I still don’t have this whole “being an adult” business figured out. I’m not even sure that I AM an adult. Sometimes I still feel like I’m 16. I mean, plenty of signs point to the fact that I am, in fact, grown. I am almost 25 years old. I can drink, smoke, drive, vote, reserve a hotel room, and rent a beach house (that might might be 26… not sure). I’m married. I live with my husband, 10 hours away from our parents. I’ve graduated from high school and college. I have a real job, kind of. Lots of my friends and people I know from high school and college are getting married and/or having kids. Surely this means I’m a grown-up now?
But other things make me doubt my adultness. I still have (and wear) some of the same clothes I owned in high school. I still watch Disney movies by myself with embarrassing frequency. When someone talks about “a decade ago” or “ten years ago,” I still think of the mid-90s before I think of the early 2000s. I have clear memories of my first day of 9th grade. I am sometimes confused for a dressed up senior in the high schools where I sub. I do things that I know are irresponsible, selfish, and immature, with little or no thought as to the outcome. In addition to all these outward signs that I’m not as grown up as I’m supposed to be, I also have a general nagging feeling that maybe I’m still a little kid playing dress up – a feeling that I still don’t have my shit straight.
I also have a suspicion that I am not the only person from my generation that feels this way. There have been a number of books written and studies done on the “man-child” – surely not a recent societal creation, but one that has definitely gained prominence in the last 10-15 years. They wonder why so many men (boys?) in their 20s and early 30s are opting to opt out of adulthood, choosing instead to work dead-end jobs, play video games, avoid long-term relationships in favor of hook-ups, and other behaviors one would expect to find in 16 year old kids instead of working to become “men” in the ways of previous generations (working good jobs, marrying, having kids, etc).
I don’t know what’s causing this epidemic of immaturity and Peter Pan syndrome among my generation. Maybe it’s the crappy economy forcing many of us to move back home after college, or the way we were raised by our helicopter parents? There has not been as much talk about girls suffering from these same issues, but my friends and I have talked about how strange it is to realize that we’re supposed to be adults now, and how unprepared we feel for such a responsibility. In order to trick myself into thinking I’m more mature or grown up than I really am, I went out and bought some new clothes yesterday – clothes to make me look more like a 25-year-old instead of a high school kid. My general non-work uniform consists of jeans and t-shirts – basically the exact same thing I wore in school, but with the jeans a couple of sizes larger. I’m also planning on getting a more grown-up haircut, because I’ve had the same one (straight, one length, no bangs) since high school as well.
Maybe it’s not that big of a deal. Maybe BEING an adult – fulfilling your responsibilities, working, having a family, etc – is totally different from FEELING like an adult. Maybe they’re not even related. Recently, I talked to my dad about how un-adult I still felt, and asked when I would start feeling like a grown up. He, who had just turned 60 and has worked his whole life to provide for my mom and I, responded with, “I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there.”