Several recent occurrences have made me consider what being an adult means. Planting our Pennies discussed financial adulthood, and some administrators at my school have been talking about responsibility and adulthood with students. Further, I'm easing into my 30s by actually turning 31 this month, which means I can no longer think of myself as just out of my 20s. In some ways, especially financially, I have felt adult for quite a long time. In other ways, I feel like I have so much growing up to do.
I have grown substantially in the past few years, and I want to share some of the attributes that make me feel adult. Sharing this does not mean I have mastered these; I am still a work in progress. But these are some hallmarks of adulthood that I am starting to feel, and they seem significant and weighty enough to share.
1. It is okay to let someone else's light shine.
For a long time, I wanted to be the center of attention. I like feeling special. I suspect that most of us do. I want people to notice me, and I want folks to pay attention to what I say. But there is a special joy in helping facilitate (or even just allow) someone else to take the spotlight. When I encourage someone else to share their good idea, I feel good. Stepping back to let someone else lead is fine. Heck, often, I learn from that person as well. I didn't take the time to do that when I was younger, and I'm glad I am taking that time now.
2. Grace is beyond kindness.
True grace is smiling and supporting someone even through your own emotions. When we lose a volleyball game, I remind the ladies that it is important to congratulate the other team sincerely. A student didn't get a part in the school play and was upset; we talked about tapping into grace to help her congratulate her friends and support them. Grace is taking critique, considering it, and being fair to the person even if you might not completely agree.
I am struggling to articulate grace here. It's a tricky one. I know how it feels to be graceful, and I like that feeling. It is akin to my first lesson; grace lets me let someone else's light shine even when I wanted my light to be the brightest.
3. I have to take care of myself to take care of others.
Goodness, this is difficult. I am a pro at feeling guilt for taking time for myself to legitimately be. I want to be there for my students 24/7. At a boarding school, this is the fast track to burnout. Sometimes, I don't answer the door that leads into the dorm hallway. Emails do not need to be responded to when I have more pressing work. Balance is essential.
Again, this is hard to articulate. My professional worrying has me concerned that I sound selfish here. But this isn't actually about being selfish. This lesson is about realizing that I have more of myself to give, on a regular basis, when I don't give every bit of myself away all of the time.
Growing up is much more of a process than I thought it would be when I was a youth. I try hard to be genuine, authentic, and giving. In the face of life and the many, many decisions I must make each day, this can sometimes be a struggle. But it is a struggle worth having. Here's to living, loving, learning, and growing.