In 2009, I attempted to put my creative juices to the test, and entered the Real Simple essay contest. I typically will NEVER write this much on a blog, and for you dear readers, whoever you are, I appreciate that you would even take the time to look at the page... but please don't feel obligated to read. Needless to say, I didn't win (it took me over a month past the big winning day to realize that I had to look up who the lucky person was.. ). I did, however, manage to make my way into the October 2009 issue, with my excerpt about "what home means to me." My winning prize was a book on cleaning (that ironically is collecting dust) and a few extra copies of the issue that have been strategically placed all over my house. And in case you'd like to take a peek... here are both entries. Hopefully you can relate.
Essay Question: When Did You First Realize You Were a Grown-Up?
I think my true, unexpected moment of adulthood initiated one morning as I casually waited in line to purchase my admission ticket to the zoo. In reading this, you could assume I’m referring back to my younger days…assume away. This, in fact, was but a mere few months ago when I approached the counter, only to receive that familiar misconception from the ticket agent that asked, “ Where are your children?” because I couldn’t have possibly been there on my own. That’d be weird.
Well there I stood, an educated, now-working-in-the-real-world 23 year old, who still favored fruit snacks and shaped macaroni and cheese over real cuisine any day, with no children, no kiddies I happened to be babysitting, no nieces or nephews. It was just my sister and I, ready to conquer the worlds’ prized and protected wildlife like it was our first time. It was at that anything-but-euphoric moment that I realized an unwanted reality and it left me dumbfounded. I’m a grown-up.
It was time to kiss goodbye the yester years. There were no more kids’ deals in store for me. Ever. [Though that had actually come into affect long ago, it never affected me quite like it did then.] No more freebies at garage sales and flee markets because they suckered into my adorable smile. I could no longer get away with strange outfits, curious behavior, random outbursts, and any other plethora of oddities you can pull off because you’re a child and, “they’ll just think that it’s cute.” Not to mention, I can’t even take advantage of my college student discount anymore, and no longer need to be carded for drinks. Sure, I don’t drink anyhow, but it’s the fact of the matter.
So, what’s left I ask you? Adult sizes, adult prices, adult comprehension and perspectives on life that I’m not sure I ever really wanted. I miss my child-like faith, trust, and metabolism. In fact, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been robbed. No one asked me if I was ready to be thrust into a world infested with budgets and time limits. I want to relinquish the days of old. The days when you went to school with no worries, came home with no worries, ate an afterschool snack and played outside until either your body hurt, or you were summoned in for supper- whichever came first. My parents were great about making finances a nonexistent burden to my sister and I, leaving my primary concerns to Barbies, Care Bears, and any other toys you could conjure up.
What happened to the days when you were permitted to eat string cheese and Lunchables for dinner and no one took you for a lousy cook? You could stain your clothes, dirty multiple dishes [someone took care of it], and eat those candy bars you hounded for in the grocery line, because at the time, the sugar-to-your-thighs didn’t matter to you. No one questioned you when you walked around with a Kool-aid mustache, or if you wanted to make soup out of the grass and dirt chunks from the backyard. You couldn’t go to sleep at night because you were just lying there in anticipation and excitement of what tomorrow would bring. Now, I get to sleep by simply wearing myself out from mentally organizing tomorrow’s to-do list. Anymore it seems you have to actually work at optimism and a good, honest character and attitude; as a child, it seemed to come with the package. And did anyone ever stop to think what the lack of summer vacation could do to a person emotionally and physically? Since when have I upgraded from flower girl status to bridesmaid?
After sitting on the fence between happily reminiscing and a panic attack, it was then, as I reluctantly dwelled on those thoughts and frustrations, I remembered some of the good that the grown-up world had brought me. Take, for instance, that liberating sensation you felt when you drove by yourself for the first time, license in hand; or finally being able to enter a PG-13, and eventually R-rated movie without an adult, because you were one. I could still remember the smell of my first apartment in college, and the sweet satisfaction that came from my roommates and I decorating it on our own and how we wanted it to be. Then of course, there was actually learning how to [poorly] cook and bake and not just knowing the art of eating. I could come and go as I pleased and even vote/remotely understand what was happening with our country’s political agenda. That was huge; the freedoms to learning and decision-making had become endless!
Yes, this epiphany made me realize that maybe becoming, or being an adult for that matter, wasn’t as bad as I presumed. Rather, it was entering into a world of discovery of who I was, and who I wanted to become. It was crossing over that finish line of the preparation years of adolescence, into a place where, for the first time, I could make realities out of those goals and dreams I’ve sought after my entire life. Now, being an “adult,” I could get married if I so desired [though meeting someone first usually tends to help], get a puppy if I pleased, chop my hair without permission, clean or not clean, shower or not shower, move overseas unexpectedly, or blow some of my savings on that ridiculously cute, must-have, don’t-need, pair of Steve Maddens. [In truth, however, I’m much more frugal and fastidious than I sound, and those decisions would take some serious mulling over]. The point yet remains; adulthood is the key to those allowances.
Thus, with a sigh of relief, I have embraced my newfound glory, and wouldn’t you know it, even having some trouble sleeping [some nights, not all] because of the excited anticipation I hold for what lies ahead. Will I meet him there? Can I actually afford that vacation? Will they hire me? Will it be a boy or a girl? Adulthood is nothing more than embracing life with a newer outlook than you did before you knew better.
So, once jolted back to reality, I saw that the ticket agent stood there impatiently holding out her hand and I proudly slid her my rapid rewards credit card, picked up the tab for two, and rested assured that while maturity must come with age and experience, I was still a work in progress. And though I continue to take this grown-up insight with me wherever I go, I’ll always be that lively blond eating Flintstones’ popsicles, and sneaking in Gumby bendables from the Cracker Barrel gift shop, along with my adult-like meal and the adult-like prices.
Note: I did try for a kids’ combo. Apparently, you have to be younger than 12 like the menu states.