I’m in bed staring at my phone, counting the seconds till my alarm will ring. I don’t know why I always set my alarm even though I wake up before it. Maybe it’s because I don’t trust myself, the tiny ‘what if’ in the back of my mind that I’ll sleep in. But the truth is, I never sleep in. I never sleep. I am a notorious insomniac.
My phone rings and I slowly rise and open the blinds. In the movies, there would be grand sunlight entering in this moment to welcome me but this is real life and the only thing greeting me is the stark darkness of winter mornings and Vancouver rain. I sigh and move along with my morning routine. I don’t remember much of what I do anymore because it’s fairly automatic now. My movements are defined, like a step-by-step manual that anyone could replicate – that’s how predictable I’ve become.
After the routine of breakfast and getting ready, I catch a reflection in the mirror. I see someone with long hair, straightened with such accuracy that there isn’t single strand out of place. I see a black a-line dress and navy heels complemented with an obnoxious statement necklace. I see a canvas of makeup, not too much but just the right amount that accentuates some features. I see an oversized tote in one hand and a black coat in the other and I wonder who the fuck is this stranger?
I realize this reflection is my own and I question when and how this became so. Who am I and when did I look so grown up? The key word is ‘look,’ because I am not remotely close to growing up. What I am doing here is an illusion. I am framing a picture of maturity but truly I am in some grey area of youth on the brink of adulthood.
Do you ever wonder at what point you become a grown up? Is there some pinnacle age? Do we pass some standardized experiences before we claim such a title? Because everything I associate with adulthood is underway like the 9-5 grind and the financial responsibilities. Just the other day, I was searching retirement savings plan. When did such a concept become a priority? I remember when the most concerning financial thought I had was if my dad would pass me some money for the movies as a kid. Yet now, here I was navigating the banality of savings plans and interest rates.
While I am experiencing the indicators of adulthood, I feel far from deserving its title. At my core, I am fearful and in denial. I am fearful of passing days, of how my days are no longer distinct from each other. I am fearful of expectations; ones where I am supposed to just know things. Adults are individuals you look up to, ones who have answers to life’s burdening questions – I am not this person. How will I ever be responsible for another human life? How will I ever be apt to give advice? How will I ever possess wisdom if I am always asking questions?
I am in denial about growing up. I am in denial about graduation from university. I am in denial about committing to long-term plans and people. Heck, I am also in denial of the dark circles forming under my eyes but I refuse to use eye creams I associate with women my mother’s age. I am usually told that it’s for prevention, which I find hypocritical. Aren’t I supposed to embrace adulthood and all of its indicators? Why am I seeking to prevent its onset? Why am I delaying the inevitable? Why is the standard to look like a wrinkle free 15 year old but act like a confident 30 something?
I don’t feel just in claiming I am an adult. I don’t feel I am worthy or deserving. The adults I know and cherish are individuals of grand accomplishments like my immigrant parents who overcame so many obstacles over their lifetime. What have I accomplished in comparison? I have only reaped the benefits of their hard work and have yet to produce anything of relative comparison. Moreover there are those my age that have seemed to conquer and transition into adulthood with ease. There are some already married with children, and yet I struggle to even take care of myself. The idea of another human being under my careis daunting and implausible. I cannot fathom such a possibility at least not yet and at this age. In addition, there are peers of grandiose accomplishments, who have left an impact of some regard. These are peers with vast leadership experiences, presidents of x, y, and z clubs. These are peers with momentous career feats, internships, and jobs with this fancy organization or corporation. These are peers who have travelled, led conferences, and created their own companies. They all seem apt as adults and you wonder, what is their damn secret?
But it isn’t that easy. There is no one answer or secret to knowing how to be an adult. Sure, you can play the parts. Sure, you could accomplish grand triumphs in your career and personal life, but doubt will still follow you. Maybe that’s the one universal truth of Adults: you just won’t know when it happens or if you’re finally ready to be one. Maybe adults are just scared little children at heart who have mastered the game of perception. They know the fragments of what society defines as a grown up and act accordingly, and maybe that’s all I can do.
I look back at my reflection in the mirror, this reflection of a person playing the parts of adulthood. I put on my coat and leave for work. On the train to downtown, I watch all those adults around me. I look at their faces, some aged and saddened, others youthfully naïve and bound for stark reality. I look at their faces and can only conclude they all must be clueless as I am. Aren’t we all just actors of adulthood, submissive passengers on a train headed to obsolete ends?