It happened a few weeks ago. I was reading a book that combined history and art and beautifully written prose about irrepressible people when I realized how much I need novels and art in my life. I realized that beauty was not optional.
I make time to read. I take photographs of my favorite trees. I do these things because I enjoy them, but I did not – until that moment – realize how necessary they were to my conception of self or to my self-nourishment and care.
The adulting hashtag is a popular way of expressing how one confronts the often mundane but challenging tasks of adulthood. As adults, we need to figure out complex financial situations, take care of households and a myriad of other things that require planning and thoughtfulness. However, in that moment, I realized that being an adult is not merely paying bills and running errands. It is realizing that I am a photographer and a poet because I take the time to take photographs and write poetry. I don’t have to quit my day job to pursue these things professionally. They are an important (if small) part of who I am because I choose to do them. I don’t need monetary gain from them to define them as real for me. For me, being an adult meant realizing that I get to do a variety of things – that I am not defined by one thing. It also fundamentally means being able to appreciate beauty and sorrow and the complexity of human emotion and taking time to do so. It means that I get to experience these objects, places, and emotions with an adult consciousness at the same time that I feel a child-like sense of wonder every time I see a bright red tree. On that day, in that moment, I finally grew up and became a kid again all in the same brilliant flash of insight. As a child, I was encouraged to explore lots of different things – art projects, books, playing outside. Sometimes our focus on our adult careers takes us away from exploration and the variety of things that we enjoyed in our youth. I’ve felt guilty for my guilty pleasure of reading novels. Who wouldn’t when framed as a guilty pleasure? But in that day, I realized there was nothing guilty about it. It was a pleasure and it was something that makes me who I am. It helps me empathize and learn and in doing so I am a better me. Even if those things didn’t translate directly into my career (but they do), feeding my soul is worth it. Being an adult has never felt so freeing.