November is my birthday month, and it’s also the month that it starts to get really dark at 5pm. These two things never fail to put me in a reflective, somewhat melancholy mood. This year I’ve been thinking a lot about what it’s been like to have left my wild adolescence behind. I’m basically a totally respectable adult now, in my 30’s, with not just a job but a career. Frankly, it feels weird. Some part of me never thought that I would grow out of my rebellious youth, despite all evidence to the contrary that most adults do (and in fact, it’s a little creepy when adults try to maintain their youthful rebellion past their 20’s). Although you could argue that I am still fighting The Man every day with my LGBTQ-friendly community health services, it’s a very different kind of “fight the power” feeling than it was to show up at a big protest march with a bunch of black-clad anarchists. Arguably, I’m actually doing more to fight the power now, but it’s just not as dramatic.
I’m not trying to say that I didn’t want to grow up. You can only sleep on a thin futon mattress in a dirty shotgun flat for so long before it stops being exciting and starts being uncomfortable. Likewise, dancing and drinking and picking people up in bars and then going to work the next day is only sustainable for so long, and after that it gets exhausting. Now I get a good night’s sleep and march into exam rooms, wearing a white coat and authoritatively giving people instructions and diagnoses, standing in my fun-but-not-too-funky-for-work heels and pantyhose (i mean seriously, pantyhose?! i really never pictured that when i was younger), and people look at me and see someone respectable. It’s weird, I tell you. Just weird.
I feel very lucky to have made it through my adolescence and young adulthood relatively unscathed, despite some very poor choices that I made along the way. I credit a few things for keeping me on the thin line between rebellion and disaster. My parents gave me a strong foundation of literacy very early on. They may have made some mistakes in other departments, but my love of reading really took hold and kept me at least partially invested in school. I was also in a magnet program throughout my public school education–where the prevailing attitude wasn’t “IF you go to college…” but “you WILL go to college”–and lo and behold, I wanted to go to college. In fact, I wanted to go to college so much that I made damn sure I was on birth control so I wouldn’t get pregnant and ruin my life when I started having sex, and I stopped doing drugs when I got worried that I might develop a habit. Partially, this is due to genetics. I was born pretty smart, and that helped. And I must not have the genetic predisposition for addiction, because certainly I had the opportunity to develop one. I am eternally thankful that I dodged that bullet. I guess it was luck, with a little hard work and some drive to succeed thrown in, that finally brought me to where I am today. And now I sit at work–my white coat covering tattoos, facial piercings long since removed, the ghost of my youthful self marveling at at this new specter of adulthood.