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Who do I want to be when I grow up?

I still want to be a novelist when I grow up. I want to write about people’s lives and about all of the things we don’t usually tell each other about ourselves. I want to connect. My favorite thing about social work is when people stop feeling judged and defensive, and can just tell their own stories, with all of the unique zigs and zags their lives have taken. I’m often surprised when people don’t realize how interesting their own stories are, and how unique their choices and circumstances have been. It’s like reading a really long, really good, book.

I still wish I could be a Mom and a wife, but that’s starting to seem unlikely. The thing is, both social work and writing put me in an observer role, and no matter how much I like my work, I still need some way to feel like my life, in itself, is important. I need the chance to be the star of my own story. Dogs definitely help with that. They seem to make everyone feel more central and more important. I’ve considered having a side practice focused on dogs, where we’d sit on the floor and I would give ear scratches and commiserate with the long journey each dog has had to go through. I would love that.

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“I have a lot to say!”

I’m still unclear about what actually constitutes growing up. I used to think that, at some point, I’d feel more secure and confident in myself, and my choices, and I’d finally feel like I have a clue how to live my life. This has clearly not happened to me yet, and it doesn’t really describe most of the people I know who would generally be considered grownups.

The more external signs of being grown up, to me, were always about career, and home ownership and parenthood. But as time goes by I’ve had to question those markers, because a lot of people do not own homes, or have children, and still seem like grownups to me. And, even though it’s less popular, or possible nowadays, a lot of women still seem very much like grownups to me, even if they never had a professional career outside of the home. It’s something in the way they take responsibility for themselves, or have authority over others, or seem to accept themselves for who they are at a basic level.

In my mind, being sick, with whatever it is I have, prevents me from being a grown up. Grownups are people who can do things all day and take on big responsibilities, not people who need three hour naps and wrap themselves in icy hot strips on a regular basis. Grownups know how to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of, and don’t have an excessive amount of anxiety wafting around them at all times.

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“You can fix it, Mommy.”

Cricket has no aspirations towards being a grown up. She’s focused on her daily needs for food, exercise, and love. She insists that being a grown up is overrated if it means spending too much time away from her.

It’s hard to argue with Cricket.

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“Why would you even try?”

 

 

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

100 responses »

  1. Cricket–I think you understand the meaning of life. Who am I to argue with you?!

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  2. “The more external signs of being grown up, to me, were always about career, and home ownership and parenthood. But as time goes by I’ve had to question those markers, because a lot of people do not own homes, or have children, and still seem like grownups to me.” Great words. I sympathize. I don’t know for sure what I will do career-wise. Before science, now teaching. In such uncertain times, and with climate change looming, it’s hard to plan for the future. Pet-assisted therapy sounds like a great career future, combining your training and working with animals!

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  3. Love this post. Beautiful. Don’t grow up. Maintain the childlike wonder that allows you to view the world with wonder. It shows in your words. Thanks for sharing your world with us.

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  4. I think Cricket might have something there…

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  5. I also love this post…

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  6. Hmmm. I have a different idea about what you said – I think many grownups have to take naps and wrap themselves in icy hot, I think there are many grownups that have illnesses that take a lot more than naps and icy hot to get through a day . . . but they take on responsibilities. Not “big” responsibilities, just responsibilities. “BIG” is relative. For someone that has a debilitating disease, “big” can look very different than for someone that has no physical (or mental) restrictions and bound-less energy. Grownup is a relative term, too. To everyone it is different. Perhaps being “grown up” is just a matter of believing one is grownup. I don’t know.

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    • I like your way of seeing things!

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    • I’m with terrepruitt…I think being “grown up” is knowing when to take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your responsibilities and others when needed. Work and School are “Big” responsibilities. I think the toughest thing I had to learn to become an adult was that groceries were a budget item. I don’t know how others did it, but I learned groceries couldn’t be an afterthought that contributed to credit issues. Take care, breathe. We are always growing. Enjoy the process of becoming and learning of stories you can write down and pass on. And consider adding _Twenty Wishes_ by Debbie Macomber and _I Sit Listening To The Wind_ by Judith Duerk to your reading list…

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  7. Just one bird’s opinion. Bring Butterfly back. I know it’s impossible but it would work.

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  8. I took a giant nap today! Naps are great for everyone. I have heard many interesting life stories in my time as a nurse..we are lucky to hear these stories. I love the part about “all of the things we don’t usually tell each other about ourselves” . Wonderful well written post!

