I recently found this letter I wrote to my parents and just about died laughing remembering all the big feelings. Stick with it, I promise not to leave you hanging at the end…
Dear Mom & Dad,
I’ve decided today that the holidays are extremely difficult as a grown up. It is slightly gloomy outside, so that may have something to do with this bad mood which is leading me to the following life assumption: the reality of dealing with the responsibilities of adulthood far outweighs the perks of growing up!
Let me explain. Graduating from college is quite an accomplishment, one that kids work towards their entire lives, so that when the day finally arrives, it seems that the ultimate quarter-life goal has been met. Now a new horizon is waiting for their bright young minds and they are filled with confidence to go take on the world. One could travel or get their first real job and actually apply all those years of learning in the marketplace.
This too (getting a job), feels like a grand feat. One has weaned themselves from their parent’s financial grasp and is independent, able to make their own decisions about money, time, and the direction their life might take. They are deceived into believing that some of the responsibilities that come along with this new independence are positive ones that should be celebrated and enjoyed. And, for a short time, they in fact are taken advantage of and enjoyed by the new adult. They take vacations, enjoy time with friends and feel fulfilled by finding their own way. The newfound freedom is intoxicating and, for a while, masks the harsh reality that lurks around the corner: decision-making.
Many hail decision-making as a privilege that is earned through all those, previously mentioned, years of hard work. However, adults who are now in that current life stage come to realize that these new “freedoms” are really a curse. No one bothers to mention that with all the joys of adulthood also come the necessary budgeting, planning, and patience required to make mature decisions. Sure these things are skimmed in school, church and family discussions, but not honestly dealt with in a real world manner.
The holidays are a perfect example of many of these harsh realities coming together to make for one disheartening season in a new adults’ life. For instance, one falsely believes that buying presents is a treat that will bring a sense of pride in their own heart and a sense of joy in the hearts of those receiving. And, this does satisfy those cravings temporarily, however, once the hype wears off, the grown up is destined to a check book balance in the red and ramen noodles and worry for a couple of months following the holidays. It was much better when nobody expected anything from us, our parents were in charge of the gifts and all we had to do was open ours!
Another prime example of this fact is traveling and spending time with beloved relatives. Every family has special traditions that they have established through the years and have settled into comfortably. However, with a new adult thrown in the mix, everything is thrown off-balance. This grown up wrongly assumes that with the rest of the responsibilities they have received come the right to make their vacation schedule fit what is best for them. This is a false pretense that will be rejected by all in the family and there is really no way to win. If the adult has a significant other in the picture, this point is magnified beyond the norm. Not only can they not please their own family, but it is utterly impossible to split time and please both sets of relatives (especially single siblings). Then of course, on top of family matters, there are peers to consider. Some of which have been successful in setting aside a small slot of time in their breaks to do fun things with friends, especially if they are not at the point in their life where they need to satisfy the familial needs of two sides of relatives. That’s just the icing on the cake. How did they work that out?
Anyway, I’m rambling. The point is, the negatives seem to be dominating the positive aspects of coming of age which are magnified in this holiday season. The first six months of jovial adulthood are coming to a screeching halt on the highway of disillusion. The fun is over and the work is about to begin. Please bear with me as I attempt to navigate this period of my life. I will do my best to accommodate everyone. I will try to make good decisions, but ask you to consider these truths in dealing with me over the next few weeks in my fragile state.
That little gem, ladies and gentlemen, is a letter I actually sent to my parents the first week of December 2006, bless their hearts. I left my Alma Matter in Abilene, TX just six short months before penning this masterpiece from my bullpen cubicle in a Dallas high-rise. I remember giggling to myself as I hit send from the Gmail account I probably shouldn’t have been on during working hours. I don’t remember their response, but I’m sure it was gracious on the surface, or sarcastic and coupled with plenty of extended eye rolls behind my back. Who knows? Life is hard.
Growing up, I remember trekking across the great state of Texas to fulfill the same familial obligations my parents felt. We would pack the suburban to the brim, then my little brother and I would fight over the middle seat (because the back seat always had some luggage overflow), and heaven forbid we actually have to sit in the same row of a car, next to each other. Plus we’d sprawl out, sans seat belt, with our Walkman’s spinning the latest Dixie Chicks and Outkast CD’s for the entire trip. Anyway, I don’t remember my parents acting stressed or dreading the holiday hustle they inevitably endured every year. My most vivid memories are arriving at our destination, being greeted by grandparents and cousins and tales of the adventures we hoped to have over the next few days together. There were late night card games, then duck hunt on the Nintendo, followed by camping under the trees or crashing in sleeping bags in the game room. We’d wake to the smell of hot homemade cinnamon rolls and my granddad tapping on his calculator in his tiny office, I assume he was catching up the books for the farm. We would ride four wheelers all day and the boys would shoot at birds with their BB guns. My eyes well up just thinking about those slow endless days together. It wasn’t about the gifts or the lists once we reached our destination, everything was light and the only thing that mattered was being with each other. Those times are magical in my mind. I’m so thankful my parents cleared their schedules and made the sacrifices they had to in the midst of their busy lives to create space for those moments.
Now that I’ve (somewhat) recovered from the initial shock of becoming an adult during the holidays, I hope similar memories stick with my kids one day. I pray that the doing doesn’t outweigh the being together in our family.
You see, departures may always be rocky and cause tension. As we launch into new journeys or seasons of life, we never have it all figured out flawlessly up front. We plan to the best of our abilities, but there will always be a struggle to find our seat and settle into the road ahead. But on that road, something slowly changes. It’s usually too gradual to even notice at the time, but then, you open your eyes and you’ve made it. You’ve forgotten why you were mad at your husband when you pulled out of the driveway, you’re over the mess of snacks and toys that your toddlers scattered all over the backseat. With time, you understand these things pale in comparison to what you’re moving toward. You endure the awkward and tattered parts of the journey to get closer to the goal – where you can look back and see how the crazy trip brought you to the most wonderful place in the end.
I think it’s a God thing. I think it’s just how he works and although the process makes me cringe (and usually cry too), I’m grateful that he allows us to learn and grow on the journey. What would we have to laugh about if we didn’t have the early awkward moments? Yet, he’s faithful to see us through. He’s always with us and delights in showing us the way forward to our destination, where all is restored.