Thursday, July 23, 2015

On Adulthood

An excerpt from Toni Morrison's commencement speech at Wellesley.
I've written before about my feelings on nostalgia.  I think it's human nature to remember the past as being better than it was.  I remember vividly chatting late at night with high school friends about what our lives would eventually be like.  And here I am.  I like to think that I have consciously lived into that dream.  I try to pause when I catch a moment of my beautiful son.  When my husband makes me laugh.  When I pull up to the house that we so proudly purchased.  These were all dreams of that teenager.  I can say that I reject the notion that the best days have gone...   Adulthood is a lot of work. When compared to the work of childhood: crawling -> walking -> running; speaking -> making friends ->forming relationships - maybe it's less daunting but unlike childhood the work of adulthood is really a very personal journey.  There is no formula to follow.  But a commitment to the work of your own pursuit of a life you dream of, yields a really rewarding gift.

"I’m sure you have been told that this is the best time of your life. It may be. But if it’s true that this is the best time of your life, if you have already lived or are now living at this age the best years, or if the next few turn out to be the best, then you have my condolences. Because you’ll want to remain here, stuck in these so-called best years, never maturing, wanting only to look, to feel and be the adolescent that whole industries are devoted to forcing you to remain.
One more flawless article of clothing, one more elaborate toy, the truly perfect diet, the harmless but necessary drug, the almost final elective surgery, the ultimate cosmetic-all designed to maintain hunger for stasis. While children are being eroticized into adults, adults are being exoticized into eternal juvenilia. I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, target of your labors here, your choices of companions, of the profession that you will enter. You deserve it and I want you to gain it, everybody should. But if that’s all you have on your mind, then you do have my sympathy, and if these are indeed the best years of your life, you do have my condolences because there is nothing, believe me, more satisfying, more gratifying than true adulthood. The adulthood that is the span of life before you. The process of becoming one is not inevitable. Its achievement is a difficult beauty, an intensely hard won glory, which commercial forces and cultural vapidity should not be permitted to deprive you of."