I used to believe that becoming an adult was a slow and incremental process. You graduate from high school, life gradually piles on more responsibilities, and before you know it, you’re playing shuffleboard with your cronies as you’re wondering where your youth went (which I think is what happens when you’re 80?). But lately I’ve come to learn that adulthood doesn’t just happen over time: it’s a choice. You wake up one day and say to yourself, “Child, the TIME HAS COME,” and then go act like an adult. This is how it works, in reality.
I’m pretty lucky, because I get to choose when I’ll grow up, instead of being forced to do so by financial, emotional, or familial responsibilities before I’m ready. My time might be now, spurred by a decision I’m facing right this very moment: whether to stay in California for the summer, or go home to Seattle.
When I started writing this diary entry, LO LIKE 30 MINUTES AGO, I thought it would be all about my awesome life in California. I was explaining how exciting and full of creative things it is, and how I was excited to spend the summer here. How I got an internship and registered for classes. How the choice to stay here instead of going home to my mom signified a turning point in my life, an important step in becoming a grownup.
I was almost done with the entry when my mom called. Coincidentally, she wanted to talk about my choice to stay in California for the summer. She told me that my not coming home puts her in an uncertain place, financially—she doesn’t get child support from my dad unless I am physically living with her, and without that money, she says, she can’t afford the mortgage on our house. Suddenly my decision on what I’m gonna do this summer isn’t just about me. By staying in California to keep the ball rolling on this whole growing-up thing, I’m forcing my mom to sacrifice a lot. But going home would mean my sacrificing a crucial summer of internships and studio use and taking advantage of the resources my school has to offer to work on my art projects.
The thing about art school is, it’s not just going to college, and that’s it. School, or an art life in general, is full time; I have to completely live it if I’m going to be successful, make work that’s important to me, and be taken seriously. I wouldn’t be so dramatic about this if I didn’t think it was true: I believe staying here this summer is an enormous step in defining the rest of my life. It would prove (to myself more than anyone else) how serious I am about making art, finding a place for myself in the music scene, and making connections with new friends and collaborators (basically everything that’s important to me in my own selfish, individual interests).
Another complication: my dog’s health is deteriorating and I feel like I’m deserting him when he needs me most. It might be his last summer. It’s agonizingly sad, because I feel like by staying here I’m abandoning my family, but I know deep down that it’s the best thing for me.
I told my mom that she can have me home for the financial security, but temporary financial comfort isn’t as consequential as my having to forego this big turning point in my life. I can move forward with what I have going, which is full of motivation and work and opportunities…or stall and lose all of my momentum by going home.
After I got beat up last month I went to Seattle for a few days to recuperate. As I was leaving, my mom told me about a dream she’d had. In the dream there was a decapitated baby doll with a messed-up leg. Even though it didn’t have my face, it apparently was me. She was carrying the screwed-up Dylan doll around, telling the dream-people, “I have to bury my dad and my baby.” Her dad passed away around Christmas, so that made sense, but, uh, me? That’s pretty warped mind-stuff from my pretty untwisted mom. She asked her boyfriend to analyze the dream, and he said, “If Dylan doesn’t come home for the summer, you are burying your baby.”
I know she’s not ready to let me go as a child without one final summer. I know that my dog really needs me, and he’s so important to me. I hate to sound selfish, but from my perspective, these are the two sides of the coin right now: I could come home, allowing my mom temporary financial breathing room while incurring permanent backtracking on my path to grownup land…or I could ask for her to hold out and sacrifice a little bit more for a little bit longer while I stay in California. Age 19 feels like mission-critical, once-in-a-lifetime stuff; if I lose time now, I’ll never get it back. But how self-interested am I allowed to be?
As Jack Black says, “Being a person is hard.”