I am sitting on the wet, icy road with a tire jack in my hands, looking for the spot under my car that will bear the weight. I am about to change my tire for the first time, forced into this by necessity. I am 34 years old and I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m doing it anyways. I have just become an adult.
I claim this realization with fierce pride. My neighbour walks over with a glint of charity in his eye. My neighbour, the 'man’s man'. My neighbour who has played surrogate dad on countless similar occasions. Every other time I was glad for his help. Today I resist it.
I have a flat tire. Too flat to drive even two blocks to the repair shop. A slow leak crept up on me and now I need to put the spare on. My neighbour offers to bring his portable tire pump over. I could fill up the leaking tire enough to drive it in for repair. I could avoid this job altogether. There is a way out.
I don’t take the bait. This is my moment. A right of passage. I say no, thank you. I’ve come this far. I am going to change this tire.
My neighbour graciously leaves. Until he sees how I am cranking the jack. He returns with advice. He leaves. Until he sees me struggle with confusion to pull the tire off and returns to give a loosening kick.
So I didn’t do this all by myself, but I am indeed a grown up. It just happened.
I’ve been exercising these grown up muscles lately.
In the past few months I’ve been a carpenter’s helper down in my basement. For years I was afraid to do much to my old house. Afraid of all I did not know. Afraid of doing damage.
But I have learned when that fear stops and you grow up. The exact age. It’s 34.
I cannot tell you why. Maybe it has been the small, regular physical exercise that’s tought me I can do things I told myself I could never do. Maybe I realized that time never works backwards and if I want to do all I have planned in this life I’d better get moving. I have been moving.
I’ve scarred my hand destroying old plaster walls. I’ve bought power tools and stuffed in that itchy, pink insulation. The kind that oddly taunts kids to touch with it’s cartoon panther. I used to be terrified of that stuff, but this year, at 34, I touched it (accidentally mind you) with my bare hands. I patched and mudded and sanded and painted drywall. I installed flooring. I cut and stained and hammered baseboards. I built a complicated heavy duty bookshelf. Just this weekend I built a desk from wood and copper pipe. Without a plan.
Then, when it was very wobbly, I went back to Pinterest for some help.
It’s still a little wobbly as I type this. But it is a desk.
Most things I do these days are a little wobbly. But I am doing them. I am figuring out what it means to run a community arts space. To hang art straight and at the proper height. To record and produce a podcast. To keep a daily writing habit.
At some point I realized that I wasn’t going to get help with everything, and that even so, there was no shame in asking for help with anything.
I realized I was going to learn things or not get to do them at all.
I realized that I would always be afraid, but if I let that stop me I’d stay right in this spot the rest of my life.
I realized that I am both less and more than I thought I was.
And now I am a grown up.