Ever since I turned 30, I’ve felt a palpable difference between myself and any 20-something. (Even though my twenties were just mere months ago.) 30 to me represented being an ADULT, settling down. By the time my mom was my age, she had 4 children and was going through her second divorce.
20-somethings can get away with a lot, but being alive for three decades meant that I would have to start to really take responsibility for myself. My family expected it of me. So did society (and I really did expect it of myself).
I had to think about others, about which career I wanted to pursue for passion and not for the paycheck (although of course I had to make enough to support the glamorous lifestyle I craved and my severe case of wanderlust), whether it was worth it for me to skip washing my face, whether I was a person who donates to charity, about having a family (or if I even wanted one, and if I didn’t, being confident enough to recognize it and go against the social, cultural norm without fear of being shunned like a spinster with leprosy). If I did have a family, my decisions would become even more difficult. Every single choice would effect my offspring, from what I would eat during my pregnancy, to whether or not Santa Claus would be part of the household.
The scary truth is, when you start adulting, no one will encourage you to brush your teeth like your parents would if you’re too tired to drag yourself to the bathroom (except maybe the dentist when you have to get all those cavities filled). There’s not a chore chart where you get a sticker for making your bed in the morning and eating all your vegetables to make sure you grow up into a responsible, healthy adult. No one is there to remind you to take a jacket and use the bathroom before you leave the house so that you stay warm and don’t get a UTI.
Sure, living alone and earning a paycheck gives you the God-given right to eat ice cream for breakfast if you damn-well please. You could stay out until 5:00 in the morning without fear of getting grounded for eternity. You can blow all of your money on one spontaneous trip to Spain. You’ve earned this right, this freedom. It feels great to not have a curfew or chores or ever have to hear, “While you’re under my house, you listen to my rules.”
I’m doing this just because I can! I’m testing the boundaries and no one can stop me! No one can tell me what to do! It’s my party; I’ll cry if I want to!
After my bank account kept getting lower each week, and after getting a bank fee for not maintaining the minimum balance (look, Chase, if I don’t have the $1,500 minimum balance, do you really think I can afford to pay you $12 a month just to store my money?), I decided I would really, truly have to grow up. I had to start paying attention to the lessons my parents tried to teach me while I was too young to truly understand words like responsibility, patience, perseverance.
One day I woke up and realized there was perfectly sound reasoning and first-hand experience behind the oppressive tyranny of my parents’ household. They wanted the best for me. But, like most children, I didn’t listen.
Now that I’m officially an adult, no one will take care of me but myself. Sure, people want the best for me and my mom will continue to ask me if I’m going to bed on time, but no one can make me choose organic produce or work out. That’s on me.
Health insurance is not just given to me anymore like it was when I was a child. When I worked full-time, I had to decide what kind of health plan I wanted; how much was I willing to pay for which kind of plan? Did I need to get health insurance? Why don’t I have a living will yet?
In fact, a lot of things were no longer given to me. I didn’t come from a wealthy family, but I did have my own books, my parents took me to the doctor whenever I was sick. I got cold hard cash from my grandmother every year for my birthday. School was something I just did, without much thought. But after high school, I had to decide what I would do— which college and what major? Or did I even want to go to college?
Everything started to add up. (Well, everything but my bank account which, not surprisingly, continued to dwindle.) If I called out sick to work too many times, it would effect my job security and possibly a reference. If I ate ice cream for breakfast (and lunch and dinner), I would gain weight. If I spent all of my money on frivolous (albeit adorable) dresses, I wouldn’t have any money for a down payment on a home. If I left my dishes in the sink, it would be even harder to clean off the hardened leftover cheese.
These may seem like glaringly obvious realizations; simple cause-effect here. But I think there comes a time in everyone’s life when they wake up. They become more self-aware, more responsible and realize that knowing and doing are different things. Knowing that I have to brush my hair is different from doing it. Thinking about taking a yoga class is different from practicing (as evidenced from my lack of flexibility, balance, and posture).
At the risk of sounding like Forest Gump, my momma recently said that life is like an elevator.
Maybe one day it gets stuck, broken in between floors, and you’re left with just yourself, or strangers, and you’ll learn something from it. You’re already on it and you can’t control it. As a child, your parents are with you so it doesn’t seem so bad. They protect you, limit your options so you’re not overwhelmed, and press the buttons to the floors they think are the best for you. They are the first in line to defend you from harmful elevator guests and under-construction floors.
But now I am the one pressing which floor I want to go to. I can enjoy the ride, or complain about the lack of view or lack of color in the carpeting. Either way, I’m on this elevator. I am the one who has to decide if I want to get off on that floor, how long I will spend there, or whether I will even take the elevator.
Maybe today I’ll choose to sprint up the stairs.