When I was growing up, I envisioned coming of age as something akin to Pokémon evolution. I would wake up one day feeling fundamentally different, and from that day on, I would be a different person. I would suddenly know how to pay my taxes, what you have to do to schedule a medical appointment, and everything would just start to make more sense for me.
I didn’t know exactly when it happened, but I assumed it would be in my early twenties. People that age felt so old and knowledgeable; everyone probably figured out life then, and just enjoyed the next 30-70 years.
I turned 22 a few months ago. I’ve been able to legally drink beer for the last 4 years, I moved out of my parents’ house nearly a year ago, and I finished my last college class over 2 years ago.
I’m not an adult.
I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t have a clue how to file my taxes, and the only great bit of knowledge I’ve gained is a deeper understanding of how little I know about life.
I stopped by the supermarket this morning to get some groceries. I picked up some fruit, bread, milk… and in the cereal aisle I picked out the healthy cereal I’m trying to get used to, and a box of Froot Loops.
I went to the till to pay, and after spotting the Froot Loops behind the other box of cereal, the chatty lady at the till asked me how old my child was.
She asked me how old my child was.
I have never heard anything in my life that made me feel so old.
Sure, 22 is not that old. But having a kid? When did I get old enough to have a kid? To have a full-time job? Who is this person, and what did she do with the real me? Every day I’m ticking off another thing from the mental checklist young me had of adulthood, but I’m still no closer to figuring things out.
I’ve learned how to set up medical appointments, I pay for all my bills, I voted in the last Presidential elections… I’ve done, and regularly do many things 8 or 10 -year old Lily would have considered sure signs of adulthood. Am I an adult? I suppose I am.
However, a big part of me doesn’t want to accept that. Not solely because it makes me feel a little old, but mostly because once I accept someone as confused as me is an adult, I have to accept most other adults, perhaps even all of them, are also making it up as they go along. What a terrifying thought. The people in charge of armies, countries, of big companies… they’re not wise ‘adults’.
They’re probably people just like me… kids and teenagers who never went through the Pokémon-type evolution that would make them full adults, confident of themselves and capable of handling anything.
We’re all playing dress-up. It’s all a sham. Everything. Society, the world, adulthood… we’re putting on this performance where we all seem like we’re composed and wise when every last one of us is really just pretending.
Everyone I’ve talked to about this, whether they’re about my age and starting to deal with it, or in their 30s or 40s has said the same thing. I suppose you get used to it, but these last few months it’s been simply disquieting to me. The people in charge of all the world aren’t all that different from me, and I’m never going to wake up one day, suddenly free of uncertainty or my insecurities.
I suppose the only comfort here is the freedom realising this also gives you. As the wonderful cartoonist behind xkcd put it best: