“But, you see, you need to know the whole song,” said Tiffany. “It is mostly only about what humans are made of. It isn’t about what humans are.”–Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith
Why are folks in their late 20s and early 30s so obsessed with “adulting”? Is it cultural? Has the definition of adulthood changed that much? Are we not now, to steal a line from Tennyson, “that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven”? Has the world really changed all that much?
Is it economic—that we’ve been denied many of the traditional hallmarks of adulthood due to coming of age in a recession? Is it because of the student-loan debt and the high cost of rent and the un-/underemployment and the lack of career opportunities*?
Is it psychological—we were raised as “the 90s kids” and we can’t quite break free of that moniker, especially when so many of our parents and grandparents are telling us (due to the aforementioned economic factors) that we’re not doing it right?
I pay my bills. I keep a budget, albeit not perfectly. I can vote. I could join the armed services if I so chose (assuming they’d even take me). I pay taxes. I drive a car and have an (admittedly unpaid and temporary) job that I love.
No, I’m not married. I’m not seeing anyone. I don’t see myself getting married, let alone having kids, anytime soon. I can’t afford to buy a house, and I’ve never set down roots long enough anywhere to even have an idea where I’d want to. And yes, sometimes I watch cartoons and read young adult novels. Why should any of that invalidate my adulthood?
I think I felt most adult when I turned twenty-four—the day no one outside my immediate family and my co-workers remembered my birthday. I had a job then, too, and I was underemployed. And had student loan debt. And had never been kissed nor had sex nor fallen in love (all those unrequited crushes never did count).
Life was hard. I accepted that. I kept going.
That, I think, is what being an adult means—knowing that life isn’t going the way you wanted it to, but deciding that it’s worth continuing anyway. Recognizing that you don’t have the answers, but you have a vague sense of where to look (if it’s something that does have an answer, like how to keep a budget) or at least whom you can turn to for support.
It’s being willing to offer that same support for others.
It’s being strong enough to admit that you’re vulnerable.
It’s having time enough to treasure the people you love.
It’s moving forward—not only in spite of life being hard but because life is hard.
It’s knowing that, even if life sucks right now, even if it doesn’t exactly “get better” (at least not in the way you wanted or expected it to), those golden glimpses of joy in between all the hardship—those shining moments of being—are so damn worth it that it’s worth moving forward.
I don’t have all the answers—I’m a writer: I write because I don’t know, not because I want to prove that I do. But I have a theory that works for me. And I’m still moving forward. Even when life gets hard.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an episode of Sailor Moon queued up on my laptop and the very last Tiffany Aching book waiting for me on my shelf when I’m done.
*You have no idea how much I’m resisting the urge to embed a link to a song by The Clash here.