Grownups always seemed so weird to me. Fluffy or thin hair, paunches, cigarette-and-coffee breath. They had all the power. They intrigued and perplexed me all too early. I questioned and observed them, when I was still supposed to respect them unquestioningly .
If they weren’t so flawed, I wouldn’t have noted their existence, at such an early age. I would have simply evolved into one, maybe even tried to be like one. But I couldn’t just do that. I’d gotten frozen into wondering what one was and remained the perpetual observer.
I just realized, the other day, that I am probably older, now, than half of the world’s population. The other half of the population is probably younger than I. What a scary concept! That now I have to entrust the young with my future, i must depend on them for my world. (Can they handle global warming?) What’s worse?
One thing I noticed, when I was little, is that some grownups were fakers. They really didn’t know. They really weren’t wise, I could tell.
We’re all born into this gig and many of us don’t know how to perform once it’s time for us to perform. It was so obvious, to me, the performances.
My mother fed, clothed (reasonably), and sheltered us. She didn’t help with life. I sensed she was just as confused. But she wasn’t a charlatan; she was a human caught in the crossfire of life (single mother of 8 whose husband left, long before the divorce) and doing her damnest by us.
So what makes a grownup?
I think I saw one. I’d met him in his early 20s. Still a Stanford undergraduate when I met him then, so I knew him 20 years ago. All the sudden, I saw him two decades later. We met with a group of friends for dinner.
So when you don’t see someone for two decades, you notice some things. things that have changed. What I remembered is that he had darting eyes. Questing eyes. Lights shooting out of his eyes. curious eyes. Nothing was sure. he had so much to prove, but only after exploration, and he’d get back to you on that, because he was confident, sure, but truly he didn’t know.
When I met him, two decades later, I couldn’t stop looking at his eyes.
The light was steady, calm. Calm. He wasn’t seeking anymore, and he didn’t need anyone to acknowledge or confirm his quest for existence, his quest, at least, for competence. He had arrived at some place in life.
But as the conversation grew, and facts–long, old dried-out facts, but with modern implications arose, i swear I saw a sparkle. An old interest. A raison d etre if only for the dinner conversation. Because that is the old useless spark that strikes, unawares, when you least need it but enlivens your soul. A dim light when all is given up, grown up. But when I peered into his eyes, engaged, I noted only a steady, proving calm: an insistence that ‘I am grown up.’
Did he know that? was that his aim, too?