When (If Ever) Did You Start Feeling Like An Adult?

I have a job and a home and a bank account and I take care of things (living ones! including myself!). But I still don't feel how I'd imagined I'd feel by 36.

Dec 8, 2013 at 3:00pm | Leave a comment

You guys, we're … ADULTS. Think about it for a minute. Really turn it over in your head. Isn't it WEIRD? And kind of horrifying? Like, who decided this? Who decided it made any conceivable tiny little shred of sense to leave important life decisions up to people like me?

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Who me, adult?


When I was a kid, I thought everything depended on becoming a teenager. There was something about those magic years -- mainly because the representations I saw around me (and the ones I made up in my head) looked, yes, magical. All the teenagers I saw on the street, or at the mall, or on TV, seemed so sophisticated and worldly. Never mind the fact that they looked like slightly oversized versions of bratty children. They seemed so alive -- sexy, and carefree, and appealingly petulant. I chose not to notice the unfortunate neck acne, or the braces, or the towering mountain of self-hatred, or the insane internal and external pressure to be JUST RIGHT -- all I saw was the sheen of freedom. They tossed their hair and wore jaunty scarves.

I thought my entire world would open up when I turned 16, when I was finally old enough to drive a car and kiss a boy and make my own decisions. But 16 came, and went, and very little changed. Yeah, I could legally drive a car, but that didn't mean my parents would let me make most of my own decisions (a sound move on their part). I could kiss a boy, but I knew very few boys who expressed any remote passing interest in kissing ME.

At 18, still felt nothing like an adult. My twenties came and went with me feeling like an adult sometimes, here and there, in shiny, pristine, oddly uncomfortable little moments, but mainly I still felt like an overgrown teenager -- still bumbley and fumbley and insecure in my skin.

Through all of this, I kept assuming that one day, far off in the magic-la-la-land distance, maybe in my thirties, yes definitely in my thirties, I'd FINALLY wake up one wonderful morning and FEEL LIKE A GROWN-UP. It would all make sense!

Lo and behold -- that day never came. But I AM clearly, officially, obviously, very much a grown-up. I realize this (albeit with the slightest twinge of despair). I'm in my mid-thirties. I'm strong and capable. I have a job and a home and a car and a bank account and credit cards and I take care of things (including 3 furry creatures I love very much). I've gone through hardship, I've endured awful things, I've grown and changed; I take care of myself.

But ... I still don't generally feel how I'd imagined I'd feel by 36. I still experience those gross fraud-ish feelings in most job interviews ("oh hello, I decided to play dress-up today -- hire me, yay!"). I still feel shocked and offended when people ask for ID or call me "ma'am" or assume I have my shit together because I bear a vague passing resemblance to an adult human. WHO ARE YOU CALLING MA'AM!? Can't they see I'm just a 16-year-old in a 36-year-old's body?!?!?

At some point I realized, though, that maybe no one else feels like an adult, either. Not even, like, old people. Not all the time, anyway. I just don't know how many of us look in the mirror and feel precisely the age we look. Our self-image and identity get so tied up, sometimes, in how we USED TO feel -- as kids, as teenagers, whatever. It can be hard to leave those old identifiers behind and let our self-image catch up with who we are right now, right here, today.

When (um, if ever) did you start feeling like an adult?

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