I'm 30-Something And Still Waiting To Feel Like A Grown-up

by Rita Templeton
Originally Published: 
Photo: Rita Templeton

By all accounts, I am a full-fledged adult.

I was born 30-something years ago. I have childbearing hips, fine lines on my face, and gray strands in my hair (I like to call them “age highlights”).

My kids gape at me when I tell them I was born before the internet and can remember when we had to stay tethered to the wall while talking on the phone.

I pay taxes. I have a mortgage. I have a job and bills and clip coupons and make doctor’s appointments and gripe about current events and my back hurting. I carry ibuprofen in my purse.

For all intents and purposes, I appear to be a real live grown-up. Adulting all over the damn place.

The problem is, I’m still waiting to feel like one.

I always thought that once I reached some certain magical age, I would feel legit.

I waited for it when I moved into my first apartment. When I bought my first car.

I waited for it when I voted in my first election. I waited for it when I hit drinking age (even though, okay, I may have experienced a little backslide in maturity at that point).

When I became a wife. When I became a mother. When I became a homeowner.

Any day now, I thought, I’ll wake up and feel like I’ve certifiably got my shit together, like I’m finally worthy of being taken seriously.

Yet here I am, still feeling like I’m walking around in shoes that are too big.

I look like a grown-up and am entrusted — no, heaped — with actual adult responsibilities every day with four children. But I look around at my fellow adults and get the impression that they’re “real” and I’m not.

I may appear to be one of them, but really I’m just putting up a façade, and I’m waiting for someone to point at me with narrowed eyes and yell, “Impostor!”

There are times when I definitely feel my age, like when I talk to a college kid who was born the year I graduated from high school. But that makes me feel more washed up than grown up.

Sometimes I catch a glimpse of that “real adult” feeling, after a particularly grueling day of meeting obligations, but it’s always fleeting.

I start to think maybe I’m getting it down, but then I’m faced with a situation that I’m sure everybody else my age would know how to handle — yet I’m clueless, a novice, even though I’ve been a technical adult for years. And then any fragile idea that I might finally be a valid grown-up disintegrates.

Maybe it’s because I’m a 30-something woman who still runs at top speed up the basement stairs when I turn the light off.

Maybe it’s because I laugh too hard at ridiculous memes and quote Napoleon Dynamite.

Maybe it’s because I close my bathroom door and practice twerking (poorly) in the mirror or eat ice cream for breakfast after my kids go to school.

I picture other grown-ups sipping coffee (which I could never develop a taste for, yet another strike against maturity) and peering over their bifocals, their heads filled with serious thoughts as they peruse the morning paper. They have a plan and a purpose and a portfolio, while I’m tackling situations as they come, guessing the best way to approach them and hoping for the best.

The years are going by, ever so quickly — heaven knows I’m not getting any younger — and I’m making it through life. But I’m doing it in a bumbling sort of way, not at all as the self-assured adult I always envisioned I’d be.

I’m still waiting for someone to call my bluff, to say they see right through my charade and know I’m not actually as adult as I appear.

Maybe when I’m finished raising kids, when I’ve given up trying to cover the grays, when I hear a little voice calling me “Grandma,” maybe then I’ll get some validation, feel like I’ve earned my rightful place in the grown-up world.

Or maybe those will be just like the other milestones I thought would lend me some credibility, moments that come and go and leave me endlessly wondering … if not now, when?

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