“Well that’s adulthood and you’re not there yet.”
She was talking about home ownership.
I was sitting in the back seat of her car, feeling small and pretty choked up. Age 24, being told I’m not an adult? Somehow? Despite everything?!
Oh man, it almost reduced me to toddler-sized tears. (I also decided I was never accepting a ride from these people ever again. I get around in my city just fine.)
At age 18, I backpacked Australia on my own dime; milking cows for money and relying on the kindness of those strangers with couches and outhouses. The experience was humbling and I learned a lot. Age 19: I returned to Canada and I started university far away from my hometown, sans student loan or parental support. Age 20 was a lot of minimum wage jobs. The past few years have been good to me. I’ve been able to find work in my field. My desk has a view of parliament. I finish my degree this year.
The people closest to me might remember the nights I spent in ER from throwing my back out to the point I could barely move; literally from stress, workplace injuries, and not getting a break. At one point, I was working three jobs and going to school full-time. One doctor, after treating me multiple times for anxiety, infections, and back spasms, wrote me a doctor’s note for “time off.” I feel accomplished in my adult life, though I wouldn’t wish my struggle on anyone. To be honest, I’m still a little bitter about it.
Being told I’m not an adult? I knew it wasn’t true — I knew this right down to my core — but it still fucking stung. Especially since this comment came from someone dating a family member, who should technically know me. Also, I shouldn’t even feel like I have to justify all the ways I am an adult (although it’s my natural inclination to do so, because I am still a flawed and sometimes emotionally defensive human being, hence this blog post).
But there are so many think-pieces on millennial entitlement, etc. it’s hard not to believe the hype that every 20-year-old is actually a lamb in wolf’s clothing. Further, being an adult “in the traditional sense” (or whatever) is such a culture-specific, nebulous thing at the best of times. So I don’t know what these writers are on about; the majority of those articles are pretty self-serving, dripping in off-brand salt, and lacking nuance.
I don’t know who this person thought she was to tell me I’m not an adult.
My goal is to live life well; which may or may not involve home ownership, marriage, or having children. Those things have nothing to do with my maturity or ambition. I’m a competitive person who thrives on lived experiences, friendship, and my independence. I take a lot of pride in my education, my job, my travels, my apartment, and my relationship. I imagine I feel good about these things for the simple reason that, at some point, I felt challenged but was able to overcome. I might enjoy parenthood one day, but given my career trajectory, I know that right now it’s not for me. I don’t know where I want to “settle” (if I ever do) so buying a house is a no-go. But that’s okay. My life is filled with good people and I’m pretty okay. I’ve lived a good life and I’m proud of who I’ve become.
But such is living that things aren’t always coming up roses, either. I’ve also known hardship, failure, and loss; and those blows have grounded me and made me more mature. I totally flunked the majority of job interviews I’ve ever done. Heartbreak is the reason I treat people better now than I did. When I’m at a friend’s place, I take my cup to the sink and I rinse it out. I hurt sometimes, but I get better every year.
All in all, the past quarter-century, I’ve grown to feel like an adult. I imagine this feeling of adulthood, which for me feels a lot like responsibility and kindness owed, will deepen with more experiences and time.
Adulthood doesn’t have to be more grandiose than that.
Sure, some experiences — like taxes and marriage — come naturally to adults. I know that marriage is an adult experience. But it’s not the only one. And most people don’t do their own taxes, anyway.
Are you taking care of your own shit, to the best of your ability? You’re an adult. Then again, if you’re living in the adult world on your own accord, you probably already know you’re a goddamn adult.
To sum it up, my point is this: if anyone tries to tell you that you’re not an adult even though you’re like, 20-something and know you’re pulling it off just fine, or just pulling it off, you can tell them to royally fuck off. Cut those people out of your life. They’re not here for you. They haven’t noticed and don’t care about your growth. You have your own things to worry about.
Like finishing that novel or auditioning for that play. Taking a language class. Visiting your mom one of these weekends (or one of these years). Getting a new job because your current supervisor doesn’t appreciate your value. Maybe you want to make a move to a downtown apartment. Today could be laundry day, but you’re on it.
Sincerely, I think you’re doing great.