During my four-year stint as a fifth-grade teacher, I was charged with teaching the course, Growing & Changing—essentially the basic science behind the birds and the bees and what the prepubescent body will be encountering. While this was one of my most awkward units to teach due to the muffled giggles and anonymous questions (i.e., Where do boys put tampons?), I felt it my duty to conclude the three-week lesson with a lighter discussion about how we are ALL constantly growing and changing, both literally and figuratively.
“I’m still growing and changing!” I remember saying. Their faces, already ashen from the sperm and egg discussion, seemed shocked.
I wanted them to know how much they would evolve over time, from physical body changes to interests to friendships and goals/dreams/careers. Of course, at the time, the depth of my discussion was lost on their innocent fifth-grade minds. But I can’t help to personally visit the many things I’ve grown out of.
On a very literal note, I have grown out of (or outgrown?) much of my clothing. Like most women, I have a portion of my closet full of clothes I’d like to fit back into one day, items I think might come back in fashion, pieces that need mending, and sentimental clothing that will never be worn in or outside the home. For example, the pale pink bridesmaid dress I wore for my sister’s wedding. Even though she enthusiastically ensured me that if I had it hemmed, “it would be a great dress for a night out on the town!” My sister just had her five-year anniversary and the dress hasn’t moved from the “to be mended” section of my closet.
There are definitely some “younger years” clothing pieces that are not necessarily appropriate for the 40-something growing and changing body. COVID years pieces, essentially sweatpants and Grateful Dead T-shirts, still occupy space, but I rarely wear them for fear of negative COVID energy that may be stuck in the fibers. There is a small section of professional wear, and then the going out wardrobe. I say wardrobe, but I really mean the three pieces I regularly rotate. To be honest, the late 40s have been a difficult time for finding my fashion sense. I don’t understand some of the new styles, so I’m constantly unsure if what I’m wearing is old and matronly, or somewhat stylish? I don’t know whose opinion to ask, either. My husband? Twenty-year-old daughter? Fellow mid-life mother friend who is going through the same dilemma? The struggle is real: Growing and changing is hard work.
Over the years, I’ve also grown out of friendships, sometimes a difficult undertaking when you’re an adult. Some friends had come into my life for the duration of a job, the baby and elementary parenting years, or the length of a kid’s sport season. Some I’ve purposely distanced myself from, others—we just grew apart. Whatever the circumstances, each has left a nugget of themselves with me.
Most amazing to me is the many interests and hobbies I’ve grown out of over time. The leathered fingertips that never truly grasped the hang of a guitar. The plethora of yarn I accumulated during my “I’m Bringing Knitting Back” phase. There are bare wooden birdhouses in the garage that are still awaiting the mosaicking promised over 10 years ago. Or the adult paint-by-number sets I binged for a while and have since dried out. And I have since moved on.
I’ve even outgrown careers. Teaching was once my sole focus, until I wanted to explore other options. If I do my math correctly, there are still about 16 years until I’m 65, the average age of retirement. Heck, I could have a whole different career in that amount of time!
Every hobby I’ve outgrown, each friend I’ve loved, all the students I’ve taught, and each piece of clothing I’ve collected or worn, all of it is a part of who I am today. I believe seeking and embracing growth/change is the quintessential ingredient to a fruitful life. So, when I told those fifth-graders that everyone is forever growing and changing, I was speaking the truth—well, minus the onset of acne and stinky armpits.