Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Life Lessons

First of all let me lead by saying that I love the REAL SIMPLE magazine. It is my favorite! I was gifted it for Christmas one year from a friend and there was no turning back--- hooked for life. And NO this blog is NOT sponsered by Real Simple but you can bet your buns I would endorse it in a heartbeat if asked! It is a little sad at how excited I become when I drive up and see it sticking out of the mailbox--- and yes, I might make Gabriel and Molly clap along in the car too. Shameful and oober nerdy. I know.

I have never entered a true essay contest before this July. With that said, I was really intrigued by the topic for Real Simple's Life Lesson's essay contest which was... "When did you first realize you were a grown up". I love thinking about questions like the shower, in the car, washing the dishes... you know, all the random moments when your mind wanders. I definitely did not win. But it was fun and I will most likely do it again (well, me and probably the other 6800 entries...) One of the prizes is to lunch with the editors of Real Simple. Um, yes please!

Here is my entry... I would love to hear your response to this question too... it really is a great one. Oh, and if you have time to check out the winner you should--- such a great essay!

To Be a Grown-Up…

As a child, I always believed that being a grown-up meant you were taller, had reached the culmination of your endeavors and, perhaps, owned the best means of travel available. Through time, my perception of adulthood gradually transformed to the belief that some entrance into adulthood took place when you had reached an important milestone or endured intense tribulation with grace. Adulthood was the equivalent of achieving some fraction of greatness. You can imagine my shock to discover that my arrival at adulthood took place in aisle 6 of a random grocery store making the simple decision to purchase my one new luxury- a bottle of conditioner.
Now don’t get me wrong, conditioner is wonderful and not at all disappointing - just not quite the colossal landmark my former self had envisioned. Donald Miller once wrote, “It always is the simple things that change our lives.” Well Mr. Miller, I couldn’t agree more.
As a second child of five, I grew up in a neighborhood that was blended with individuals of all economic situations, but primarily families bracketed somewhere in the zone of middle class. We had limited struggles, abundance of play and a supported development of faith, education and friendships. We were given the resources to become dreamers and yet were instilled with the values of accountability, honesty and effort. My childhood was a healthy blend of comfort and stability. Looking back, I had always felt that we were provided for beyond the basics and yet never indulged in extravagant living. My parents inserted bits of their childhood to form the framework of how we were raised. Don’t we all do this to some degree or another? My mother never used conditioner growing up and it wasn’t necessary to the care of my stick-straight hair, so consequently, it was never purchased.
When I first moved out on my own it was an adjustment. For years I existed in a pack of siblings and hadn’t the slightest clue how quiet an empty room could seem. In many ways as the loneliness crept in I found myself rushing to fill it with the familiarity of home. My childhood was a balance wonderful smells, routines and noise. While my roommate and I discovered our own balance of noise, I made an attempt to feel comfortable by surrounding myself with a few staples and familiar routines from home. I essentially replicated the items and routines from my previous environment so that I could quickly adapt to my new surroundings. Slowly, the changes crept in. The name-brand foods were quickly replaced with generic (gotta love that college budget), the dishes were no longer washed before bed and I think I lost my ironing board halfway through freshman year. I had new routines. And while all of this decadent change was occurring I was living in the land of oblivion. Sometimes it takes time to recognize gradual change. For me, it took aisle 6.
Shopping one day, I made a quick trip to the store to purchase shampoo. You can only add a little bit of water to stretch it for so long. The time had come to just get a new bottle. Once in the store, I grabbed the shampoo but loved the smell so much I opened the conditioner next to it. It smelled just as wonderful as the shampoo, perhaps even a little better. I was suddenly consumed with the desire to have both. The conditioner wasn’t a necessity and potentially more an impulse buy than anything else but it turned out to define far more than I could have ever imagined possible. First of all, who knew that conditioner makes your hair feel like silk? Exquisite, I tell you. But more importantly, buying that conditioner was the first time I recognized my ever-changing home environment. I was bringing something new to my daily routines. It was a moment where I made a conscious decision to purchase something that just made me feel nice. I didn’t have a lot of money or even a huge mess of tangles to warrant the purchase. It was just a small luxury that made me feel pretty. It was simple and effortless but seemed to bring so much joy. Then I realized it. Perhaps being an adult means that you are at a point in your life when you can take the foundation of home and re-cultivate it into your own world. To become a grown-up means that you take the time to seek out little moments of joy in your day (even if it is just washing your hair with pretty smells). Maybe adulthood is more about the freedom to choose what is best for your well-being and finding new discoveries within yourself. Perhaps being a grown up is allowing yourself to be ever-evolving.
I later told my mother all about conditioner and how wonderful it is. She now uses it on a daily basis which makes me very happy. Who knows, perhaps reaching adulthood increases one’s credibility a little too?


Melissa Figueroa said...

You're writing makes my heart smile:)

Mary Anne said...

Oh Julie, your essay makes me smile! I love it! I just "discovered" Real Simple a few weeks ago and was very impressed - I can't wait to read it again.

And on a side note - I love reading about the events at our old elementary stomping grounds!