I assume I was like most children; I couldn’t wait to become a grown-up. As a little girl, I viewed the adults in my life with a sense of awe and reverence. They seemed so wise, poised to supply an answer to my every question. It appeared they had figured everything out, effortlessly. I placed them firmly on meticulously crafted pedestals, convinced of their perfection and indomitability.
From that vantage point of innocence, my parents, as my main models, led lives that seemed so interesting, full, and even a bit glamorous. My father, a neurosurgeon, had a mysterious and fascinating career. I marveled that he spent his days “poking around” inside people’s heads. Work kept him away from home a lot, and he was often called out in the middle of the night to, in my mind, save the lives of the countless masses. He was my hero.
In addition to expertly caring for me, my two sisters, and brother, my mother had an active life as a Real Estate Agent, and a dedicated volunteer in a number of civic and charitable organizations, after having worked for many years as a labor and delivery nurse. She expertly ran our household and graciously planned and presided over the many parties and functions my parents hosted for friends and colleagues alike. I admired her confidence, grace and skill. She was an icon, a force to be reckoned with.
As the youngest of four, by three years, my siblings always got to do things before me. I had a bevy of older cousins, as well, who seemed so cool in their bell-bottoms, listening to rock and roll music, talking about things I didn’t understand. “You’re too young…” or “Not until you’re older…” were constant refrains ringing in my ears. I was often left out of activities in which the older ones got to partake. They were my idols, and I envied them their freedom and experience.
When I was 13, the sudden death of my best friend, Jackie, created a deep sense of loss. I was left with a void nothing could fill. The grownups in my life were helpless. There simply were no answers this time… none that could possibly ease my pain. The illusion of my safe, happy world had shattered.
My friend’s passing, and my inability to make sense of it, triggered in me a need to flee, but at that age I really had nowhere to go. “Hurry up and wait…” became the mantra of my
youth. There was a deep yearning I couldn’t satisfy, something gnawed at me like a dog worrying a grizzled bone. I couldn’t wait to be older, to be an adult. I firmly believed once I
reached that Shangri-La, all of the doors would open before me, and all the answers to life’s mysteries would be revealed.
Several months after Jackie died my hair began to turn white, a “shock” appeared, like a widows peak, centered at my forehead . I was horrified. I also got braces that year, on my
birthday, of all days, just as I was starting my freshman year in high school! I wanted to be anyone but who I was, and anywhere but where I was.
While in high school, I often lied about my age and the details of my life to people I met. I had a friend in college who nicknamed me “Turbo,” because I was always racing to get somewhere, convinced that right here wasn’t good enough. As the U2 song proclaims, I was “running to stand still…” and heading nowhere fast.
During my teens and twenties my life was directionless, and I desperately wanted to “belong,” though I didn’t know where. Uncomfortable in my skin, with little sense of who I truly was, I turned to destructive behaviors that, at the time, seemed to fill the void. I greatly lacked inner stability, which, had I any, might have grounded me sufficiently in one place long enough to figure out what it was I really wanted and needed to be a whole, happy, healthy human being.
As I passed the usual benchmarks that might otherwise have bestowed a feeling I had reached this hallowed place we call adulthood, any sense I had finally become a grown-up still eluded me. My lack of direction in college, and the time I spent focusing my energies on less than academic pursuits, in no way conferred that rite of passage.
Completing a course of graduate studies in Design and Technical Theatre provided me the mooring I needed, and as I began my career as a Costume Designer, I finally felt as though I had found my place in the world. The foundation was laid, but at 26, MFA in hand, I was far from feeling mature.
When I married the following year, I was petrified, as I walked down the isle with my father. Choking back tears, unsure I wasn’t making a huge mistake, I felt like a frightened little girl, not wanting to let go of her daddy’s hand, afraid to venture into the unknown.
The birth of my son brought me closer to my goal of "arriving." There came a level of responsibility, associated with being a parent, I had not previously known. Yet, in many ways, it felt awkward and foreign, at first a very uneasy fit. My Sagittarius ascendant was not prepared for relinquishing the "freedom" to which I had grown accustomed, and likely
significantly influenced my decision to wait until I was thirty four to have my first child.
Ensconced in a new home in Connecticut, caring for an infant, and commuting to New York City to pursue my Design career, had I arrived, finally? Quite the contrary; in many ways, I still felt as insecure as I did when I was twenty.
It wasn’t until six years later, now raising two young children, and working part-time teaching and designing at a local college, as my marriage was crumbling around me, that I began to catch the first glimpse of what it felt like to be a grown-up. The fabric of my life was unraveling. I was terrified, knowing, for the first time in my life, I would be called upon to support myself and my children, and I was completely unsure I had the wherewithal to do it. Yet, in the midst of all the chaos, I felt more alive and fully present than I ever had before.
My soul had been slowly dying in a marriage that had ceased to nourish or fulfill me, so I went in search of something that would. My husband and I separated and I moved into my own apartment. I took what little savings I had, and went back to school to become a Yoga Instructor. I crawled into my chrysalis, and two years later, having completed advanced yoga certification, I emerged transformed.
At the same time, I was also undergoing an intense course of therapy. These experiences, and the subsequent years spent in mediation to dissolve the marriage and create a parenting plan that put our children’s needs first, initiated a healing process. I was forced to plumb the depths of my pain, to wade through the muck and mire, and finally unearth the roots of my dis-ease. It was an arduous journey, but, ultimately, the most rewarding and enlightening work I have ever done. And the process continues still….
Now, at 52, still a work in progress, I am finally beginning to feel like an adult, like I am truly becoming a grown-up. So what does this really mean? I think the operative word here is “grown.” It means I have grown to understand and accept all my past experiences were essential to bring me to the place I am right now. It means I have finally grown comfortable in my skin, and there is nowhere else I would rather be. It means I have grown to truly love the life I am living and the person I am becoming.
As my intention is to live more fully in the moment, I know the present is no longer held hostage by the past, and the future will manifest as a reflection of the gratitude I have for all that has come before, and for all that continually blesses me.
I now recognize adulthood is not a final destination. Life is a continual process of becoming. Being a grown-up is an honor bestowed upon one who has come to the awareness that life is a path continually revealing itself, when we remain open to its gifts and lessons. This knowledge, ultimately, provides a sense of equanimity, a peace and grace that can only be found when we stop running and stand still in the presence of the raw beauty our whole, unadulterated life lays before us.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.