Saturday, October 9, 2010

Adventures Growing Up

I’m 21 (and a half) years old. I guess that makes me an adult? I can drive, I can vote, I have a credit card, I pay bills. Somehow I always thought I would feel like a grownup by now, but I still feel like the little girl that tried to show off at her dance recital and ended up falling off the stage. Besides prompting an abrupt and permanent shift from dance to contact sports, little has changed since that literal fall from grace.  I still feel like I’m spinning out of control from time to time. Part of the problem, I think, is that sometimes we assume growing up happens all at once. If you consider yourself an adult, it’s easy to assume you don’t have any more growing to do.  I’m starting to realize that growing up is an adventure, one that happens in episodic lessons.
Sometimes these lessons come in a funny way. For example, my sister and I often disagree about how to handle our shared expenses. Now I admire my sister’s frugality for the most part-- she’s no frivolous spender, people. But sometimes, we can’t help but disagree about which type of things are really worth spending money on. For example, we have a sponge in our kitchen and occasionally that sponge starts to smell like whatever its been washing for the past weeks. The little food particles get trapped into the sponge creating a distinct smell known in our house as sponge rot. The following interaction occurred the other day:
As we’re cleaning dishes. “Lauren, this sponge is nasty. We need a new one.”
“It’s fine.”
“It smells like a dead animal.”
“It still works.”
“So does used floss, that doesn’t mean you don’t get a new pack. This is unsanitary.”
“Laine, just wash your hands off after.”
“Fine. I’ll do that…” If they haven’t corroded from whatever fungus is growing on them now.
Or consider another example, this event occurred near the beginning of fall when it was technically cool enough to roll the windows down instead of turning on the air conditioning. Now I’m the type of person who will turn the air on if it’s above 65 degrees, forget how much gas it wastes. “Roughing it” is when the air is on low. Lauren on the other hand, enjoys the wild breeze and the fringe benefit of saving money. Sometimes, however, unexpected consequences occur from this practice. We were riding in the car, with the windows down when Lauren noticed a bee right behind me in the backseat. Of course my first instinct was to smash it. The potential of getting stung increases exponentially in a confined space. You would think this reality would create an extra sense of caution. After all, it’s not like I could run away. But it doesn’t create caution, it creates frenzy. Lauren saw my hand reaching for the empty plastic water bottle in the cup holder.
“Laine, don’t try to smash it. You’re going to make it mad.”
This warning was drown out by my piercing voice screaming, “BEE!!!!!!!”
With a shaky hand, I turned around and craned my arm to the backseat window. I slowly positioned the bottle until it was right over the bee. Before he had a chance to retreat, I swiftly lowered my weapon of choice onto his poor soul. Now what I didn’t calculate was that the bottom of a bottle is not an even surface, it has convex and concave parts. This proved to be very unfortunate error.
“Did you get him?????” Lauren asked, not daring to take her eyes off the road.
At this point, I retreated all limbs to the front seat. I needed a new weapon quickly, the bee was mad and he was coming for me. I looked down the the floor: four more empty water bottles, a couple of receipts, and an old pen cap.
“Where are the weapons?!” I shouted this at Lauren expecting her to follow. “I need ammo!”
“Just kill it!!!!!”
“With what?!?! This pen cap? Should I have a little sword fight with his stinger!!?”
“I knew this was going to happen! I TOLD you not to hit it!!”
“Well you know what Lauren, this never would have happened if you wouldn’t try to  save money by rolling down the windows. Just use the AC!!! Why can’t we use the AC- no bee has ever made it through the-”
By this time the bee had made a line drive for the front seat. He was coming at me. In a last ditch effort, I grabbed the bottle again. Come on cheap plastic Kroger brand, do your job. I swung the bottle wildly, managing to create enough wind power to blow all the other receipts on the dash up into the air. One of the errant swings made contact, however, and the bee went down. I transitioned the bottle from a broad sword motion into a frenzied stabbing motion. Once I saw I piece of wing fall off, I slowly lifted the bottle back. He squirmed a few more times, and then lay motionless. Needless to say, the windows haven’t been rolled down since.
