You'll Never Feel Like an Adult

You'll Never Feel Like an Adult

I remember being young and doing the math to determine how old I would be in the year 2000. The turn of the millennia seemed impossibly far away, and the age I would be at that time seemed impossibly old. And yet here we are, twelve years after that magic number, and I haven’t yet crumbled to dust.

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Credit Image: Dinner Series on Flickr

Everything about adulthood seemed so distant. Adults were a foreign species. They were confident and competent. They knew things, like how to get stains out of fabric, what to do for a burn, when to get the oil changed in the car, which fork to use at a fancy wedding. I imagined that at some point in the distant future I would cross a mystical threshold and be granted all these pieces of knowledge, and more. As I grew older, I longed for adulthood. I thought I would stop feeling confused, wear clothes that matched, have furniture that did not come from Target, remember before April 14th that taxes were due on April 15th.

But a funny thing happened – or, really, failed to happen. That magical day never came. Suddenly I was about to turn thirty, and I looked around at myself and my friends, and we had all these adult responsibilities: careers, mortgages, children, retirement savings, and I didn’t feel like an adult, and no one around me seemed to, either.

So I did the only sensible thing: I panicked. I became convinced that I was horribly behind in life. I was a failure and a fraud. I should have accomplished much more, and everything I had accomplished was worthless. I gave myself ridiculous ultimatums about things that Must Be Accomplished by the Time You Turn 30, and then berated myself for failing to meet them years ago.

Out of all that hysteria, one good thing emerged. I began to write the novel that would become The Weird Sisters. I’d always used writing as a way to sort through my emotions, figure out my problems, daydream on paper. So I took all the questions that were eating at my soul and I gave them to three sisters, all around the age of thirty, and I let them look for the answers. I let them ask why they didn’t feel like adults, how to resolve the conflict between their family roles and the people they wanted to become, whether they have a destiny, why they felt like everyone else was so far ahead of them.

Writing that book was infinitely cheaper than therapy, and while I can’t say I found all the answers to those questions, I did come to terms with many of them. And then, when the book was published, the most amazing thing happened. I discovered a secret. Everybody feels the same way. I have talked and emailed with hundreds of people who have told me about their families and their lives and their feelings about success, and I’ve been so relieved and gratified to know that we all share this big secret: You will never feel like an adult. You will always just feel like you.

So here I am, staring down the barrel of another big birthday, writing another novel about the questions that are plaguing me, some of them new, some of them old. I remember to get my oil changed (sometimes), I wear clothes that match (this is much easier when you only wear yoga pants), I own furniture that does not come from Target (and some that does), and I know to start with the outside fork (that spoon at the top of the plate, though? You’re on your own).

I’m still confused a lot of the time, and I still often feel like a failure. But the big difference is that those things bother me much less. I’m hoping that I’ll continue along this path, becoming more and more comfortable with myself and the world around me, changing what I can and letting go of what I cannot. But the thing The Weird Sisters has taught me is that I am not alone on that journey.

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