When I was 7, I defined adulthood as the day I could eat an entire batch of chocolate chip cookie dough without anyone (i.e., my mom) trying to stop me.
That day came and went, and I learned two things:
1. Eating a batch of cookie dough isn’t that fun, after all.
2. Eating a batch of cookie dough does not make you an adult. It makes you sick.
So, I was forced to re-define my definition of adulthood. This is what I came up with:
1. Has full-time ‘career’-type job with benefits and a 401k. (I didn’t know what a 401k was, I just knew adults had one.) Oh, and health insurance.
2. Is married.
3. Owns home, bought with own money. And a car.
4. Has kids.
5. Is 30 or older.
This definition was created right around the time Britney Spears was at her peak, and I thought “Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman” was so insightful. It spoke to my soul.
I never considered what would happen if I became an adult purely on the basis of #5, which is what is about to happen to me.
I guess I’m an adult now. I say this more because I’ll be 30 in September and less because I feel like an actual grown up.
It’s the age that seemed far away, especially when I was 17 and listening to Strawberry Wine on an endless loop:
I do still remember when 30 was old.
In reality, adulthood sets in sometime before 30. My first indication that others viewed me as a grown up was in November 2007. I was in England, getting off a crowded coach to check out some Guy Fawkes fireworks. I stopped to let a girl of about 6 and her mother exit in front of me.
The girl tugged on her mom’s sleeve.
“That lady was nice, wasn’t she, mum? She let us get out.”
I almost fell over. Lady? Ladies wore floral frocks and white gloves. Ladies were not young and carefree, as I was. I wasn’t a lady, I was a…girl? No. Woman? Maybe, but it didn’t feel right. Britney Spears? No.
Oh my god. I was a lady.
It was a reality check.
Now I’m 29, which is just the age that younger people percieve as being old, while older people see it as being young. People often tell me that “You don’t look almost 30.” They follow this up by saying, “That’s a good thing!”
News flash, people: I do look almost 30. This is what an almost 30 lady/woman looks like. Adulthood doesn’t look or feel that different from ladyhood, which makes it really confusing to figure out where you stand.
I’m still not convinced that I’m an adult, but the numbers don’t lie. So I made a list of behaviors from the past year and determined whether or not they were ‘adult.’
Did own taxes for 2 countries, even though it was very confusing and I had to pay the IRS $65. (Adult)
Paid off huge credit card debt from years of reckless, un-lady-like behavior. (Adult)
Primary form of transportation: pink bicycle with basket and neon-green mirror. (Non-adult)
Scored job teaching children to speak English. (Adult)
It’s a temporary, contract-based job in a country I don’t want to live in permanently. (Non-adult)
Made cookie dough. Ate 1/3 of batch. Felt sick. (Non-adult)
Baked 1/3 of batch. (Adult)
Froze 1/3 of batch. (Adult)
Ate frozen 1/3 the following day. Felt sick. (Non-adult)
Had LASIK surgery without consulting my parents, and paid for it myself. (Adult)
Play Super Mario on Jared’s DS more than he does. (Non-adult)
Debate cancelling my facebook account. (Adult)
Can’t bear to go through with it. (Non-adult)
As you can see, my system is somewhat flawed.
So I re-read this article in the New York Times about the changing nature of adulthood. I was curious about the ‘the 5 milestones to adulthood,’ but then I saw that the article was 9 pages long and I just don’t have that kind of attention span these days. (Non-adult)
Which made me realize: I don’t really care what it means to be an adult. Because striving to be a textbook adult means adhering to a world of shoulds.
You should settle down – aren’t you tired of traveling?
You should buy a house.
You should get a long-term career.
You should save money for something sensible, like retirement.
i.e., you should stop enjoying your life and start keeping up with the Joneses.
And my#1 reason for not being an adult is this, Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary definition:
Adultlike. noun: One that has arrived at full development or maturity especially in size, strength, or intellectual capacity.
In high school, my friend Ben Crawford posed this scenario:
Say there is this button, right? You push it and it will transport you back to any period of your life, where you can spend the rest of your days. What time period do you choose?
I thought about it very seriously, as if I might find myself in this situation. Then it came to me.
I wouldn’t push the button. Ever.
No matter how good life is, I’d hate to think that I’d reached its peak. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? The belief that it’s not going to plateau, that everything can just keep on getting better.
So if being adultlike means hitting all of the expected milestones and achieving the limits of my intellectual capacity, then I’m not really that interested.
Somebody pass me the cookie dough.