So I’m up late with back pain – and no real need to moderate my sleep schedule – and I was reading Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick, and she talks about how she expected fame to change her for the better, which is to say, not make her a pretentious douche, and I found myself laughing because I had a conversation eerily similar to this not two weeks ago with a series of friends of mine.
None of us are famous by any means, but we were talking about how we all thought that by now, our mid-late 20s, we’d have magically transformed into adults. We all had this image in our minds of what adults looked like; spoiler alert – none of us feel like we match that image. One of us achieved their career dream recently – and is muddling through a divorce and single motherhood, one moved back home and scrapes for jobs and maintaining student loan payments, one does freelance work and occasionally makes enough money to be considered successful, but just as often doesn’t crack double digits.
We laughed and we groaned, but after I closed the chat for the day, I started thinking more deeply about who I used to be. I remember being in high school, imagining how different I would be in ten years. That’s next year. NEXT YEAR. And I am not sure how I measure up. I’m several pounds heavier. I have more trouble getting up at a reasonable hour. I never got a degree, which my high school self takes as a personal insult – and I require medication to moderate my anxiety.
Now, that being said, it’s not like I’ve been a total failure or anything, at least by my own standards. I lived alone, bought a car alone, fell in love, lost my virginity – high school lady had no interest but also little hope this would ever occur – and found myself comfortable in a long-term relationship. I even got so self sufficient and independent that I was awkward being in said relationship.
This is not the person I thought I was going to be – she looked a lot more like, well, my mom, but that was when I thought she had it all figured out. Now I’m older, wiser, and the reality that has set in more fully ever year since I turned 20 is that NO ONE DOES. They fake it – and what’s worse, they come to us as teenagers, hell even elementary-aged children, and badger us for some sort of ‘plan’ for ourselves. What the fuck is that?
When I was five I wanted to be a teacher. And a mom. And a ballerina. My attitude was more befitting a bawdy bar maid, even then, but my favorite things in life were my mom, my teachers (Ahhh, I was so cute) and SkyDancers. My teachers and parents encouraged this, they wanted me and my friends to plot things out for ourselves – be like them.
Now to be clear, I know a few people – very few – who actually found themselves doing what they wanted as children. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s amazing, but the likelihood of it is so small I just don’t get why we pressure kids to figure it out.
After we detached ourselves from public schooling and found our way to college, or trade school, or whatever, my friends and I started looking around and we were all a little…confused.
Wait – this is just more high school? Wasn’t it supposed to be different? Aren’t boys supposed to suddenly find my brain sexy? Aren’t I supposed to have transformative experiences even though I don’t live on/near campus and I work full time? Make lifelong friends even though we only see each other a few hours a week? Aren’t these classes supposed to be more interesting?
And most of all – aren’t I supposed to know what the hell I’m doing here?
Still other friends were running smack dab into other stone-walls of adulthood. They became mothers, met the loves of their lives – or didn’t – got married, tried drugs (Not necessarily the same people).
We were everywhere along the map within a couple years and the weird thing is our ideas of what an adult should be didn’t seem to adjust to the real world around us. Instead our generation developed the word ‘adulting’ for some bizarre sensation we get each time we do something that we know to be ‘grown up’ but have no sense of self-change.
I don’t know how you feel about the term ‘adulting’, it alternates between making me laugh and making me ache, but the concept comes from this oddly common mindset we have that there was going to be a ‘moment’ when we stopped feeling like our old selves and became…Adults.
This doesn’t exist.
I’ve gone through traumatic things in my life, dealt with things far and away within the adult sphere. After those events, nothing about me felt transformed in an overall way. Maybe the way I thought about something, or the way I made decisions changed, but I was the same person. And I’m probably always going to be. I can see my 90 year old self chilling in a rocker, texting arthritically, telling my great-grand-children errant stories about Pokemon Go and white-water rafting on Snake River.
I don’t see myself become a different person – but my priorities are definitely different. I think that’s what’s going constantly change as I age. When I have babies I don’t know that I’m going to care as much about the outcome of certain TV programs, I’ll be more worried about playing peek-a-boo. I won’t window-shop online for lingerie as much, instead it’s toys and diaper bags – and lingerie because after a baby I can only imagine the more distraction you have the better.
Right now I don’t really care about planning for the future – I should, it’s just I get caught up in switching jobs and finding a career – or at least a way to pay my rent next month so my boyfriend doesn’t have to cover it – and some day, hopefully soon – starting a savings account! Oh to dream.
So I figure all this out – it must not bother me, right? Fuck off. Life still presses me to be – but not feel like – an adult all the time, and I am like, “Oh yeah, I pay my own rent, I got this.” But then I remember that before my boyfriend moved in, there were several times I cried myself to sleep, terrified how I was going to make it through to the next paycheck.
It calms me the fuck down.
And then my uterus reminds me that I’m closer to 30 than 20 and it’s time for me to have BABIES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Several of my friends who don’t want kids laugh at me when I bemoan this condition, as they have little to no-such biological alerts going off.
Anyway, the overlying point here is that it’s a confluence, all the time, from the day they start asking us to plot out our lives, we feel like we ought to be prepared for it, that it works, and the reality is that life teaches us as we grow is that all that shit is wrong, and we’re buoys bobbing along in the current, catching on rocks when we can, but overall, just keeping heads above the water, for lack of a more original metaphor.
Growing up is a hoax, you’re going to feel like a kid for the rest of your life, off and on. Being an adult is a myth; you are never ‘an adult’ you’re just an older, ideally more capable, version of yourself.