What Happens When You Suddenly Realize That You’re An Adult

How did I not see this coming?

The signs were there. The marriage, the dogs, the Pyrex, it all adds up. I pay taxes (on time). I clean out the gross food catcher at the bottom of the kitchen sink with my bare hands without batting an eye. I get unreasonably excited in the fancy (read: overpriced) cheese section at Whole Foods. I don’t fully understand my 401K or the stock market or exactly what’s happening in Ukraine, but I know that I am supposed to.

People ask me if I have any kids and my instinct is to laugh, until I remember that I am at a perfectly legitimate age to be having children intentionally. Planned children; there’s a concept.

At almost 26 years-old, I am finally forced to face the truth. In both social status and chronological age, I, apparently, am an adult.

Did our parents go through this same epiphanic moment, gradually climbing toward adulthood without even realizing it until they were elbows deep in mortgage payments and yard work? Correct me if I’m wrong — seriously, please do. It thrills me to realize that anything I write can incite enough emotion to garner the oh-so-well-respected opinion from the Internet Commenter — but I imagine not. Most stories I hear from my parents’ generation involve a resolute emancipation at the age of 18; a brave journey into self-sufficiency, fueled by ideas like freedom and individuality and opportunity. There was an obvious distinction created between adolescence and adulthood.

So what happened to us? Is our postponed adulthood a result of the well, didn’t we all graduate college during just the perfect economic climate narrative? Maybe many of us were just too coddled, our parents striving to provide for us in a way their parents never did or could. Honestly, I am content with leaving that debate to the sociologists.

All I know is no one warned me for this. Perhaps I should have gotten the hint when I moved into my dorm room freshman year. Something new is happening here. If living away from home and washing my own sheets didn’t do it then maybe my post-graduation move across the country would. Going home now requires a plane ticket? Or at the very least, getting married should have tipped me off. Dad, you are literally handing me off to another man. How am I not getting this?

So here I am, turning 26 in two days, and somehow feeling shocked, nay, betrayed, that no one told me I am really, truly, completely, self-sufficiently, for real this time, an adult.

I have extra towels in my bathroom for guests — guests! — as in, people who stay in an actual guest bedroom on a pre-meditated basis, not just because they passed out drunk on the couch (not that this doesn’t still happen).

I have preferences on cleaning supply brands. I don’t select my toilet paper based on whatever’s cheapest (I kid you not, for a brief time in college our only option was Chipotle napkins). Trips to Costco excite me (more for the free samples than anything else, but it still counts). I maintain that the best gift I received for Christmas last year was a 16-piece Pyrex Snapware set. I am completely okay with this.

In terms of new responsibilities and lifestyle preferences, I have sufficiently established that I am an adult. But what is there to be learned from this?

For the first time, I state this realization not as a complaint or a joke, but merely as a declaration. Along with the bills and responsibilities and (sometimes) stress, adulthood also brings transformation, freedom, and discovery. I am no longer confined to a worldview as explained to me by other adults. My grade level in school does not dictate the people with whom I socialize and in whom I confide. I am building a life decided for by myself, surrounded by those whom I choose to have in it. Turns out that mental and emotional maturity brings along a whole lot of refreshing liberation.

This year, I was fully prepared to resist the notion of growing older and to jokingly refer to my 26th birthday as the first anniversary of my 25th. But I finally realized that all of the newness that has thus far accompanied each birthday has been overwhelmingly positive. Instead of resisting, I resolve to embrace the second half of my 20s. I resolve to eagerly look ahead to all that is left to experience and discover from life (I’ve hardly scratched the surface!). I resolve to stop complaining that oh em gee I am soo old, when really my adult life has only just begun. I resolve to not reflect on my past enviously, but to appreciate that I have had the fortune of creating such fond memories.

And maybe, if I have time, I resolve to read up on Ukraine and finally learn what the Dow Jones is. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – New Girl

More From Thought Catalog