Its kind of fascinating the changes you make at different parts of your life. When I was 14 I felt like I was basically an adult and already knew everything. In many ways I was right - I was mostly fully formed. I could make decisions, and I could learn things and talk to people. I was like a stone block that was adult sized, and had a completely recognisable person blob chiseled in.
So its interesting to think about whats changed in the last 16 years, how and why. I think my rate of change is decreasing, but its like a progressively rendered jpeg image. Mostly the small details seem small but important. They're the oregano in a good pizza, the salt in well cooked pasta. They're the little communication skills, and the mastery, and the ability to say I love you without feeling self conscious. And the ability to say I was wrong and mean it (wow it took me a long time to learn that one!).
So its pretty momentous when you find big chunks still to learn. Usually bittersweet, but momentous all the same.
Let me tell you about Irish Citizenship. My mum's parents are from Ireland, and as a result I'm eligible for citizenship. The paperwork is surprisingly straightforward - I need to prove my lineage and then wait 9-24 months. Once thats done, I can apply for an Irish passport and live and work anywhere in the EU.
Paperwork is usually my kryptonite - I hate it, and I don't think I've sent mail in at least 3 or 4 years. So I did the adult thing and pretended like it was a quest in wow. I got everything together while I was back in Sydney at christmas - 3 generations of birth certificates and wedding certificates. I put it in a protective plastic sleeve, which I carefully put in a recycled cardboard document sleeve in my room. And then after assembling some furnature, I thought the cardboard sleeve was trash and I absentmindedly threw it out with the ikea boxes.
So, learning and maturing as a person...
It took me about 2 months to come to terms with the loss and tell my parents. 2 months of not sleeping very well, and waking up in the middle of the night thinking of new places in my room I might not have searched.
It was really awful, and I feel a little stressed just thinking about it.
But I finally asked the right question: Why am I so stressed out by this? Why did this hit me deep in my core? And I realised that it was challenging a fundamental belief in the world that I have - a belief of privilege. I somehow made it to 29 thinking somehow, deep down, that the world always ends up working out somehow. That the thing that should happen does happen. There's always a reason for things. (I didn't know I had this belief, but I did). When I have paperwork to do, it should just a case of doing it and then it gets done. I didn't believe in unexpected side effects, at least not for me, unless there's some deep purpose or reason why it'll be better in the long run.
Even as I realised that I was living in a storybook world I scrambled to find a story to tell myself that wasn't "just because". Maybe I lost the paperwork because in the long run its better that I learn this very lesson than have my original birth certificate. Surely, somehow the universe was actually conspiring to make my life better. (Much more likely than random chance). But the truth is, I didn't lose the paperwork for any good reason; it happened because sometimes bad things happen. The world doesn't run on stories, and if I generally have good luck its because I get lucky, not because the universe likes me.
More fundamentally, my life is not a train driving along a track. In both good and bad ways, what can happen in my life isn't limited to the directions with track laid out.
I have a friend who died from cancer at the age of 22. It took me 7 more years to realise that that could have actually happened to me instead!
So, learning. I've learned that the world isn't a story in the middle of being told. Its both better and worse than that. I've learned that I need to make time to talk to my parents on the phone - I might not have them forever. I've learned to be a little more scared of injury. It might happen to me, and it might be really inconvenient for my whole life. I've learned that I don't need other people to live lives before I can live them too. The universe is. I can change it however I like, including in ways I make up myself, with or without permission.
So I guess, at the start of the year I learned what privilege is, and I now have both more fear and more hope. Maybe when I move out I'll find a little plastic sleeve, but if I don't its ok - this is a problem I can fix.