The first time I felt “grown up” was when I was ten years old, I thought I was the most mature person ever. I saved my sister from choking on a hard candy once, and my Mama paid me in green jelly beans for babysitting. They were my favorite candy ever. I had my first valentine, I went to my first summer camp, and I traveled Europe with my family. Perhaps being the oldest child made me grow up faster, but I think I was a rather mature 10 year old. Around this age I started baby sitting for other families as well.
When I was 13 years old, I thought that I couldn’t possibly grow up any more. I had my first boyfriend, I was in a freshman in high school, and I was learning to drive. When my Mama had surgery on her knee I was there to take care of all of my siblings while my Dad was away for several months due to work.
When I was 15 I had my heart broken. Ripped apart by an inconsiderate guy who had been cheating on me for over a year. I was living in Germany, and had not made any friends there because I had such an awesome boyfriend back in the states. I was alone. The pain was something I would never wish on any one, and it was the start of what would eventually spiral down into severe depression. I didn’t know how to cope. I didn’t have any self worth outside of this boy, and I was losing myself.
But I was still grown up. I dealt with my pain on my own. I got good grades in school. I reached out and made some friends. I was involved in FBLA and Key club. I was in the Concert Choir, and the Concert Band and the Show Choir. I was volunteering at the elementary and middle school. I threw myself into every activity that I could to try and give myself an identity. I helped out at home when my Mama got a part time job. I made dinner often, and attended every church activity imaginable. But I cried myself to sleep every night. I let myself cry.
When I was 17 my ex-boyfriend’s family flew to Germany to visit. He was still dating the girl he had left me for.
He played with my heart. Made me feel loved. We would make out in the basement and hold hands on tours through castles. I felt worse. Now I was the other girl.
It was a cruel thing to do.
Despite my best efforts to engage, this simple week long visit sent me into a tizzy. I reverted. I pulled away…. I…. I was a terrible moody teenager. But I was so convinced that I was an adult. Look at all of the pain I had experienced! Look at every thing I did!!! I had traveled to France and the Netherlands with out my parents. Look at every thing I hadn’t done! I had never touched an alcoholic drink or a cigarette or drugs. I had never skipped class. I had never rebelled. I was mature.
I could see the consequences of making stupid decisions about drugs or alcohol. But I was young, because I couldn’t see what I was worth.
When I was 18 years old I went to college. I cried when my parents left me in Tennessee. I had never pumped gas, and had to ask a friend to show me how to do it two days later. I called my Mama all the time, despite having been in such a hurry to get out of their house. I went to my classes, but I slept too much. My first real symptom of depression. On the weekends I would sleep for 20 hours, get up, eat something, and then go back to bed.
Having grown up a rather sheltered life, my world was turned upside when a friend “came out” to me in our second semester. I reacted poorly – all I could do was cry. I ruined our friendship – something I will always regret.
But that made me grow up a little bit more. More than I thought I ever could. It made me realize something, something I hope to teach to my children.
Good people come in all forms.
My sheltered life had lead me to believe that any one who didn’t live by my religious standards was a bad person. I would even say that I was judgmental towards them. But the experience with my friend made me realize how very wrong I was. Sadly I learned this lesson too late.
That was the end of my growing up. Sure, I am still growing and learning and improving – but at that point I realized the worth of a person. I realized my own worth, and most importantly I learned, for real and not just conceptually, that the world is full of good people, and it is never my job to judge them. Never.
I’m only 23, but the things I know are this:
*Every one deserves respect, regardless of whether or not they fit into our predefined box of what is “good”.
*Perspective if everything. When you take a moment to change the way you are looking at something, or some one, that thing you’re looking at will change.
*Be open-minded. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with, or believe everything that anyone ever tells you. It means that you have the right to believe what ever you want to, so afford other people that same right – with out judging them for their choices.
While all of these things are important and they have changed the way I view the world, above all I have learned to forget myself. For some one so bent on finding out “who I am” this may seem strange, but I feel like when I am focused on helping others and loving the people around me, I become the person I want to be.
Have you had a “defining moment” in your life that made you grow up, or that changed the way you viewed the world?