At the age of thirty-one, I suppose I have to submit to full-on adulthood. It feels strange. For most of my life up till now, I always felt a part of a youthful generation. Everyone reaffirmed this to me countless times. Ever since I’ve turned thirty, though, something has changed. I rarely get ID’d anymore. People have stopped acting like certain references are before my time. I am pretty sure I heard one of my favourite bands referred to as “classic rock” just the other day.
Yep. I am officially not young.
My teen years may as well be ancient history. My twenties are a humourous part of my past. My thirties are laid out before me like uncharted territory and I – almost – get excited thinking about what is yet to come.
It took a lot of time to get to this point. Even a year ago I never truly felt like an adult. It seemed more like playacting at times, like dressing up in my mother’s clothes. Now that I am here the too-big heels are more comfortable than expected. Ill-fitting at times, but I am getting used to them. Blisters add character anyway, right?
When I think back on it all, it’s not hard to determine when these feelings of acceptance set in. I’ve always been seen as “responsible”, “practical”, and “mature”. I just never really felt all that accountable for my actions until I had someone relying on me. That is, until I had a dog.
Nothing forces a person to think beyond themselves more than having another living being depend on them for everything. No longer could I carelessly wander off to the bar after work or sleep in until noon on a Saturday. Granted, I didn’t do much of either before Shiva, but I noticed when these freedoms were removed. All of a sudden, I had to plan out my day, follow a schedule, and stick to my promises. It didn’t come without resentment.
I wish I could say that I took to dog ownership naturally and that I happily took to my new job without looking back. However, like any large change, it wasn’t so easy. There was definitely a wide period of adjustment for me. I remember moaning one afternoon about six months in, after an exhausting day at the office, “is this my life now? Is walking the dog all I am ever going to do again?”
The answer is yes, pretty much. My social life, never very large to begin with, has disappeared outside of dog-related activities. I spend the majority of my free time during the week either walking or playing with Shiva. Most of my thoughts are about her comfort. All of what little extra money I make goes towards providing for her needs. None of these things are at all what I had in mind when I said I wanted a dog. I expected a canine companion to add to my life, not take it over.
And yet, four years later, all of my resentment has dissipated. I don’t care if all I ever do again is take Shiva for a walk. In fact, it is my fervent prayer that I will have the honour of doing so every day for the rest of my life. If only it could be so. Have I been brainwashed by a pair of big brown eyes and a wet tongue? Maybe. Or maybe I’ve grown up.
Age and experience has taught me that being an adult doesn’t mean I can’t have fun or do the things I’ve always enjoyed. It doesn’t mean I have to stop playing video games or watching animated films. It’s much more insidious than that. Adulthood in it’s proper form does mean responsibility and all of those other awful-sounding words; however, once one gets there, she finds it isn’t nearly so dreary as it once sounded. In a way, because I was perhaps mature beyond my age as a child, I think I might have stagnated. At eight I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. At seventeen, I acted much more like someone ten years older, prepared for the consequences of every small action. For a number of reasons, I think I hit a limit around age twenty and could not advance myself any further. This may be why I felt so young, so behind. Everyone else was moving on, making big decisions, and I was still contemplating whether or not skipping class would have dire consequences down the road.
Shiva’s presence has nudged me forward, kind of thrust adulthood upon me whether I wanted it or not. I find myself acknowledging things now that I denied before. I no longer make decisions on a whim or expect things to just happen for me. I now know I am the only one in charge. If I want something, I need to seek it out. If I screw up, no one is going to come along and fix it. It’s all on me now. This is a feeling both burdensome and liberating.
Shiva’s “Gotcha Day” was last week, April 15th. It means she is now around five years old. The magic number. People used to tell me during that first year “just wait till she gets older, probably around five, she’ll calm down.” They were wrong and right. Wrong in that Shiva is not a “calm” dog. I don’t think that is her personality. Everything she does, she gives her all – whether it be running at the park, jumping over an obstacle, or napping on the couch. It’s not in her to be a calm dog. Nonetheless, she has grown up. There is a maturity in her actions that shows in her decision-making. She now knows there are consequences for her choices and more often then not these days, she chooses the smarter path. When she chooses wrong, instead of reacting, she looks to me for advice. Shiva now knows how to ask for help.
That is one part of adulthood she has over me.
I like to think we are growing up together. Bumbling along, making mistakes, figuring things out, and sometimes feeling completely at a loss. I try to carry myself as a leader for her but in so many ways she is my teacher. Thus, I am also going to work hard to be the best student I can be.