TBDAdulting creeped up on me. It didn’t jump out at me or hit me in the face like a volleyball. I didn’t wake up one day married or as a mother thinking, “How did this happen? When did this happen? Why?” (Although I do find myself asking those questions from time to time, typically when I see an engagement announcement on Facebook or discover that someone from my childhood has brought their own tiny human into the world.)
I spent most of my life being painfully independent. I’ve worked since I was 15 (12 if you count babysitting), so I never really thought about employment as a badge of adulthood.
I had plenty of moments where I was holding my breath until payday, hoping I would be able to pay rent on time and going to the bar ordering water and hoping someone would offer to buy me a drink.
It wasn’t until I was 23, fresh out of college and working full time as an insurance agent that I had my, “Holy crap, I’m an adult” moment.
I was still living pretty strapped for cash. I was making $10 an hour and living alone for the first time in my life. I loved the independence of not having a roommate, but I hated not having anyone to split the bills with.
The best thing about having my apartment to myself was that it was mine! I never have been the type of person who likes having company over; when I lived with my parents or a roommate, it always felt awkward. Did my guest and I shut ourselves in my bedroom? Did we awkwardly stay in the common area? It was just not worth dealing with, for the most part. So, the first holiday season in my own place, I decided to have a Christmas party.
It was a noble idea, had I not been broke. I got busy assigning items for my guests to bring and shopping at the Dollar Tree for decorations and party favors.
And when I got paid the day before the party, I texted my boyfriend, “I got paid! I can buy cleaning supplies!”
That’s when it hit me… and I did the most millennial thing I could: I tweeted, “You know you’re an adult when you’re excited you got paid and can buy cleaning supplies.”
That was the moment I realized my priorities had changed. I used to get paid and think, “Yay, I can go out!” Now, payday meant scheduling my bill payments online, buying cleaning products, picking up groceries and wine (because who needs to pay $6 a glass at a restaurant when I could buy a decent bottle for $6?).
I also realized that when you grow up, things change, but they also stay the same.
No matter how old you get, you will find yourself looking up to the big kids — in my case, the “big kids” are Kerry Washington, Ava DuVernay and Viola Davis. No matter how old you get, you still want to go play with your friends but have to do your “homework” first. For me, nowadays, that means “finish tomorrow’s blog before happy hour.”
I still don’t know what the hell I’m doing most days.
Understanding that the question, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” now means, “Who do you want to be right now?” is something you keep doing, no matter how old you get.
My becoming an adult wasn’t the first time I signed a lease alone, or when I negotiated my first brand-new car. It wasn’t when I got my own insurance, the first time I went home for the holidays and was a part of the adult conversations or even when I helped make the funeral arrangements for my grandmother’s funeral — it was all of those times. Plus the time I got excited about buying cleaning supplies, and about a thousand more, because it’s a constant realization.