guy" card. And where's the flatware for spending your Friday nights alone? There isn’t a registry category for this, is there?

But you can’t get down. I have always looked for the positive angle. Although I do sometimes wonder if maybe, after a certain age, we have to start applying pessimism daily, like moisturizer. Otherwise, how do we bounce back when reality batters your belief system and love does not, as promised, conquer all? I guess all we can do is hope for the best, prepare for the worst and who knows… we just might be pleasantly surprised. Or not. That’s just the way it goes.

Although I still have those girlfriends and I love them with all my heart, I eventually did not need to cling to them for salvation any longer. This is probably healthier for our friendships anyway. I found the real salvation, and instead of leaning so heavily on my girls, I have been able to give my yoke to God when the going gets rough. Now when I hear that creak in my house in the middle of the night, I no longer wish my mom was down the hall so I don’t have to be alone. I know now that I am not ever alone. That’s a relief.

At the end of the day, I look around and appreciate my grown-upness. But in a city like Fort Worth, with its pace and its pressures, sometimes it's important to have a 13-year-old moment -- to remember a simpler time when the best thing in life was just hanging out, listening to music and having fun with your friends -- in your very own home. That you own.

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