Do you have any memories that are so faint you’re unsure whether or not they actually happened? I have a few like this, with the details smudged around the edges. Fuzzy impressions that could easily be lost forever if I let them.
I remember reaching above my head, blindly pulling down glass bottles of nail polish from a too-tall cabinet. Summer was the only time of year I could have my fingernails painted (as my strict Catholic school forbid any kind of self-expression through colored nails). But on those rare occasions, I’d beg my mom to let me paint my nails some shade of red. A bold, beautiful, classic color, with a fantastic name like “Big Apple Red” or “Red My Fortune Cookie.”
But as a little girl, I never wore red nail polish. Red was for big girls, as my mom told me (and her mom probably told her, as these things often go), and I’d settle for a bright pink, a soft purple, something delicate and dainty. I was never too disappointed though; red polish was for big girls, and I wasn’t a big girl yet.
I grew up with an idea of adulthood that was very tangible and rooted in physical things—albeit often shallow and materialistic and 100% unrealistic. But merely observing and imitating was enough to make me feel like I was getting closer. I would steal spritzes of perfume and heels from my older sister. I’d listen to the click of my mom’s fingernails on the steering wheel, dreaming of a day when I was old enough to drive (and learned to stop biting my nails). I’d sit around the table at my parents’ dinner parties, taking notes on how to replicate them.
But growing up isn’t formulaic. You don’t magically pass a threshold and suddenly you’re an adult and it’s glamorous and beautiful and easy. I was disappointed to learn that at 16 I still couldn’t walk in heels, that at 19 my friends didn’t share the same desire to play adult and have “classy” dinner parties, that at 22 I didn’t know how I wanted to spend my life, and at 25 I still haven’t figured out how to quit biting my nails.
My favorite poem by Mary Oliver ends with the line “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life.” I think of this every single day. It’s the essential question for me, one that guides this extended adventure of my life and figuring out how to be an adult in the world, full of doubt and fear and feelings and constant questioning of whether I’m doing the right thing.
With every passing year, I see glimpses of something that looks like the adulthood I imagined, but it isn’t exciting or glamorous or beautiful or easy. But it is joyful—something I felt often and with ease as a kid, but have learned to appreciate so intensely now.
I’m still learning new things every day. I’m learning it’s better and more fulfilling for me to be constantly reaching than to be comfortable. That risk is good, and in the pursuit of consistency, comfort, and change, balance is key. That adults rarely feel like they have everything under control. And that more than anything, right now I want to be an active participant, an adventurer with her heart open to the signs and signals of the universe saying: everything is OK, you are exactly where you need to be. And as I continue reaching forward, aching for progress and growth, I keep my fingernails painted red, “Geranium” red to be exact, and I feel a little bit closer to myself.
Jennifer Lioy is a writer, designer, illustrator, feelings-haver, and all-things-doer at Holstee (technically, the Creative and Communications Lead if anyone important is asking). She lives in Austin, TX and eats breakfast tacos every day. If given the chance, she will corner you in a bar to ask you what you’re afraid of.
Start the day feeling grounded and inspired with our 30 day Reflections series.
Join thousands of people who have received the 30-day Reflections email series and enjoyed a daily moment to reflect, smile, and think about a life lived mindfully.
Free. Unsubscribe anytime.
“I’m in the midst of big life transitions at the moment, chasing book deals, relocating, taking risks, carving out a life that feels honest, so your emails have been a perfectly timed source of inspiration and reassurance.” Jo in London, Great Britain
"Love the emails! They are a great reset or what I would call mindful chiropractic adjustment to approaching the day. Thank you!" Laurie in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"I love the emails. They give me a new perspective and things to think about and apply in my life." Monica in Johannesburg, South Africa
"It's food for the soul and sets my spiritual compass in the right direction." Farahdiva Samsul in Assam, India
"Absolutely LOVE the daily emails. One of the only email subscriptions I read daily. Keep them coming!!" Adriana in New York, New York
"The emails are thought-provoking and uplifting. A little pause from the crazy happenings of modern life. A quick chance to reflect, smile, and think about a life lived mindfully." Pharan in Queensland, Australia
"I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mindfully Mailed series. Daily I await this little nugget of goodness to hit my inbox each day." Tambria in Shreveport, Louisiana
Welcome to Holstee
Our monthly membership helps conscious people (like you!) live a more meaningful life through actionable guide, inspiring art, thought-provoking content and a like-minded community.BECOME A MEMBER
This article is part of our series on the theme of Adventure.EXPLORE Adventure
Distilled from our Manifesto, positive psychology, the science of mindfulness, and ancient philosophic studies we have identified twelve themes core to living both fully and mindfully. We mapped these twelve themes to each of the twelve months in a year. Together with our community we explore one each month.VIEW OUR THEMES