An adult is not strong. An adult is not arrogantly devoid of appearing weak. They do not hide the lashes of struggle nor do they wear them as badges to be honored. There is no award for the adult other than stability, comfort, and calm. There are no trophies for being mature. There is no ceremony with firework salutes or horse-drawn kings handing you scepters or loved ones surrounding you with garland. There is only a stack of mail on a kitchen table.
There are no pretentious adults. There are no social goals for adults. Adults can only influence who they are as much as they can change the direction of a hurricane by spitting in a particular direction. They do not control the anxiety of debt, the dread of failure, the captivating presence of mediocrity. They are not immune to fear; they are simply dulled by it. They live by a train track, and only notice the grinding movement of commerce when the horns interrupt a conversation about dogs.
Adults are not without dreams. They do not stand against the winds of reality in blind terror. They do not sacrifice who they have become in the name of ideals dictated to them by shiny women in glossy print. They cannot hide their mistakes behind the curtain of ego and project a wizard of triumph. They do not lack a brain, a heart, or courage–though they may confuse the three.
An adult does not decide what they want, though they do what they want. An adult is not fearful of the strongly-worded letter, the chastising email, the voicemail from a number they do not recognize. If an adult wants a cat, they get a cat, fully aware of the ammonia they’ll breathe in cleaning up after it. They do not hide their shame because they have none. They go to doctors and obey laws and take vitamins not because they are told to, but because they fear death. An adult is ready for the 2:30 a.m. phone call, the arrangements, the weeping elders as they remember their youth. An adult does not use words like “youth”.
An adult does not exist in their own head. An adult does not believe begging is only a default for bums. An adult knows homelessness and addiction and poverty are not verbs. An adult does not concern themselves with the wandering eye of blame, already knowing the heat of that spotlight so well. They know they are no more than three mistakes behind a drugged man singing alone in a laundromat, croaking out “Can you see the real me, doctor?”
An adult does not try to be an adult. They have no immaterial standard for themselves other than self-respect and knowing they have done all they can do. They do not look forward without looking back because life is not a smooth lake; it is a game. An adult does not strap on a helmet and meet concussion after concussion because they missed the review tape. They understand the importance of the autopsy, the viewing of every drink their liver has met. They embrace their mistakes then let them die as alone as possible. They look each and every juror in the eyes and confess their unholy sins, not to relieve guilt but simply to end the trial. They do not fear. They do not hide.