THE SECRET PORTAL
by Liz Peters
The older you get the more clear it is that no-one is completely grown up and most people are winging it.
When I was young there was a sense that all the adults knew everything, that they had reached maturity and gone through a secret portal of adultness. I believed that one day I too would be given the mystical key, I would understand everything and I would be finally be a W.O.M.A.N.
My 18th birthday came and went, accompanied by jagerbombs, chicken wings and riotous laughter, but I didn’t go through the adult portal.
At 28 I was working on a ship in the North Sea, dressed in full evening gowns and playing cocktail piano for elderly tourists. I would converse elegantly with them, lubricate their travels with smooth music and was personally in charge of roll call, and thus their lives, should the ship hit an iceberg. I probably seemed like a grown up woman. But inside I felt like I was playing dress-ups and it was terribly hilarious that I was being paid to pretend to be this lady.
Now I’m 35. If I die at 70 then that is middle age. Bang smack middle. Hopefully I’ll get a bit longer but let’s be honest, 35 year olds are adults. So where is the secret portal? When does the Adult Memo come? ‘Hey Liz, you made it! Welcome to le Club de Maturité. Here you will find all the answers plus a bottle of Chateaux Neuf and a case of sparkling Self Assurance’.
And I realise that there is no club. There is no secret portal and if I’m faking adultness then you can bet that most other people are as well.
The Maydays retreat at Osho Leela is an incredibly special time for me. A hideaway in the countryside where we can find freedom from our regular adult masks. We sing songs about penises and run around like monkeys. We get to mess about and scream and laugh. All our friends come out to play, and not just til teatime when mum calls them back in, but for 4 WHOLE DAYS! And we can legally drink beer on every single one of those days.
But if it was 4 days of being actual kids it would be hell! Damn right I love messing about but I don’t want to be a kid anymore. And I don’t want to hang out with kids. For we ARE adults. We have rich unique histories, scars and victories. We have accumulated wisdom and earned our pain. And every second of every year has been a building block to the person we are and will be.
Some of the improv I saw at the retreat was magnificent. Truly honest, soul searching stuff that stirred tears in the eye, lava in the heart and gravel in the guts. It couldn’t have been done by children, nor could it have been done by someone who had gone through the adult portal and never looked back.
Only by allowing ourselves to be as vulnerable and wild and playful as kids again can we reach these rich peaks. There is an openness in childhood, a willingness to discover and not know all the answers. To trust, to try, to fall over and not care. If being an ‘adult’ means entering a secret portal and having all the answers then I can only imagine it is a sterile, lonely and grey place. I want to be with people who keep learning, keep developing and are willing to clamber around the world in all its cragginess. People who can wear suits, speak eloquently and be demure when the time is right and then shield-spin into ninja turtles when they want. And that’s what I love about The Maydays Improv Retreat. It attracts those people.
So here’s to all the grown up children out there. I wink at you behind my wrinkles and you twinkle back behind your job title because we know… We may be adults on the outside but we can keep playing any time! 😉