I can’t believe I’m 22.
While most kids dream about the day they finally turn 21, I was always much more interested in 22. That represented the true age of adulthood. I guess it’s because all the birthdays before that carry so much symbolism; 16, 18, 21.
But after 22 birthdays just become a thing- an amorphous semi-holiday that carries no concrete benefits. If anything, they become despised as they only serve as a reminder of how old we are getting.
So now that I’m 22, what comes next? I’m an adult now, by all legal and social standards. (The only thing I can’t do at this age is rent a car, but I don’t think that will hold me back that much.)
I certainly don’t feel like an adult. In a lot of ways I still feel exactly how I did at 16, or 18, or 21. I’ve certainly learned a lot since then, both in terms of book smarts and life experience. But personality-wise, I feel like the same person I was as a kid. I guess that’s what personality is- those characteristics that stay with you your whole life regardless of age or education.
I should point out this analysis of age was not brought on by a recent birthday; my birthday is in September. So I’ve been 22 for over five months.
The reason I bring it up now is because it’s just now dawning on me what it means to be an adult. It’s the age-old difference between knowing something and realizing it. I know I’m 22, but sometimes things happen that really make me realize I’m a “grownup.”
Two events happened to me recently. First I stumbled upon an amazing site that really conveys my experience in dealing with adulthood. The site is titled “OMG I’m the Adult”, which perfectly sums up how we all feel when we have those grand moments of realization. The site is a collection of user-submitted stories in the vein of Fmylife but to the theme of maturity.
Some are casual observations about minor events-being called “Sir” or Ma’am” by strangers, while others are downright intense.
One of my favorites: “Six Word Memoir. Sign on the dotted line. I became my mother’s legal guardian.”
You can read more of the stories at http://omgimtheadult.wordpress.com. The site isn’t as updated as often as I’d like, but it’s great to know others have experienced the surreal transition that occurs between childhood and adulthood.
Secondly, a few weeks I updated my Facebook with the following status: “I am __ years old and still can’t ___.” I was inspired to do so after coming to the depressing conclusion that I was 22 years old and still didn’t know how to properly spell the word definitely. For whatever reason, I never took the time to learn to spell it correctly, and always had to spell check it. It’s little things like that which keep me from seeing myself as an adult. “I can’t be a grown up,” I tell myself, “I don’t know how to spell definitely. Shouldn’t a grownup be able to do that?”
Anyway, the response I got was enormous- 27 people submitted their own version. The answers were astounding, ranging from the absurd (“I am 22 years old and still can’t floss.”) to the heartfelt (“I am 22 years old and I still can’t approach a stranger.”) (By the way not everyone was 22 years old, that’s just a weird coincidence.)
We all have these arbitrary conditions that we think have to be met before we can be full fledged adults. Maybe it’s owning a house, or having a kid. Or it’s being able to parallel park. Or learn to swim. Or like the taste of coffee.
I guess I drew some solace in hearing that other people were worried about growing up too. The feeling I got was no one feels ready to be a grownup; it just happens whether we like it or not.
My parents probably felt the same way I do now. One day you’re a kid goofing around with your friends, the next you are paying bills, working a job, and starting a family.