I’m not sure I ever took the time to contemplate what it means to be grown up. As a kid my thoughts were on owning a house and getting married and having kids and doing what’s supposed to happen next. High school led to undergrad. I always wanted to write.
Write write write.
In my head my future was writing, publishing novels, living in a city and traveling all the time. But I never took the time to fill in that fantasy and figure out what it means to be that person. That I would have to show up and do the work.
So now I’m on the last months before I turn thirty, and I’ve been thinking about it more and more. My entire twenties have been a sort of quarterlife crisis. You can say that doesn’t exist, but maybe our entire generation* is in the midst of a crisis. We can’t figure out which was is up or where to put our next steps. We can’t see a straight line into our futures. Being thirty for me is different than for my parents, having two children and settling into the house they still live in more than twenty-five years later.
The reality for me, right now, as a “grown up”, avoiding the word “adult and still referring to people as “girls” and “boys” as in I want to find a “boy” to date, it means living in your childhood bedroom, working a 9-5, taking graduate level classes, filled with wanderlust, reading books meant** for teenagers, and trying to find my way through “what is next”.
In ways that I’ve come to conclude, being “grown up” has come to mean doing things, being responsible, losing passion, giving in, settling down, giving up, forgetting dreams, holding your breath, doing whatever you want, responsibility, being able to be alone, knowing what you want, paychecks, owning something, facing problems, drinking coffee and wearing lipstick. ***
I’m surrounded by peers and strangers who have their shit together, who are fumbling, who live this image of what life is supposed to be like. Last year someone jokingly asked me why I wasn’t married yet and I responded with “I don’t have the time for that”. Being grown up is, really, what you perceive it to be. It’s more than an age and a status and a maturity. It’s more than what society tells you it is, but in reality sometimes you have to define it while pushing against the ideals and norms that society tells you. A grown up is someone (usually) taller than a toddler who children physically look up to, someone who chooses to use their wisdom to be or not be whatever the fuck they want to be.
A grown up is someone who can say “fuck” without apologies because there’s no one there telling them “you can’t say that bad word”. Or if there is, you don’t have to listen because you are grown up.
* Okay, some people have it figured out.
** I know, YA as a “genre” is almost a fake thing, more adults are reading YA now than ever before and I’m not alone in this.
*** all of this and none of this, but you’ve probably figured this out by now