Life is complicated. And it only gets more and more complicated as we navigate and discover more ideas and experiences. I’ve had many exchanges with people lately and seen multiple memes about how being an adult……just sucks. I think this sentiment is always in sheer comparison to the perception we all had of adulthood through our eyes as children. As children and teenagers, it’s easy to see adulthood through rose-colored glasses. It looks like freedom. It looks like staying up all night and eating the cookie dough out of the fridge without fearing the footsteps and misinterpreted judgement of your parents. It’s no more school- just you and the freedom to do any and everything forbidden and magical. But, as one of my previous 5th grade students so intuitively explained to his peers who felt the lure of freeing adulthood- “Being an adult is NOT going to be fun. You have bills and you have to work every day and you have responsibilities.” Boy was he right and boy do all millennials understand this now. Especially in meme form.
But I mostly want to discuss resilience. People always say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger but I vehemently disagree. Based on the trauma that I know, I have yet to see a silver lining or feel stronger. I think the word, instead of stronger, is resilient. The more you see and experience in life prepares you to see even more of it. It muddles out things that were once thought of as big deals and instead these smaller traumas become more easily a part of life, or more aptly, adulthood.
I wanted to write this because I can’t stop thinking about how people amaze me at their ability just to simply continue. My dad always says that if you are depressed, get busy doing something. Although some psychiatrists may or may not agree with this strategy, it definitely works. I’m sure they feel a better remedy is to balance “staying busy” with an outlet for the grief, shock, disappointment, or sadness that remain after a trauma or tragedy. I’ve seen people go through so many different, variant, tragic or just difficult on-going situations and they are still surviving. The human condition seems to be a pretty tough shell to crack.
I think resilience is also something that doesn’t quite let the trauma, grief, or sadness go either. Resilience is something that pushes people to not only adapt to their new experience or life but to take what has happened and build AROUND it, not over it. I think another thing that keeps people going is other people. Support systems are like a lifeline or a fluid drip when something has disrupted a whole life or perception of what life was before. Most people dealing with trauma often ask why? and more than that, struggle to find any meaning in life. The perception that stood on a foundation has been shattered and thoughts about life that had never existed in your mind start to surface. It’s as if a new section of your brain has opened up that you were determined to keep locked forever but now there is no turning back. It’s just there now.
This is also adulthood. You can’t unsee, or unfeel anything. The longer we go through life, the more we see and the more our resilience absolutely surfaces. I don’t think resilience is something you build, but something we have had all along that rises to the occasion and is proven through trauma. Of course, some people are more resilient than others and for those that don’t find that resilience rising to the occasion, perhaps it’s just a matter of fight or flight. Maybe those that withdraw don’t use their support system. They are doing everything to fight the fact that life requires resilience. It’s certainly inside everyone. I imagine it just takes some more resources to pull it out based on their negative experiences throughout their life. Of course the immediate shock of anything that happens doesn’t automatically bring out a full force of resilience. Only after questioning everything and spending a lot of time pondering life, does it start to rise.
The most tragic of traumas, in my opinion, come in anything irreversible. A medical situation that phyisically binds someone to a wheelchair or when someone has died suddenly, or you have to unexpectantly physically take care of someone every day. With these things, as in all tragedies, you wake up and your life has been forever changed and those around you are not even phased. Their lives have not changed at all. It’s like being a ghost in the world for awhile until that resilience surfaces and you build around it.
I’m not sure if people are lying when they say that as you get older you get wiser, or feel happier but to me, when I think about my past self and experiences, there were some very ecstatic and elated times that I just can’t seem to reach now. I suppose that when building your life around resilience, the level of happiness must change too. In any case, I’d like to have that moment of elation back, if only for a brief moment to just know it can still be reached.
And this is another big reason why being an adult is so drastically worse than being a child. It just doesn’t seem to have that capability to wow anymore. Either way, resilience is remarkable and will continue to intrigue and astound me as I see people go through unthinkable situations. I also feel that people continue because of infinite possibilities. Anything can happen and sometimes those things can be good, even great. Have you ever looked back at a situation and asked yourself, how in the world did I get through that? Yet, here you are, maybe even in a better place.
“If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 🙂