I’ve had the revelation lately that I am without a doubt an “adult”. I’m sure that feeling comes to people at different times in their life as there is no real designation to adulthood other than small milestones like being able to vote, drink alcohol, rent a car, and so forth. My mother for instance was married shortly after her 21st birthday, but had a hard time accepting my moving in with a serious boyfriend at the same age and claimed I was ‘too young’. In recent decades childhood/young adulthood has certainly extended into the mid- to late twenties, pushing the idea of settling down and starting a family to one’s thirties.
As someone that went from high school, straight to 4 years of college, then straight to 3 years of graduate school I was very much sheltered from living in the ‘real world’. Sure I learned a bit about managing money and paying for bills in graduate school, but I was never completely independent as my parents still assisted me with my car, cell phone and the like. It wasn’t until I moved across the country, got married and then got divorced (all in about 1 year!) that I realized, “Shit. I am an adult.”
With this revelation I’ve also come to really understand who I am as a person, what I want, believe in, and what I will and will not tolerate. That feeling is so extremely liberating. I feel like a completely different person from the Laura of 6 month’s ago. And this… dare I say, confidence, has spread to all aspects of my life.
For one I feel confident in my skills as a scientist. Graduate school is hard and defeating – it is very difficult to see yourself as a competent scientist when a project you spend 2 years on never amounts to anything. But once I stepped outside of graduate school and had my first professional position I could see how all of those trials and failures in graduate school really prepared me for navigating a job. And I realize that I am a thorough and competent scientist. I’m efficient, fastidious and good at solving problems.
This confidence has also translated to my running. Last year I ran my first half-marathon. When I crossed the finish line I didn’t feel proud or triumphant at all. I actually was practically crying over how disappointed I was in myself and how unprepared I was. I had so much anxiety and self doubt about actually completing that distance. And even in later runs in the year, when I had signed up for a second half, I would set out with a lofty goal of 10 miles and psyche myself out. It wasn’t until I missed a turn-around on a 5 mile trail run that turned into 8 that I realized I could run farther than I thought. After getting divorced last fall and going through a bit of a personal breakdown and a hiatus from training, I’ve resumed my running. I signed up for a 5K in February as a simple goal and started training as of two weeks ago. I ran 6 miles this past Saturday with no problems at all. I had a little voice in my head as I set out that said “6 miles might be a bit far so soon, maybe cut it at 5” but I made sure I hit 6. And I feel really proud of that.
And finally and maybe most importantly, this confidence has really made it easier for me to make life decisions. I used to get a lot of anxiety over the simplest of decisions, but now I am able to see what I want and go for it. There is still a considerable amount of list making, worrying and over analyzing of course. But I now feel that I can handle pretty much any situation that is thrown my way. I’m not afraid to go out on a limb for something that makes me happy. Things big and small. I feel confident in being a vegan, when I used be an apologetic vegetarian. I feel confident being an atheist, when I used to try to try to paint myself as an agnostic. I feel confident about enjoying Katy Perry or Beyonce when I’m in the mood to dance when I previously might have thought that ruined my ‘indie cred’. And I’m beginning to feel confident in being an imperfect human. There are still many more barriers to overcome with self acceptance, but I plan to keep on climbing.