Black Pearls

I’ve just realized that, kicking and screaming, I’ve managed to slip into adulthood. Really, I’m not quite sure how it happened. It started with getting my driver’s license and moving to a different city for university, and suddenly there I was ending international contracts and booking transpacific flights and packing my entire life into two suitcases (a record low in terms of cubic feet of space). Now, here I am in Malaysia.

And you know what? I’m alright.

One afternoon last week, leaving my apartment full of things I had to sell, give away, or otherwise dispose of that were all over the place, I was considering my appearance. Several years ago, I got a string of black pearls and a pair of matching earrings that my Dad had acquired in (I want to say Indonesia, but I could be wrong). Up until that point, even though they went all sorts of interesting places with me, I hardly ever wore them. I think my concerns about being robbed were pretty unfounded (“Those are awfully pretty beads, what shop did you get them from?” is a fairly frequent reaction on the rare occasion I do wear them). Mostly, I rarely wore them because when I did, I felt like a little girl playing dress-up with Mommy’s jewelry.

But I realized something. That assumption that I look like a little girl playing dress-up was largely (if not entirely) inside my head. And as much as I frequently feel reckless, irresponsible, and generally crazy, for whatever reason that opinion doesn’t translate to the way I look, and the way that people see me. On average, I’m estimated to be between five and ten years older than I actually am by people who have spoken to me at any length.

I’ve complained a lot about adulthood. I don’t like killing my own bugs, I’m not really that keen on dealing with finances, pensions, and exchange rates. I deal with these things because of an assumption or reality that I need to deal with these things in order to get the bits of adulthood I want. In order to have international work contracts, my own shiny apartment in a strange city, and the general autonomy that I’ve come to accept and enjoy, I have to deal with certain inconveniences. Like cockroaches.

But I’ve realized lately that adulthood isn’t all about the inconveniences. It’s not all killing bugs and shaking your head when it’s cheaper to fly from where you are to where you want to get with three stops and a couple of thousand miles’ detour.

Sometimes, it’s realizing that things are a little up in the air right now, but they’re going to work out sooner or later, and I’m actually okay with that. Sometimes, it’s realizing that I might be one of the only handful of people on earth who assume I’m a little girl playing dress-up in Mommy’s jewelry. Sometimes it’s realizing that contrary to (what I assume to be) popular belief, I’ve got this. Sometimes being a grown-up is accepting that you don’t have things under control, as much as you’d like to. But sometimes being a grown-up is accepting (and persuading others to accept) that you do have things under control.

Sometimes, being a grown-up means putting on your big-girl pants, your big-girl jewelry, your big-girl makeup, and reminding whoever’s forgotten that yes, in fact, you are an adult. And you deserve to be treated that way.

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