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  9. It seems you may have an idealized idea of what “grown up” is. To me, it is taking responsibility for oneself and, when needed, for others. It often looks different on different people. Just be sure to stay young at heart. 🙂

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  10. dear Rachel, the question you’ve raised on this post is an age old question, to which there are many answers, but my favorite comes in a classic tale told to children. It is called, the ugly duckling. The ugly duckling finds herself different and considered ugly by all the other ducklings, until she grows up and realizes she is not a duck at all but a swan. Some of us come into the world more or less like everyone else. They too might have to struggle to find their place in the flock, but it’s easier because the conventions dictate how they’re supposed to fit in, and after a few challenges, they’re absorbed by their fellows. For those who are really different (like the ugly duckling), they have to come to terms with whom they really are. If Cricket though she was a beautiful young woman, she would have a lot of frustration trying to put on a dress and finding her way to social workers school. But she has no problem. Because of the wonderful way you’ve raised her, she knows she’s mom’s beloved Cricket, and all is well in the world. Once you find your way to realizing your talents and happy interchange with those around you, you’ll know just exactly what sort of duck you are. with a beg hug from gramps.

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  11. You’re still very young. I didn’t think I’d ever marry – and then, when I’d given up all hope of that, I met my Bear. I didn’t think I’d ever have a career I loved, but I do – it happened later in my life than most people, but it’s still mine, and I still love it. Give yourself time, have patience, don’t give up hope – things happen when they should. Also, I adore Cricket.

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  12. Like suziecreamcheese, I thought I’d never marry, but I did. I thought I’d never learn to drive, but I did. I wondered if I’d ever finish writing one book, but I’ve written many. There’s plenty of time to grow up, but still, why not cherish what you have now!

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  13. This is a great post with some great replies. Love it. I too think all ordinary people are extraordinary and everyone has a story to tell. I can’t wait until you write some of these – you have a way with words.

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  14. It is like you wrote my thoughts….

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  15. I had dinner with two very old friends a few years ago, and even though we are all career women with homes and families, none of us felt “grown up.” We still just felt like us. Just us who go to work and pay bills.
    I think when we’re kids we look to our parents and think that growing up means you will feel different, become different, but in the end you’re still just you with more experiences and more years behind you.
    I’ve known many grown ups with debilitating diseases, some who needed people to help take care of them, but it didn’t take away from who they were or make them any less adult.
    If you think it means to take on big responsibilities, then you fit right in. You care for Cricket. Someone depends on you and looks to you for what she needs. Sounds like you’re a grown up by your own definition already ❤

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  16. I used to think being grown up was about taking responsibility. Doing what you had to do, when you didn’t want to do it. Inside, I was still fighting that, but accepting I had to do it, not least because everyone around me expected me to. So I did, from the age of 18, until I was 60. Then I just stopped doing it, and went back to not being very grown up, approaching old age with the mind of a child.
    I like to think of it as the circle of life.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  17. I think being grownup is knowing you are not

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  18. Cricket just wants to enjoy her life to the fullest!

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  19. People used to ask those questions, “What do you wanna be when you grow up?” Then we answer, “to be a…..” but we don’t know what the future brings and what shapes our future until we really grow older.

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  20. While interviewing for my domestic instinct project, a South American woman who has had a life of chronic illness said this to me:

    ‘People say that life is short, and that for this reason you have to do a lot of things to fill it up and intensify it. If I hadn’t been ill for so long I might have thought this too. Sometimes I have to put my work ambitions to one side; I have to pick things that are worth putting energy into. Everything becomes precious. I’ve learned to pick the most important things, and let the rest go.’

    Rachel, this a terrific post; searching, honest and clear. My daughter who is 18 doesn’t like being grown up. For her it is both a disappointment and an imposition. I tell her that this is because she hasn’t worked out what is worth fighting for yet, what she can commit to and not fret about paths not taken. I think, from your writing, that you are already well on your way.

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  21. Being grown up is overrated – dogs know this, so they don’t bother with it. Cricket’s got the right idea!

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  22. I, too, was a “late bloomer.” I bought my first home when I was 45 and have only recently started to really feel confident in myself and my experience (and I am 66). I take heart in other late bloomers (did you read The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein? He inspires me).

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  23. I believe ‘grown up’ is a myth. I personally don’t think ANYONE feels grown up, no matter how much they’ve achieved nor how old they may be. The things you mentioned as markers of ‘grown up’ are (IMHO) from another time when those kind of things were possible for anyone who wanted to try for them. Now, it seems the world is morphing into some kind of ugly and I don’t think that many care to put down roots. They’ll only get those torn out if things change. And America has lost (again IMHO) the ‘rite of passage’ ideology, which in some cultures means someone has ‘grown up’ – become a man or woman. Interesting post, great perspective.

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  24. Rachel don’t ever lose track of that little person you have alive in there! Sometimes in your writings it’s that person I can see in your words. She is your sense of humor, your heart and wit. I don’t ever plan to be grown up because I always want to be growing. This link has a piece called Abandoning Adulthood that says it all: https://saymber.com/2017/08/07/7-aug-2017-dream-and-the-act-of-adulting-abandoning-adulthood-my-official-letter-of-resignation-piece-by-maureen/

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  25. I think in all the important ways, you are very grown up. And I do like the way Cricket thinks!

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  26. I have plans for lots of thing I want to do when I grow up….not just yet though.

