Am I Grown-up Now?

So, I turned 40 on this past Friday. The “big four-oh”. I felt like I should have done something crazy or over-the-top, something to celebrate the big day. I contemplated getting another tattoo. I didn’t, but I still plan on doing that at some point. But no. Friday, I had a few drinks with my girls over Zoom. It was fun. Then Saturday the mister took me out for sushi. It was delicious.

It was a nice birthday, but it didn’t feel any different then the thirty-nine before it. Less momentous then some. Less dramatic. At 30 I had a party at the roller rink near where I grew up. My favorite present that I got was a Twilight Barbie that my big brother gave me. He really got the spirit of the party.

I rejected the idea of being grown-up then, but I spent the last week contemplating my past and wondering if I counted as grown-up now.

It’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve finally come to terms with the loss of a couple of people who were important to me, even though it happened 20 years ago. I’m just dealing with what it means that I can no longer see or talk to those people again, except in my dreams.

That feels significant. It feels grown-up. Not that I really know what that means.

I do know that I’m just really starting to deal with with the trauma of those losses. I’ve been carrying a lot of things around for 20 years, through various jobs and locations, one move to the next, and wondering why I wasn’t feeling any better. Well, I had tried to close the door on that trauma and move on, but I hadn’t actually let myself go through it. It sucks, but the only way out is through.

One thing that this process has done is made me less afraid. I used to be afraid of a lot. Everything, really. Especially my emotions. I shut down a lot, and it cost me relationships and friendships, because I wouldn’t let people in. I tried to avoid hurt by not fully opening up to people. I kept even my closest friends at arm’s length. If they really knew me, I thought, they wouldn’t want to be friends with me. Who could love a broken thing like me?

My mind and heart can be dark places. I don’t know if that’s true of everyone, but I do know it’s not just me. I also know it doesn’t make me a bad or unlovable person. This is what my brain tells me when it starts stewing in its chemicals. But fuck that. It’s lying.

20 years ago, I thought keeping people out protected me from loss. Now, I know that pain will still find a way through those walls, and keeping people out only makes me lonely. The friendships I’ve developed in the last several years are deeper and more honest than ones before because I’m not trying to shut down anymore. Not that those friendships and relationships from years ago weren’t important to me. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The more important they were to me, the more scared I was to lose them. But of course, time and life being what they are, I still lost some of those people. And that’s on me. I accept that.

Or, I’m beginning to accept that, anyway. It’s not easy. None of this is. That I know. But I still don’t know if I’m grown-up yet. What do you think?


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