Susan Lucci, Stevie Nicks, And The Sum Total of My Wisdom On Growing Up

2010 March 9

A few months ago, a younger friend asked me what growing up was like, what it felt like to be an adult. I can’t remember exactly what I said, but no doubt it was something facetious and possibly flippant (and most likely I was hanging out in my pajamas when I read her email – that seems like a safe bet). I had actually forgotten about this conversation until I was out for a walk last night and Landslide came on my mp3 player. Whenever I hear it, I always think about the fact that Stevie Nicks was a mere 26 when she wrote it and the precociousness of singing about handling the seasons of your life and children getting older, etc. at that age. But man, she really nailed it, didn’t she? The song has aged beautifully (notwithstanding the fact that it’s butchered at least twice a season by blankly smiling 18 year-old American Idol contestants) and to hear current-day Stevie Nicks sing it in her worn-through voice just drives that poignant point home.

Image by ahisgett

All of this being a long way of justifying the fact that I’m going to be equally precocious and finally get around to answering the aforementioned question, potential eye-rolling from my future fifty-year old self be damned. Couldn’t be any more cringe-worthy than having sung back up for Taylor Swift at the Grammys (Sorry, Stevie, but that was beneath you).

Susan Lucci, Stevie Nicks, And The Sum Total Of My Wisdom On Growing Up

Because there isn’t a destination, it really is all about the journey

My mother has been a fan of All My Children since before I was  born and I grew up with the characters. Now,  I only ever see an episode of it when I’m home visiting once or twice a year. I remember remarking to her at Christmas that I couldn’t believe that character A was now in love with character B, his former mother-in-law. But to my mother, who watches the show daily, this didn’t seem like a leap at all. She was privy to all of the months of plot progress and groundwork that led up to this and so it made a certain sense to her as a viewer (actually, the mother-in-law in question was THE Erica Kane, so that should have been all of the explanation I needed). Growing up  happens in the same way. You don’t suddenly wake up one day (if ever) with a burning, out-of-the-blue desire to get your cholesterol tested and to outfit yourself in pleated Dockers. Growing up is an incremental (and in some cases, glacial) process of adjusting, shifting, reorienting and tweaking that ultimately gets you to a place where you’re okay with you. You can take stock and realize that, yeah, this will do. You eventually stop caring to ask whether you’re there yet (how about now?) and realize where you are and who you are is good enough or has all of the component parts to be good enough if you care to organize them in the best order and/or apply a little elbow grease. And you eventually reach the point where you feel ready to take all of the energy that you’ve spent scouring every dark recess of your psyche (buffing it to a shine? looking for cracks? trying to find your lost contact?) and channel it outward. You start to wonder just what would happen if you took yourself and the way you are as a given and started applying all of that formerly self-analytical power to something other than your own navel.

You realize that being universally liked ain’t gonna happen (unless you’re Betty White)

You stop clenching your fists, holding your breath and approaching every interaction with that goal. You put your best self forward (or sometimes you just settle for not being a total misanthrope) and let the chips fall where they may. Being understood becomes more important. Do you get where I’m coming from? Grasp my point? Can I do the same for you? Okay, then we’re in business. Anything else is a bonus that we come to appreciate the rarity of only when we realize how truly serendipitous finding a simpatico someone is.

You start working with what you’ve got vs. trying to figure out how to upgrade or replace it

You can strip things down to the studs, but the foundation isn’t going anywhere. You can only ever be a healthier, saner, kinder, stronger version of yourself, that same self you were born with x number of years ago. You can’t make yourself taller and smarter and able to run an Olympic 100 M in 9.78 seconds. You can spend a lot of time wishing for these things, but they aren’t going to happen. Your lot is your lot and pining for someone else’s is, to my mind, a criminal waste of precious time (that only gets more precious as you age – Think about being 40 or 50 and still looking over your shoulder or worse, over someone else’s). As you grow up, you’re (ideally)  increasingly able to frankly and compassionately assess the hand you were dealt and figure out how best to play it.  Beats pouting because you’d rather be at the roulette table instead.

You figure out that ruining your life is hard work

You can make poor choices, choices that hurt you, that devastate others, that lead to consequences and repercussions, but short of one that results in your immediate death (don’t touch downed power lines, y’all!), there is always something, no matter how small or insignificant by others’ standards, to salvage from the ashes. Maybe it’s as intangible as your personal dignity, your ability to sleep at night, but until you ultimately draw your last breath, you have the opportunity to save something. Destroying any and all possibilities for redemption is a hard slog, you have to commit to it 100%, you have to devote your all over the next 50 or 60 years to squashing every possibility for betterment or peace of mind. That takes dedication. Isn’t it easier to simply acknowledge that one poor choice or even a string of them doesn’t define you entirely? As you age, you come to realize that very few decisions are black and white/all or nothing calls, no matter how monumental they might feel in the moment.

You accept that life isn’t a pissing contest

Easier said than done, yes? It’s not about reaching some untouchably Zen place where you never feel the stab of envy or jealousy again. It’s about realizing that happiness isn’t rationed. Someone else’s good fortune doesn’t mean that there’s less out there for you. It’s about realizing that what you truly long for is mostly likely your own  idiosyncratic version of happily ever after, not simply the ability to slip into someone else’s shoes and appropriate theirs. And it’s about realizing the futility of wanting something simply because you believe you’re supposed to want it or you’ve been conditioned to want it. If I had to sum up my overarching goal with Gen Meh, it would be to encourage people (my peers) to do the (sometimes unpleasant) work of stripping away all the woulds/coulds/shoulds to discover their personal convictions and then to have the courage to defend and pursue these convictions unreservedly. That’s why I’m here, folks. Well, that and landing a sweet book deal, obviously.

Don’t ever get involved with Lindsay Buckingham or Adam Chandler

Speaks for itself.

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I Don't Wanna And You Can't Make Me
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