Tomorrow I turn 29 and I’m honestly not too sure how I feel about it.
I’ve spent far too much time this past year obsessing over the fact that I’ll be turning 30 at the end of 2016. It’s only now that I’ve finally sat down and tried to figure out why. My best guess is that 30 seems to be the line drawn by society to separate transitioning adulthood from real adulthood. A specified point in time when it’s socially required to have your shit together, so to speak.
This line is completely arbitrary, of course. And generational. And situational.
Legally adulthood begins at 18. Some consider it to begin when they finish post-secondary. Others define it as when they leave their parents house. It could be when careers or families start, or simply when the onslaught of adult responsibility starts. But there’s no all encompassing definition that takes into account legalities, responsibilities, accomplishments, etc. So, what is adulthood? Is there a magic moment when you suddenly feel like an adult?
If there is, it certainly hasn’t happened to me yet. But I don’t feel like a child or young adult. I have credit cards, pay car insurance, and owe an obscene amount in student loans. I buy groceries, book vacations, read self-help books, and have been denied life insurance. All of these typical adult things are a part of my life.
So why don’t I feel like an adult? And why does the idea of it freak me out so much?
There are certainly much scarier things than the unavoidable reality of being an adult. Many things that I myself have done. I moved abroad at 18; I jumped off a cliff; I backpacked through 12 countries alone; and moved solo to Europe in twenties with $50 in my bank account. Twice. I’ve wandered abandoned sanatoriums, spent several nights in foreign hospitals, and driven a rental car through the terrifying country roads of Northern Ireland. All of these are legitimately uncomfortable things, but I never feared them. Yet I do turning 30?
I think what it comes down to is that I fear being a failed adult. If I were imagining my life 10 years ago I would have certainly had grander ideas of where I’d be than the reality of where I am. I didn’t imagine I’d be back living with my mother, suffering from an anxiety disorder so severe that I require an ongoing, intensive treatment program, and still career-less after 7 painstaking years of university and grad school. My imaginings didn’t include crippling debt, long months spent bed-ridden with physical illness, or a million other little things that crept up in the last decade.
When I sit back and think rationally about my situation, I know I’m doing the best I can. And that compared to a year ago I’m doing very well. I can and am working full time hours for the first time since 2014. My health is okay. My relationships are good (for the most part). Overall, things are looking up.
So maybe it’s time to just accept the fact that I’m an adult, but throw out the notion that there exists a necessity to define oneself as a failure or success. That to be alive and content in the moment is enough. That to understand your passions and pursue them without fear is enough.
Appreciate all that you are and all that you’ve done, instead of focusing on who you’re not, and what you haven’t.
I think that if I can learn that, then 30 won’t seem so scary after all.