Years ago, my husband and I read a book called A Choice of Heroes, by Mark Gerzon. Recently, Gerzon came to my attention again, completely serendipitously, when I found a quote about how he had unknowingly accepted “our culture’s stale and simplistic view of adulthood — that the person you are at midlife is the person you will always be.” He continues:
But I was wrong.
We have many words to describe less than twenty years of the life cycle: newborn, infant, toddler, preschooler, child, teenager, adolescent, and so forth. We need all of these words because children grow so fast. But to describe the next half-century — the period of fifty years or more after we reach the age of twenty — have only one generally accepted word: adulthood. The poverty of our language reveals that we still do not understand that “grown-ups” grow too. We act as if adulthood is one long, stable, predictable period. We act as if we have signed a protracted, long-term contract, like paying off a mortgage.
Luckily for him, and us, he found new purpose:
At precisely the time when I thought my development was coming to an end, I found myself embarking on a totally unexpected journey of growth and change. I entered what the great Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung called the “second half of life”.
You can read the rest of this very informative and thought provoking post at InnerSelf.com. What I want to emphasize here, on my post, is how true it is that adulthood is not one continuous sidewalk of sameness, going downhill, but a fascinating journey encompassing many different aspects of ourselves.
Take my adulthood, for instance. I spent the first decade raising two children (I had my first at age 19). I also took a course in dress design, taught a sewing course, taught piano lessons, and made art whenever possible. Then I went to University, received a B.A. in English, and started various jobs, culminating in being employed by a number of public libraries. I went back to school and received a B.Ed., then an M.L.I.S. (Masters of Information and Library Science). I thought I might as well become a library manager, rather than be managed, but was fortunate enough to land a position as a teacher-librarian in a public school. As I look towards imminent retirement, I am embarking on a whole new career, into which I have made a number of forays. I will be teaching art workshops, making as much art as I can, writing more magazine articles, getting better at photography, etcetera, etcetera.
I have left out much: the many things I attempted, the books I read, the art processes I experimented with, the extra courses I took, the trips I went on. Every last thing contributed to my growth and development. Who I am is constantly ongoing. I am curious, motivated, and in love with life.
Do I have a stale and simplistic view of adulthood? Absolutely not!