Being Adult

I’m thirty-five. When I was a kid that sounded pretty old. My thirty-five year-old self was going to be well-established, sophisticated and wise. My adult self surely would not still be wearing socks with owls on them and calling her parents when things go wrong and wondering what she wants to do with her life. Surprise – I haven’t reached a stage of consummate adulthood. Maybe it doesn’t even exist. I think there’s something to Gertrude Stein’s assertion that “We are always the same age inside.” Experience has shaped my outlook and choices over the years, but fundamentally I don’t think I’ve changed that much.

That said, there are certain things I do that make me feel like the bona fide adult that I am, for better or worse. You might think that getting my first full-time job or getting married are on that list. Nope, those didn’t pack the same grown-up punch that the items on this list do. Maybe you’ll know what I’m talking about:

1. Calling 311 to report a coyote sighting, sewage problem or gas smell and feeling confident that the operator knows I’m not a prank caller.

2. Buying deli meat — not only being savvy enough to select the Kretschmar ham when it’s on sale, but also engaging in friendly banter with the person behind the counter.

3. Saying “Another day, another dollar” to the person behind me when clocking out at work, in a tone that conveys the perfect mix of good cheer and despondency.

4. Responding to people’s invitations by saying “I’ll have to check my calendar”, then explaining that I have a “conflict” and we’re going to have to “reschedule”, all of which makes me feel pretty gross, actually.

5. Citing NPR, Reader’s Digest and 60 Minutes as sources of everything I hold to be true.

6. Presenting sound bytes that I heard in the media as my own reasoned political opinion. It’s a well-kept secret from young people that most political discussions consist of adults pretending to know what they’re talking about.

7. Debating the merits of Pepto Bismal versus Imodium with friends.

8. Using the word “deductible” in a conversation that actually has a bearing on my life.

9. Setting an alarm on my days off so I can get started on a to-do list that is downright ambitious compared to those I wrote in college, which generally included reminders to shower, eat lunch and go to class.

10. Waving someone ahead while driving, because I could be a jerk, but I won’t, because I’m an adult.


  1. Eh, I got you beat by two years. I work with those that say 35 is old, but I’m like speak for yourself. I don’t feel old. To tell the truth I don’t think anyone wants to be an adult.

  2. I agree with Stein, sort of. I still hold many beliefs and attitudes, yet I have changed from the idealistic young woman who believed she could change the world if she worked hard enough and was GOOD enough. One thing holds true, though, to me, middle age is always 15 years older than I am. That belief keeps me happy as I slide down the other side of that hill.

  3. So accurate. Supposedly I’m an adult too but I really don’t feel like one. I’m in a perpetual state of fake-ti-til-you-make-it.

  4. I just turned 38. My 14yo daughter was carrying on about getting old because she was almost 15. Kids. I told her that really you end up feeling one age for ever. When I think about myself, I’m still 22. But maybe with a little more sense in me.

    The thing that actually made me feel like an adult was moving out of my dad’s house into our own when I was 33. It’s a rental, but it’s ours. I realized that as I placed *my* things around *my* house. Before I had to put things the way my dad wanted them.

    Also buying our own washer and dryer.

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