I just started a new job about three months ago. It’s a departure from the small grassroots non-profit I worked up the ladder in for five years only to be laid off when budget issues forced anyone who wasn’t around when Carter was president to apply for unemployment. The new job is a lot bigger, more corporate and filled with everyone from fresh college grads eager to change the world of reproductive health to seasoned professionals who are probably burnt out from the brutal world of social services.
What surprised me at the new gig was one woman I had shared some elevator talk with and who lead one of my initial trainings. In a few short weeks I learned about her husband who worked in graphic media and traveled to NYC a lot and her two Australian shepherds. Her email signature sported some fancy Master’s degree and she talked about several jobs she held in the past climbing the ranks of social work. She was poised. She was confident. The type of person who had a flexible spending account and knew who authors were before they appeared on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday. A full-fledged adult. What surprised me more? She was only 37, only five years older than me. Instantly, I thought of the last book I read being Harry Potter and The Cursed Child and not some enlightening self-help novel from the bestseller list and felt ashamed. Am I really a 17-year-old living in a 32-year-old’s body?
On paper, I am killing this adult ish…or so I thought in my close-minded view of what successfully “adulting” actually looks like. I have health insurance that I actually understand and because of my credit score, Target repeatedly makes it rain on my limit increase. But I couldn’t tell you what equity is and my political knowledge is limited to knowing that I don’t want this country to be run by a can of Sunkist with horrible hair. And it all makes me wonder? When the hell am I actually going to start feeling like an adult and not like I’m faking it? When will I actually be more into CNN and less into Degrassi: The Next Generation?
If you haven’t noticed my fellow millennials are a little obsessed with the concept of “adulting”. The idea that if you have a career with paid sick time, can claim something that has your DNA on taxes and make mature decisions like opting for life insurance over a make-up haul you must be getting life right. Just last week I ran into an old classmate from high school in a random nail salon reunion that was more like an interrogation as she questioned, “Is that your daughter? Are you married? Where are you working?” I smiled and engaged in polite banter although in my head I was thinking, “Marriage? Check. Decent career? Check. Yes, girl, I have my ish together.” I even fought the urge to comfort her as she revealed that she wasn’t married and didn’t think she’d ever have kids as her mother turned up her nose and muttered through clenched teeth, “It would be nice to have some grandkids though.”
Who the hell have I turned into? “Adulting” is great and all but it’s a tad bit overrated. And just in case you don’t know having health insurance and a child by the age 30 is no way indicative that you’re getting life right and I can’t believe a silly version of me ever thought that. When I was younger having a license and car seemed like the most adult ish ever and I couldn’t wait to be THAT cool, but you know what isn’t cool? Seeing half of my paycheck go to car insurance and maintenance and sitting in rush hour traffic on the way home from work before squeezing two hours of me time out of my night before I turn around and do it all again the next day.
The point is that the lesson I’m slowly learning is that there is more than one way to adult. If you had to Google what the TPP Trade Agreement was after faking your way through a political conversation at work, that doesn’t make you any less of adult. If the biggest responsibility you have for another life is a French Bulldog named “Gravy”, that doesn’t make or break your adulthood. If you prefer to drink orange soda first thing in the AM instead of Matcha Tea, guess what? You’re probably still an adult. Because being an adult is about way more than paid sick time and fancy business cards. It’s about having the sense to know that on some level we’re all faking it and none of us have our stuff completely together. So no more searching through classmate’s Facebook profiles comparing lives and career. No more memes about how great your life is being kid-free to cover up the insecurity that you may never be married or have kids. No more wondering when you’ll get your official adulthood membership card in the mail, because it’s not coming. All you can do is embrace the awesomeness your very real life includes and for me that means I’ll be counting down the days until the next season of Degrassi.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.