I’ve always reveled in the fact that I’m young, always doing the hottest, trendiest things created by other young people. No longer able to answer the age question with “twenty-something,” I’m 31, well past the age of being a bona fide adult, but I don’t feel like it, whatever that feeling is supposed to be.
Yes, by society’s standards, I am an adult. I work; I own a home and pay all of my bills independently. I take my trash out every week, contribute to charities, have two savings accounts and an IRA, and help old ladies cross the street.
But in my mind, sometimes I’m still that oblivious 23-year-old looking for the next good time. Sure, I do all those responsible things I listed above, but I also eat Cinnamon Toast Crunch for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if I want; laugh at dumb, crass jokes until I cry; text until my thumbs are numb; and make the same mistakes in relationships — sometimes with the same people — as I did in my early 20s. My phone conversations with my girlfriends are cackle fests, and, occasionally, I shop at Forever 21, which I’ve conveniently re-named Forever 31 when I’m there.
Some days I’m perfectly OK with that, and some days I’m not. Lately, I’ve been struggling to find this balance between the “kid me” and the “adult me,” even though I’ve been said adult for a while. It’s like I’m experiencing some weird life crisis that hasn’t been identified yet.
Perhaps, I feel this way because my only responsibility is myself, and most times, I wing it. I’m not a mother and I’m not in some “fulfilling” relationship in which I have someone to consider or take care of. When I was 19 or even 25, I never imagined that this is how “grownups” live. They seemed so serious, dressed in their monochromatic cardigans, talking about their projects at work, daycare woes, and whatnot. I can have intelligent conversations about work and politics, and I have a few cardigans in my closet, too, but I don’t think I’m serious at all.
Nothing has made me know that I’m not as young as I used to be more than having my younger cousin live with me. She is a fresh out of the plastic 18-year-old with shiny sew-in and shiny stilettos to match. Every time she and her friends saunter past me in their Marilyn Monroe graphic tees and bedazzled sunglasses on the way to the mall, I realize she is young, and I am not. Her biggest responsibility is college and getting the maximum number of hours on her part-time job’s schedule. Mine are keeping a home in order, gas in the tank, and my debt to income ratio as low as possible. I’d love to blow my money on designer handbags and heels I can only wear for 2.5 hours, but I need a healthy retirement fund and food to eat.
Is 31 old? Like, Cryptkeeper old? No. In fact, I laugh at those who make such as a big to-do about exiting their 20s. I once unsuccessfully pitched a story about the big 3-0 to a popular women’s magazine. The editor was right. Once I crossed that threshold, it was no big deal and no one really cared but me.
I’m sure when I’m 40, I’ll long for these days in my 30s. The objective, though, is to be comfortable, content, and satisfied with where I am at any age. Do good things, do fun things, and have experiences with good people.
So while I sometimes envy the freedom these younger girls have, I wouldn’t trade with them. There will be many tears, blank stares, and “I don’t knows” to come for them. I can look back, laugh, and even wince over those years. There is something incredibly sexy and alluring about being able to think and act independently with no regrets, yet willing to accept the consequences, and in turn, use them to grow. More than an age, that is what being an adult is all about. It can suck sometimes, but it damn sure has its perks.