I used to tell people that the first time I felt like an adult was when my divorce was finalized.
Five years of marriage, a six year relationship, all boiled down to nine numbers stamped in red on a sheet of paper.
He and I sat there together in the courtroom, hearing other cases while we waited our turn. We both knew that our situation wasn't "bad" like some of the other ones we listened to that day.
While we had said and done hurtful things to each other, those things weren't out of scope of a typical breakup, and in some ways, even though we were still raw and broken, we knew we'd be okay.
And from there, from that first taste of adulthood, I proceeded to make terribly un-adult decisions.
In reality, though I had just gone through a very adult situation, I was still very much a child. I had to learn what it was to live on my own, that yes, I could make my own choices, but maybe I should choose to NOT go to work still drunk from three days in a row at my favorite dive bar.
My brother wrote me the other day. The subject line read, "You left..."
He told me how he remembered when I announced to my family I would be moving to Florida for my first year of college. We were at dinner, and he looked me in the eye and said, "I'm glad you're leaving."
"It's strange the way we try to protect ourselves from hurt," he wrote.
I think, oddly, he was trying to apologize for something that happened almost fifteen years ago.
I didn't remember the incident until after he reminded me of it. And I smiled sadly, thinking, "We were just kids. You hurt me more later when we were adults."
It's funny what we remember, and what we don't.
The thing is, being a kid is hard...but being a good adult is harder.
We remember all our shortcomings from childhood, and in some ways, still feel like that younger person. I still feel like that kid nobody gets.
The key to being an adult, I think, is to be courageous, get past those insecurities or faults that crippled us as children, ask for forgiveness when necessary, and move on.
Another huge part of being an adult is seeing the easy routes in life and being courageous enough to take the hard ones instead...even if the hard route may result in a mistake.
All in all, being a good adult takes a lot more courage than I ever imagined.
It takes courage to be emotionally flayed and to say, "I will keep myself open to doing this again."
It takes courage to be hurt and to forgive.
It takes courage to forgive and still say, "I love you, but cannot have you in my life."
It takes courage to love yourself and others when you and they are broken.
It takes courage to find the truths and un-truths in other people's criticism of you...even if that criticism is delivered in the form of an insult, a breakup, or an off-handed comment.
It takes courage to say, "The way I'm self-medicating is unhealthy, and I need help."
It takes courage to sit across from someone who makes your heart go pitter-pat and think, "Whatever happens, I'm okay."
It takes courage to say, "I'm not done. I still have more to learn, room to grow."
It had been eight years since we saw each other last. Our last conversation happened when we were still 20-something children deep in the throes of an oppressively conservative Christianity.
Since then, I've been married, divorced and single, and she proactively faced her fears and challenged the notion that, "I'm not the kind of person who does _____."
She's a budding world traveler...I soul puke on the Internet. We both have our things we've accomplished as adults.
We didn't come by our things traditionally, or when people say we should have. But we're here, and we're trying.
"You seem happy," she said.
"I am," I said, with a smile. "You do, too."