Sometimes I can’t tell if I am flying or falling. In both instances, I feel the sky and the ground. I am free, but I can’t tell where I am going….
Am I grown up?
For months now, I have been closely examining the concept of being grown up, and still can’t pin down an answer.
The obvious answers came first. Being *a little* financially secure. Have a 9-5 job. Making color coded financial spread sheets. Opening a Roth IRA. Keeping your plants alive. Having energy to grocery shop.
But this definition of being grown up seemed to clash with the life I had trying to pursue a career in the arts. Financial stability was almost impossible. Earning enough to pay my rent while using all my extra time to pursue my creative endeavors drained me so completely. I felt like I was living a facade of a grown up life. One that was chaotic and depleting. But isn’t being grown up the absence of chaos?
My desire to be grown up and my desire to be a dancer never seemed to come hand in hand.
Looking back a year ago, life has changed so much. I just moved back to the Bay Area and I was on food stamps and barely able to pay my rent, but justifying it because I had choreographic opportunities too good not to move back. I felt as if my life had no direction and I was honestly terrified since I was one of those people who just had to have their life planned out with a clear direction and intention. My apartment was super affordable, but not ideal or comfortable. (I am still here, but moving tomorrow!) Slowly as the months went on, I kept creating, performing and showing work, but started to get my life a little more in order. I got a steady job teaching ballet which I absolutely love. I was able to save money, and finally I got the opportunity to be a RAW Artist at SAFEhouse Arts in San Francisco.
A few months ago, my grandfather passed away. We were really close because I was one of the youngest and he always treated me like his little girl. He was really strict with me– almost more than my parents were. He would have frank conversations with me making sure that I was not letting any distractions upset me from the direction of my goal.
The loss of my Grandpa was the loss of the person who would tell me exactly what they think I should be doing. Someone who was unfiltered, unbiased, and simple with what they wanted me to do. Now, his voice is gone, and I only have my own.
So maybe that is what being grown up means. Listening to myself. Creating my own direction, and making sure I follow it. Looking out for myself.
In his absence, I have realized that life without chaos does not exist. Being grown up does not equal stability. But maybe it does equal the means to cope with tribulations of life.
He was unique. He didn’t immediately approve of all my choices. He took away the gray space for me and put the world into black and white. Do this, not that. Eat breakfast. Go to grad school. Maybe it is the immigrant mentality, maybe he just wanted one of his grandchildren to start working toward their PhD. Either way, it made an impact on how I’ve traversed adulthood.
What is a grown up? I won’t lie to you that I have an answer. I told you, I still can’t pin it down. And maybe this in itself is notable. That it’s not definable, it’s fluid. We each define the responsibilities of adulthood by our pasts, childhoods, where we came from. Maybe it’s only a feeling– that whether I am flying or falling, I will be okay.
Photos by the amazing Kevin Cheah. Check out his website here.