Another distinct challenge of independent, adult life is cooking. My sister has proven herself to be quite the gourmet, creating dishes like “Pan-seared Salmon with Pomegranate Reduction”. Meanwhile, in my dark corner of the kitchen, I struggle to properly operate a can opener.  My only attempt at salmon resulted in a description of “good….maybe a little dry.” This resulted in the overreaction of the century, which culminated in my vowing “never to cook again.” Who knew growing up could be so hard? My most recent endeavor in the kitchen was with chili and cornbread. I decided to make chili in the crockpot and cornbread from a box mix. On a side note, I realized that there is a very important distinction between cooking and assembling. All the things I cook, are really exercises in properly assembling the right ingredients. So if you want nachos or pizza, come over. The chili consisted in dumping a bunch of ingredients in the crockpot and turning it on. Done. I decided to stick with a box mix for the cornbread. Now all was going according to plan until the content of the crockpot started boiling over. I thought it was all just supposed to slowly simmer together to create an aromatic blend of ingredients. Instead, the contents were looking like boiling vomit lava. And the cheese I added was burning on the sides of the crockpot. I turned it down lower to stop the bubbling from pushing off the top of the pot in volcanic fashion. At this point, my kitchen senses ran out. I thought, Maybe I should taste it to make sure it isn’t burnt? Never mind that it was boiling literally one second ago. I should definitely taste it. Technically I ate the chili, although I didn’t taste any of it because my taste buds all burned off before I could register any flavor. The cornbread was slightly more of a success. My sister commented, “It doesn’t taste gluten-free. And by “gluten-free” I mean disgusting.”
“Oh good, I’m glad my allergy isn’t an inconvenience to you.” We both agreed that this meal was a marked improvement from previous attempts at domesticity. Maybe someday I’ll actually learn to cook something without burning it or injuring myself.
American actor Woody Harrelson once observed that “A grownup is a child with layers on.” This definition of how we transition into adulthood might be the most accurate I’ve heard. Each experience, each seemingly failed attempt, adds a layer of experience whereby we grow into the person we are meant to be. Most of the time I still feel like that little girl spinning closer and closer to the edge. I currently have 12 unheard voice mails and 9 text messages i haven’t responded to, my gas tank is always on empty, my room looks like a disaster-relief zone,  I routinely lose my keys, I have about eight containers of food in my pantry with less than one bite left, and I haven’t done homework in over a week. But at least I took a shower today, let’s celebrate progress. Sometimes I’m tempted to feel like I’m less of an adult because of these things, but maybe I’m missing the point? Maybe it’s not about having every detail under control all the time, or having a plan, or knowing how to respond to every curve ball life throws at you. Maybe it’s simply about letting life add another layer in the way it chooses, trusting that the ultimate plan will take its course over time. Red wood trees are known to have base circumferences of over 100 feet, and yet each ring added to the collective expanse of the tree is added one layer at a time. Over time, after many growing seasons, the tree reaches maturity. I’m learning that growing up isn’t always predictable, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes you get lucky and life’s lessons come in laughter. Sometimes they’re ushered in with tears. Sometimes you learn them with your best friends and sometimes you have to stand alone. Like the redwoods, however, each growing season serves to add another layer of experience that ultimately transforms to maturity. Maybe by the end of my life I’ll finally feel like an adult. And if nothing else, at least I’ll have a biological excuse for forgetting things!


  1. As always, I enjoyed your humor! I like the last part about not always having it together but just taking life in strides- it is so easy to assume that because we are the AGE of adults, that we have to somehow 'act' like them too. But what if adults don't really act much different than children, and the only difference is that they just have more responsibility? :)

  2. Really enjoyed that. "Maybe it’s simply about letting life add another layer in the way it chooses, trusting that the ultimate plan will take its course over time." I think you have something there : )
    Oh,... you sound pretty adult to me. Us older adults have similar experiences as the ones you write about.