In the week leading up to her 30th birthday, fellow Aussie actress, Rose Byrne, told me that she didn’t feel that she was ready to enter the fourth decade of her life because she “still didn’t know how to find an apartment and sign a lease”. At the time, she was starring in the hit Audience Network (originally FX) series, Damages, alongside Glen Close, and was facing the challenge of returning to NYC and securing her own apartment for the next season of filming there. Being about 5 years younger than Rose, I remember considering her anxiety with some confusion. Surely anyone at 30 can find themselves a home, I thought. Not least of which a TV/movie star. Now at that age myself, I realize how wrong I was.
We grow up with certain benchmark ideas about where we’ll be, what we will achieve and what capabilities we’ll possess by when. As a teenager, I had a clear image of being a mom by 27. That seemed like a perfect, hip mom age, and that benchmark implied that I would be in a steady, probably marital relationship by then too. Suffice to say, I was still in many ways a kid myself at 27 and neither of these predictions came to fruition.
We assume that getting to a certain age equals certain personal achievements. Yesterday I was on the phone to a friend of mine who bemoaned the fact that while her business and career are thriving, on a Saturday at 3am she will still find herself inebriated “in a dive bar talking to strangers.”
So when do we actually grow up? When do we get that ‘adult’ handle on our careers, relationships, drinking habits and signing leases? It’s true that we are taking longer to grow up than our parents did. Only a few generations ago it was common place for men and women to be married and have a family by their early to mid 20’s. Perhaps it’s that lack of responsibility (children, family, mortgage) and freedom of choice that has left so many of my generation feeling either intimidated by “adulthood” or like a kid for a lot longer than their age would prescribe.
Perhaps too, those 25 year old moms and dads were just as untogether on the inside as us. And perhaps while they were playing the roles of adults they’d often drop their bundles when the stress of it all got too much, or run off to the pub, or get a divorce, or grow quietly discontented as their dreams slipped away. This of course would not have been the case for everyone and even today, some of the happiest people I know are the ones who found their life long love, established a home and started a family, at a young age.
I’ve previously written about how a sad consequence of the Second Wave Feminist Movement is the population of “lost boys” who now roam the planet and resist responsibility, commitment and adulthood at large. But this isn’t really a gender issue. That same feminist movement has empowered us women with the freedom to make the same choices and avoid the responsibilities of adult relationships as well. And like reading a 10 page restaurant menu, when presented with all the choices in the world, landing on one and committing to it can take a long time.
So here we are, me and my contemporaries, considering our menus, taking our time, doing what we want, and feeling a little silly that at 30 we’re still not quite there.