We are constantly told that life is full of moments; the moment you fall in love, the moment you hit puberty, the moment you feel undeniable butterflies as you step out of the old and into the new. These moments can be scattered or structured, easy to understand or difficult to decipher. They can teach you something important about yourself or about others. But is there every really a moment when you feel like the warm cocoon of childhood has finally been shed?
As a writer in her mid twenties, I can honestly say that the transitional moment from a bashful teen to a self-assured adult brushed past me, unnoticed in a crowd encompassed of essay deadlines, retail jobs, and the unwavering (but appreciated) coddling from my parents. It was only when I graduated university and dipped my toes into the tumultuous waters of adulthood did I consider that maybe – just maybe – I wouldn’t be able to pull this off. The contrived sheen of productivity in my fourth and final year was lifted to reveal the chaotic reality of post-grad life.
It was then that the anxiety I didn’t know I had worsened and I felt the warm embrace of my cocoon loosen. While definitely more confident in my appearance since my teenage years, I was now beginning to feel like a hermit crab outgrowing its shell; simultaneously constrained and vulnerable. Any criticism I was shown, either about my work or my personality, seared through me and I knew that I didn’t want to continue feeling this way. Gone were the days in high school where the sting of judgment was alleviated knowing that whoever was dishing it out probably couldn’t handle it if it came right back. Everyone around you was in some way insecure and it always showed if you paid close attention.
But now, I was in the real world – or my perception of it – where insecurities wouldn’t be tolerated and rivalries were necessary for development. I can’t help but look around some days and think, how did I get here? The rapid slope into the longest-lasting segment of life caught me like the drop on a rollercoaster – I had expected it, but still felt my heart catapult its way up and into my throat when the topmost point was eventually surpassed. No one ever warns you about this moment, full of indecisiveness and confusion, and its sudden arrival had hit me hard.
Looking back, there was a period of time after I had finished high school and was preparing to begin university where, I believe, the first crack of the cocoon was felt. There was a calmness to the summer, as though my surroundings were trying to take it easy on me, foreseeing the tumultuous few months ahead. I was working on my first novel, knowing that there was a story out there that I had to tell, and spent most afternoons and evenings drafting the future of a character unfamiliar to me at the time. She was brass and assertive, something I could only fathom being through the luminescent screen of my laptop. Her voice had somehow found its way out of my psyche, speaking forcefully from my fingertips as though I had asked for her advice. Like the compression of carbon to form a diamond, so too did the pressure of the next few grueling years construct a persona meant to help me through this transition and come out indestructible.
I spent the four years of university tapping on that crack, hoping for the rest of the shell to shatter, but even now, I don’t feel like it’s quite ready yet. Friends have come and gone, courses were passed and failed; all shaping me in one way or another. But I still resign myself to the belief that you never really feel like a grown up – not when you graduate, not when you move out, not even when you consider having a child of your own. That golden moment is replaced with a collage of situations; all images representing a fragment of what’s led to your change. From a distance it might look incoherent and cluttered, but as you step closer, as you find yourself teetering on the same slope, you can recognize that every piece has a purpose. Every tattered picture or casual sketch fits right where it’s supposed to. Every inch of glue was applied with intent. And, every final product can always be tweaked to epitomize who you’ve been, who you are, and who you have the potential of eventually becoming.