Please welcome today’s guest writer, Julia Hawkins. Julia graduated from Calvin in 2013 with a BA in writing.  She and her husband bought a house on Grand Rapids’ West Side and live there with their dogs, Peter Barker and Odin.  For money, she answers phone calls at Kent District Library, which involves, among other things, placing items on hold and explaining why you cannot have Obama’s home phone number.  Her hobbies include watching 30 Rock for the twenty-seventh time, food, and judging people.

I have a lot of questions about growing up. Questions like: “Is there a way to not do it?” and, “Are there cheat codes?” or, “If I talk to that wizened old man over there, will he teach me valuable lessons that can guide me through the trials ahead?” The answers to these questions are, respectively, “No,” “That’s not a thing in real life,” and “That man is homeless and singing ‘My Sharona’ to a tree.” The only thing I could really figure out is that growing up is hard. A lot of things have happened in my life recently: my husband and I went through the horror that is the loan application and home-buying process, moved into our new house, I started a job, I quit that job three months later, and I am currently preparing to pile yet more on to my sizable chunk of student debt by entering grad school. These are all good things—or, at the very least, they’re not bad—but together they combine into a huge, tangled yarn ball of stress and worry. We have a mortgage, we pay all of the bills, including water (which is not, apparently, free with purchase of one adult membership card), and after spending most of our savings on the house, we need to get creative with the checking accounts and credit cards when bills come due. Writing a check to yourself sounds fun until you have to do it so as not to overdraw your bank account.

When things break, we call the landlord. Oh hang on, no we don’t, because we’re the landlords now. I literally wrapped my arms around my fridge the other week after it made a sound I would describe as a “death rattle” and begged it to hold on until I could either save up enough money to fix it, or find a full-time job. It has not crapped out on me yet, so I’m going to assume pleading with inanimate objects works. There is always something that needs to be done now, or should be done, but it’s going to stay that way for a while as we pretend to ignore the fact that we may be exacerbating potential structural damage to our home. Also, I now use phrases like ‘exacerbating potential structural damage,’ so that’s fun.

This may sound like a litany of complaints, and that’s because it is. But it is also something I hope will resonate with other people in the process of growing up (SPOILER ALERT: no one is ever done growing up)[1]. I still lie in my bed some days and sniffle as I remember how easy it was to be eight years old and oblivious to the fact that I would ever be the person responsible for keeping the lights on. I still miss the time when my biggest fears were based on Roald Dahl books and not deeply-rooted existential anxiety; when I waited for my letter from Hogwarts and knew that if I just believed hard enough, I could soar up into the air, swooping low to graze the grass, and land gently at the top of the tallest tree. But with all of these new and vastly unimproved fears and worries comes a wisdom I never expected to gain. As a teenager, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. In college, I realized I knew almost nothing about almost nothing. Now, three years into my first job to require a Bachelor’s degree, I have learned some things. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • We are all works in progress, and all of us are just trying to do the best we can with what we got.
  • Every choice you make is a risk, but you can’t let that stop you from trying.
  • It’s okay to be sad and tired and broken sometimes. Feel your emotions, good or bad.
  • While cynicism comforts like a warm, angry blanket, seeing the good things in life and being grateful is, more often than not, a much better way to go. I’ve decided I’d rather be a stupid happy idiot than a miserable malcontent.
  • That being said, laugh at the horrible things in life. I have had to clean up human feces at work before. It was used as finger paint on the bathroom stalls. I call it ‘graffeces.’

I’m still learning, and growing—I may not even agree with myself in a few years. And yet that’s the one thing about growing up that never changes: you’re not actually in charge. This sounds terrible, but realizing that you can’t do anything except the best you can is kind of freeing. And, when things get tough, there’s always alcohol.

[1] Source: My grandfather is ninety-one and says so. He also says that ramen is the most nourishing food and refuses to call any of the family pets by the names they were given—my parents’ cat, Fergus, is known as Trufant and nothing else. My dogs are both called Melvin. Actually, I think he might not want to ever be done growing up.

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