While thinking about the fact that I want to become a functional adult human being again I was reminded of the night when it finally came crashing home to me that no matter how I felt inside, for better or for worse, I was definitely an adult now.
I was 23 or 24, sexually active and married. I had been through pregnancy and given birth and provided care for an infant. I’d been employed, and paid rent, and bills, and finally obtained my driver’s license. None of these things had ever made me feel like I’d found that passage from childhood to adulthood.
Some of my family had returned to Florida for a visit, and I’d driven out to spend the evening with them at a family friend’s house, where said family friend would be hosting a large gathering of families. They had a large property and had built a bonfire and provided picnic food. Everyone milled around, catching up with old friends.
Midway through the evening, a boy somewhere between 8 and 10 years old found and caught a large snake and brought it back to the gathering to show it off. He stood next to the bonfire, surrounded by a knot of noisy children and adults, many of whom were reaching out to try and touch the snake.
I could see that the snake was terrified, and I worried that someone would hurt it, or that in the process of trying to twist its way free of the boy’s hold that it might fall into the edge of the bonfire and be burnt. So I stood up, assumed an air of bravado and marched over to the boy.
“Give me the snake.”
He looked at me and to my shock, instantly complied without argument. I accepted the snake, walked away from the fire and found nearby weeds and bushes where I could let it go so that it could flee into the darkness. When I returned to my seat, the family friend – a man in his 50s or 60s – was laughing and exclaiming over what had just happened. He thought it was hilarious that I’d just walked over and demanded to be handed a snake.
Meanwhile I sat there mulling over the fact that when I’d gone to a child and ordered them to do a thing, they had given me that ‘oh shit, it’s the Fuzz’ look and instantly complied with my order – exactly as if they perceived me to be an adult and not a child.
And that was the exact moment I realized that somewhere along the way, I had found that passage and walked into adulthood without even consciously realizing it.