Am I Really an Adult? And Other Assorted Questions

Fake it ’til you make it. Just smile and act like it’s part of your plan. These are things I find myself mumbling each day while I go from one situation to the next. Perhaps I just have imposter syndrome, perhaps I am clueless.

I read someone else’s blog post a few days ago about being 37 and not feeling like it. That immediately struck a chord with me because I am turning 37 in a couple weeks and I feel the exact same way. I don’t feel 37- but I also don’t feel like an adult. In many ways I still feel like a kid. I always assumed that being an adult would feel different.

I would still eat chocolate cake for breakfast if I had the opportunity. I crack tons of ‘That’s what she said,” jokes each day. I still want to play hooky and stay home and sleep.

How can I be 37?

I washed laundry today. And folded it. And put it away- yeah, all in the same day. Wooo. That rarely ever happens. I changed the sheets on my bed and marveled at how great fresh sheets felt on my bed. I changed the toilet paper roll before it was completely empty. I took yucky smelling Tupperware out of the back of the refrigerator and cleaned them out instead of leaving them hidden to take care of next week. I made sure my daughter’s school folder was all taken care of. I bought my kids new shoes. I wrote items we were out of on the shopping list. I gave my son a bath. These are all adult things to do.

I in no way feel like I am 37, unless you count at the end of the day when I crawl into bed and my back and hips ache, or at 5:00 a.m. when my son wakes me up and I feel like I have a hang over but know that I am just sleep-deprived, or when I see the harsh bathroom light reflecting the silver in my hair.

How did I arrive at the precipice of 40 and still not know what the hell I am doing?

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My whole life I have felt uncertain… uncertain of what I should do, of how I should act, of what I should say… I was forever the quiet mousy one in the corner. I constantly had my nose in a book, reading about characters like Jean Valjean, Edmond Dantes, or Scarlett O’Hara, and inserting myself into their life stories instead of being active in my own. I always looked to my peers and did what they were doing and kind of just coasted along. I thought I was on track to be a responsible adult, an adult. I was senior class president. I was on the school student council. I graduated 3rd in my class. I had scholarships for college.

Then after high school I had my rebellious period, later than most. I didn’t take college seriously, in part because my high school was too easy and I got good grades without having to study. So when I went to college and found out that it was fucking hard and that I didn’t know how to be a student, I just coasted again. I slept late, missed classes, failed two semesters. Disappointed my parents, the whole drill.

I quit school for a while. I worked in order to pay rent, eat, and pay for fun. I didn’t see at the time that I was living life like a hamster on a wheel: always moving but not going anywhere, adrift in irresponsibility and selfishness. Why worry about a career or having nice things when I could live in the moment and be dancing to The Dead at Red Rocks, tripping out to Phish, or sitting in a coffee shop in Amsterdam? I spent years wasting time floating through life instead of learning how to navigate it.

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I lived a pretty bohemian lifestyle until I was almost 25. I cut myself free from a bad relationship, lived on my own for the first time, and made strides to turn my academic life around. Then I met my husband, my anchor, a straight arrow. To be with him I dropped the rest of my youthful irresponsibility. If I didn’t have him, who knows what my 37 would look like.

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I still have no idea what I am doing about 95% of the time.

Really.

Did I somehow miss the lecture or class or documentary on how to be an adult or what it would feel like to be an adult? How does everyone else learn this stuff? Don’t get me wrong, my parents made me have a job, take care of pets, learn responsibility, clean house, wash laundry, mow the lawn, and so on. They prepared me the best they could.

When I left the hospital after having my first child I was scared shitless. They just let you take this tiny human home with you, like you know what you are supposed to do. To this day I question if I am doing this parenting thing right. Why is there no instruction manual? Am I screwing my kids up? Will I only know too late?

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When my mom was 37 I was 15. She seemed like she was a lot older than I am now. I always thought she knew exactly what she was doing. She seemed pretty confident that she did, anyway. Did she feel the same way I do? I don’t know, but I don’t think so.

When I come home I feel like there is so much more that I should be doing, so much more that I should have in order, so much more that I should know how to do. I do what I can and move on. Should I stay up two hours later so that my house is always spotless, my meals are always planned, the household laundry always folded neatly in drawers. My mom always seemed to have everything under control: the house was neat, the yard was neat, we always had everything we needed for school, she always had some fabulous meal cooking.

Each day I show up to work and question if I am doing enough, do I look busy enough, do I seem like I really know what I am doing? Do I know what I am doing? Am I making a positive difference? Do I do a good job?

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I am approaching my 18th year of employment at the same institution and I am amazed that I have made it so long and done so much to climb the ladder from where I started, because when I started at 19 I did not expect to be working there a year later, let alone almost 18 years later.

Am I a good wife? Do I give my husband all of the love, support, and encouragement that he needs? I do treat him as well as he deserves? Am I an equal partner? I so often feel that in the everyday shuffle with trying to take care of the kids and working if I want to blog, paint, or get extra sleep I am ignoring him.

Is there more to life than working to pay bills and repeating the cycle over and over again? Is that something I missed a long time ago when I should have been paying attention? It would be a cruel joke if there is not.

Is there ever any sort of validation that you are doing things right; that you are an adult in ways more than just age?

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Is feeling this way common?

OK. It’s late. I spent all day alone with a toddler and have had way too much time to think. I could sit here all night immersed in introspection and self-analysis, but I shall bore you no longer.

Sarah

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