We’ve gone away for a few days and I’ve come back 30 years old.
Age is a funny thing – not the getting older, but how we think about getting older.
The Government tries to define adulthood and the milestones leading to it by choosing when a person should have the cognizance to make informed decisions about whether they are ready to live on their own, get married, participate in smoking, drinking, sex, enlisting and voting.
But those things don’t really define adulthood, do they? I mean, when I was 18, sure, I felt that the fact my government told me that I was now an adult was my time stamp to show my parents that I had paid the dues of childhood and I was now ready for real responsibility. I was ready to be treated differently. I was ready for the world.
I WAS NOT! Some 18 year olds are. Coming from Middle Class America – I knew very few people who, at 18 years old, were really ready for adulthood. They drank too much and on weekdays. They would shout things like, “Yaaaaaaaaaaa -ya!,” “Woo!” and “SPRING BREAK!” when they were on vacation. They lived with their best friends, but on their parents’ dime. That doesn’t scream adulthood to me. I was the 18 year old that moved into a dorm at a university 30 minutes away where I was guided (read: watched to make sure I wasn’t screwing up) by the Resident Advisor, who are stationed on every residential corridor. And even that wasn’t needed because I came home every.single.weekend in my first semester. Every single one. “Adulthood” had me soaring…..right back into the family home.
But when I look back at the last decade or so, I can map out the major events of my life and see adulthood happening to me. By the time I was in my senior year of college my parents were annoyed that despite having a car at uni, I didn’t make even one trip back to visit them between the start of the fall semester and Thanksgiving. I graduated and with a teaching degree in my hand, decided I wasn’t going to use it, which I think would have been the easier more obvious decision. Instead I chose to participate in a two year internship in another country – in the UK. I didn’t have a passport at that point. But moving overseas wasn’t as scary because I would be going over with my best friend.
I experienced the excitement, the responsibility, and frustrations of my first job. I made that place my home for two years. I met The Native. He asked me to stay. I said “no.” That was easier. This would mean another move and without the familiarity of my friends and life in Liverpool. And then I remembered how great he is. I moved to Southwest England where I would struggle with severe loneliness for more than a year.
We got engaged and married. I bought The Native a dog for his birthday in the first year we were married. While The Big Brown One cried through the night and struggled with digestive problems, the blinding light of dog ownership when your parents aren’t doing the hard stuff shone harshly on my naive 26 year old face as I moaned in the night that this must be harder than having a baby.
And again I say Pssssssssh!
We faced the uncertainty of jobs that aren’t promised to us. We keep facing that uncertainty. We moved a few times without the help of a moving company.
We got pregnant and I worried that I wouldn’t like being a mother. I thought about how I wouldn’t get to sleep in or go out whenever I pleased. I worried that I wouldn’t love her – that the natural bond between mother and baby somehow wasn’t in me.
She arrived and we both knew it was, unequivocally, the best thing we had ever done.
I turned 30. And I look back at my 18 year old self and am strangely surprised at how different my life is now. How different I am. There is no denying that I am an adult, for all of the wonderful and terrifying things that means.
Adulthood isn’t a day that happens or a event that occurs which qualifies you to be taken seriously or treated more respectably. It’s not a right to which you are entitled. It’s something you live. I think it may even be something you can lose. Adulthood is the decisions we make, conscious or unconscious, that reveal who we have become. And, thankfully, I like what life is becoming.