When I stepped off of the stage after college graduation, I expected to feel like an adult. I had a plan that involved a cross-country move, a job in public relations, my adopted dog, and my long-term boyfriend.
Two years later, I have bailed on corporate life and ended my relationship — I do still have the dog. The fact of the matter is that I do not ever feel like an adult, although I am now in my mid-twenties. I didn't feel like an adult when I signed my first lease or when I received my last paycheck, or any of the days in-between.
When I look back at my parents, I realize that I thought they always had it completely together. They were working full-time, raising my brother and me, and still had time to put home-cooked meals on the table each night. They were adults, and I genuinely thought that when I reached that level of success I would have my life completely sorted out and that I would feel like an adult, too.
The more I look around during this period of "adulting," the more I realize that we are all in the same boat. Take a moment to think about if you know anyone that feels like an adult or if everyone is looking for an adultier adult than themselves when they have a problem to solve.
I have found that each person I know feels the same in this regard; none of us feel like adults, regardless of age or success.
In my case this could be pinned to the term quarter-life crisis, but I know that deep down it isn't. In reality, my parents didn't have it together all the time, I just thought they did. Similarly, I don't have it together all the time — or really even half of the time.
The thing that makes it hard to accept is the pressure we put on ourselves. We want to have it together all of the time. To have the successful job and relationship. To be established. We think that this will make us feel like adults, that we will feel like we have made it, that we will feel satisfied.
But it's not real.
Being an adult and feeling like an adult are two very different things. You can be an adult and not feel like one. You do not reach a certain age and stop having problems. You do not reach a certain age and realize that you have it all together. Having a job or an apartment doesn't make you feel like an adult. Being able to successfully curl your hair and do your makeup doesn't make you feel like an adult. Keeping another living, breathing thing alive doesn't make you feel like an adult.
It can be terrifying. I can often be found telling myself that I just need to "get it together." I feel like I should be an adult at this age. I feel like I should know exactly what I am doing. I should have the job, the relationship, the life. I should be able to multitask at a professional level. I should be able to work, hit the gym, make dinner, run errands, look stylish, have my hair and makeup remain in place.
There is not a single day that I feel like an adult — and that is OK. Having it all together at all times is not attainable. Feeling like an adult is out of reach, but that doesn't mean that I am not an adult.
I have moved across the country twice. I have held corporate positions for multiple years. I have been promoted. I have signed leases and supported myself. I am an adult; I just may not feel that way.