I still recall the smell of heavily aged textbooks, chalk, and Drakkar Noir hanging in the air the moment I became an adult. It was my senior year of high school and I was sitting in Mr. Mathis’ English class. It was maybe a third of the way through the class period when someone made a comment about adults and how we weren’t adults as high school seniors. Maybe they were trying to make the point that we shouldn’t have heavy, adult-type expectations placed upon us. Maybe it was a kind of “we’re just kids” type of stance this student was making, seemingly on behalf of the entire class.
Mr. Mathis (who was also the drama director for all the school theater productions*)–prone to lots of dramatic movement around the room–stopped dead in his worn-out, faded brown leather Sperry boat shoes and said: “Wait a minute. Are you telling me no one has made you adults yet?!?”
We gave him a collective blank stare, wondering what in the world he was even getting at.
He rushed over to the front of the room, reached toward the chalkboard chalk tray and took a yardstick he kept there in the chalk dust. He spun around toward the class in a grand gesture and instructed us all to stand. The unison of 30 metal legged, plastic seat school chairs scraping whatever that tile material is that’s found in every school in the early 90s was just breathtaking. CREEEEECH.
With his class of seniors on their feet, having no clue what was about to happen next, but exhibiting full trust in this one-in-a-million inspirational, funny, true, authentic figure that stood before us, Mr. Mathis waved his chalk-dust laden yardstick and like a wizard summoning the power stored in his wand, he declared. “There. You’re all adults………….Now sit down.”
And that was it. That was the moment I became an adult. Adulthood was thrust on me, and all the weight of adulting landed in one fell swoop.
I have to confess that I walked out of that classroom with a different pep. I had taken what Mr. Mathis had done and as seriously as a 17-year-old adult could, I tucked it deep in my heart and resolved to live it.
What’s YOUR advent of adulthood story? When in your life did you start to feel the weight of adulting?
Paul Mathis passed away in 2013 after a battle with cancer.
He’ll always be a hero of mine.