growing up

November 4, 2004

I recently realized that one of the main parts of the process of becoming an adult is one that I did not really expect: it is being humbled. I know it happened in my life, and looking around I think I am not the only one. It is too easy, as a teenager and college student, to look around at “society,” and just feel a bit above it all, wondering why people do the crazy things they do and live in the odd manners that they do. And this is a valid question, as people really do live in ways that are less conscientious, environmentally sound, politically astute, socially active . . . the list could go on . . . than they should. When it comes down to it, though, we all have the same penchant for all manner of inconsistencies, weaknesses, and addictions, and part of growing up is simply becoming more aware of our own.

Take, for instance, my idealism about living in a consistently environmentally conscious manner. When I first entered the work force, I took great pride in my simple lifestyle. I had broken down and bought my first car, but never used it. I recycled everything possible, carried around my cloth grocery bag so as not to waste plastic, and bought organic groceries, cooking vegetarian meals with and for my housemate. These were all good things, but the truth of the matter that it was less due to any “goodness” on my part than it was due to a series of blessings in my life: my workplace, church, and stores were all within an easy walk or bike ride from my apartment, good organic grocery stores were on almost every corner, my roommate was even more environmentally aware than I was, and she was a vegetarian who loved to cook

For the first year after I moved back to this area, I went through a bit of an identity crisis. I found myself living in my car, not recycling for a period of time, and being too rushed and overwhelmed by life responsibilities to try to buy organic groceries, never mind cook anymore. Now the truth is that I am much happier now that I took the time to figure out a way to recycle again, and I do love not having to drive somewhere if it’s not necessary. But, I have also learned to cut myself, and others, a little bit of slack.

Even though I have let go of some of the “simple” aspects of life at my old home, I recognize that there are things to be proud of from this past year as well (responsibilities taken on, activities taken part in, and accomplishments achieved). There are many things I am not proud of, and ways in which I wish I were a stronger, more conscientious citizen, but I am glad that I can see those things. They make me a little bit more patient with others and a lot more compassionate, as I continue to fail every day, in little ways and in big ones . . .

Perhaps what this life is about is more so recognizing our own and having compassion for other people’s failings than it is about coming to some sort of idealistic lifestyle nirvana. There is always something to strive for and some way to better ourselves, but I believe that we can do that without that all-too-common cynicism about society as it is and people as they are.


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