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  27. As a “senior citizen,” I can tell you that age does not equal maturity. Taking responsibility for oneself is a huge factor, I believe, and responsibility seems to be a lost art nowadays. Seems like you’re on the right track. Cricket is very lucky to have a dog mom like you 😊

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  28. Growing up I can’t remember actually wanting to be ‘grown up’. I look at people and try to judge their ages, then think hell I’m 62 now, so how old do they think I am!
    I still like the idea of acting my shoe size rather than my age. Permanently 7. I think 1963 was a pretty good year……….. apart from the Big Freeze.

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  29. Rachel I always told my students the hardest thing you will ever do is grow up. They never understood, most of them. I was always a cynical child and was convinced all that talk of “wait until you grow up, you see” and “you won’t understand until you grow up” was a scam put over on kids by adults. Certainly over the years I’ve met many biological adults whose thinking and behavior were more like a two year old. I’ve met children with devastating illnesses that were wise and mature beyond their years. I always thought growing up was a lot about acquiring wisdom. Not book learning, but the kind of wisdom you show, being willing to do self examination, learning good life lessons from the most humble and loyal (Cricket and Butterfly) and appreciating the lives of people, especially those you meet in social work. I think ShimonZ is on the right track. Take another look n the water, you should be seeing a swan. Hugs.

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  30. Angela@eatlivehappy

    I’m with Cricket. being a grown-up is overrated! And not much fun

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  31. Thanks so much for sharing your inner thoughts and wisdom. You have much to say and share and I hope you appreciate that part of your adult self. I hope you find whatever it takes to make you feel at peace. In the meantime, you are giving yourself to others and that’s a wonderful thing to do.

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  32. I am 61 and still growing up. I have had a couple different careers and now, in retirement, I am trying another – blogger and writer. Never give up your dream. Never give up on yourself!

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  33. Replace fear with faith and hope. Face each day–don’t try to overpower it or avoid it. Just face it with a little courage and a lot of faith. Stop whining and find joy in living life on its own terms!

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  34. There are really 2 questions here, when are you a grown-up and what do you want to be when you grow up. I have friends in their 70’s who still ask themselves the second question. I am not sure I really felt like a grownup until my parents passed away. Very sad. And for the second question, let it change over time. What you want to be in your 20’s or 30’s is not likely to be what you want to be later. We all evolve and create something unique. I am sorry about your illness, but think it has increased your compassion for others. I hope you can find a cure.

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  35. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be!

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  36. I love this post and your writing! I consider myself finally growed up and I can tell you, there’s plenty of anxiety lol

    But I’m 47 and it took me this long to get here.

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    • Thank you! I guess I should plan to stay on the anti-anxiety mess.

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      • omg girl I just let my birth control pills go for a week (because I didn’t feel like getting to pharmacy) – (not having sex anyways) – unfortunately they go a long way to keeping my mood stable, and by today I am crying over the silliest things lol time to get to the pharmacy!

  37. Wisdom, patience and discernment: the hallmarks of being grown up. Not there yet! Pip and the boys

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  38. I very much enjoy your posts. Why not publish your own book with Amazon or something.? I know you don’t have time right now but after you’re finished with school you might have.

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  39. Keep following your bliss, Rachel! I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid…took a detour as a librarian for many years. Became a full time freelance writer in my 40s!!

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  40. Well, I’m 60-something, and some days I feel like a grown-up. There’s healthy food in the fridge, the clothes are washed, the house is picked up, bills are paid. My clothes all match my accessories, the earrings are perfect, and my lipstick looks good. Then I usually fall off my heel walking down the driveway. Just a reminder that life will never be perfect, and all you can do is master what you can and let the rest go.

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  41. It IS hard to argue with Cricket! Being a grownup is overrated or miscategorized or something.

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  42. Rachel, I am happy to have found you and your blog again in the blogosphere. I used to have a blog called C-Dog & Company and I would often read and enjoy your words.

    I think you’re a wonderful writer. I also think it’s okay if a person never figures out what to be when they grow up — I think the search is what matters. And I think people who search are the most interesting people on the planet. I’m 60 and still want to “be a writer when I grow up.” But the longer I keep writing and aging the more I realize there are other things — like people and animals, and animals (did I say, animals? LOL), and places and sunsets and trees and all other kinds of “things” — that are also important.

    Anyway, I wish you well on your journey! Keep searching; and keep your eyes, ears and heart always open.

    D. Levy

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  43. thealvarezchronicles

    Great post. No one needs to try and be a grown up. Grown-up stuff will catch up with you whether you like it or not, and, likely, whether you are ready for it or not. So don’t worry about things like that. Great blog! – Robert

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  44. I think most people are only pretending to be grown up and are secretly looking around at everyone else, just waiting to be caught out. You’re so very normal! Thanks for the like, I enjoyed reading your post. 🙂

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  45. Really wonderful post. Raw and honest.

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  46. There are also people who have children, home ownership and careers and aren’t grown up.

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