I can vividly remember being in middle school, or younger, even, and thinking that twenty somethings were so grown-up and so with it* and I was certainly never, ever going to get there. (*Emphasis added for childhood angst). My 13 year old self would look at someone my age and think "Man, there's a grown-up! She's probably so cool and has lots of money and a husband and dammit I wish I was her age!" Twenty-somethings were surely, in my mind, the pinnacle of cool adulthood. And at that young, impressionable age, it felt like I would never get here, to almost twenty-eight. But here I am, in what seems like the blink of an eye (I hate cliches but it's the most applicable phrase for how quickly it seems to have gone) and I'm still trying to figure out if I am a grown-up. Or rather, what it means to be a grown-up.
Legally of course, I am an adult. I can vote, smoke (though I don't) purchase and drink alcohol (I don't even get carded anymore), purchase insurance at a rate that isn't ridiculous, rent a car, buy a house, BUY a car, stay up late, eat ice cream for dinner, etc.etc. I have a 'big-girl' job that I work 8-5, with a salary and benefits, a car, a husband, a college degree and I just applied to get another one. I am expected to pay my bills and am of perfect child bearing age (NOT PREGNANT). By all accounts, legal and semantic, I am an adult. But, am I a grown-up?
'Grown-up' conjures in my mind a few specific things. Surely, we knew our parents were grown-ups (though, not grown-ups like I perceived twenty-somethings to be), and if our younger selves had to describe a grown-up we would say things like "old," "tall," "big," "boys with beards," "girls have boobies" etc. etc. We were taught to both fear and trust grown-ups, (stranger grown-ups might not be safe, but police and firemen are also grown-ups who are also strangers but you can actually trust them HOLY CRAP HOW DID WE EVER SURVIVE?!) to respect and listen to them, to strive to one day be an 'upstanding' one, whatever that meant. I'm not sure when the word "adult" becomes part of a child's vernacular. Perhaps it's easier for us to understand "grown-up" because we are told that we are growing! I think I would have thought adults were REALLY grown-up. Like, old people. Or maybe the term just seamlessly changed as I got older. "Act like an adult!" Got it. I know what that means.
I know that children see me as a grown-up (or at least I think they do), that I don't always feel like a grown-up (see ice cream for dinner) and that I've still got a lot of growing-up to do. I know that I can look at people in my age group and see both mature, well adjusted adults, and peers who act childish (or, what I perceive to be childish). I know that people have said to me. (I'm the first to say it of myself!) that I had to "grow-up too fast" because of the hand life dealt me, but that even though I demonstrated grown-up behaviors like cooking and cleaning, I don't ever recall feeling like one. I was a kid who did what I needed to do. Looking back on it now, I know that I was basically a mini-adult some of the time, but I was a kid in all the ways that mattered.
And now. Now I am approaching thirty, a walking, talking grown-up. I'm realizing that time is whizzing by and I need to make more time for me, more time for fun, more time to let loose! Maybe I'm not ready to be a grown-up yet. Perhaps tonight I'll stay up too late, eat cookies for dinner and say "nah nah na booboo' to my responsibilities. Who's with me?