I suck at being an adult, and I don’t care

As my 32nd birthday looms large on the horizon, this little voice that has taken up residence in my brain is starting to get louder. It’s always nagging me, asking me, “Why aren’t you a grown-up yet?” I hate that voice. I ignore it as much as possible. Mostly because I hate that there’s this one-size-fits-all set of preconceived notions about what an adult is: what you should have, what you should do, what you should be. And every time I realize that my life doesn’t match up to those notions, a little feeling of failure creeps in.

What I’m realizing more every year, and what I’m trying to remember so I can drown out that obnoxious little voice, is that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all life. For every way I don’t feel like I’m a “real” grown-up, there are ten ways that I’m glad my life is exactly the way it is. I don’t own a house, sure, and that bums me out sometimes. But I see my friends who own houses, and it can consume their lives. Every weekend is a new household project. Taxes and insurance are outrageous. And while renting doesn’t build up any equity, there’s something to be said for realizing your boiler is broken, picking up the phone, saying, “The boiler’s broken,” and having someone else be responsible not only for getting it fixed, but for paying for it as well.

I’m married, which is pretty “grown-up,” but I don’t have kids, which sometimes makes other people see me as not a real adult. I won’t get into all of my reasons here, (mostly because I already have), but I see a bunch of positives with not having kids, where others see it as a giant negative. My Facebook feed is clogged with people lamenting not having quiet time, a parade of birthday parties and school functions, and assorted other complaints that come with the territory of having a child. For all of these people, it’s worth it. For me, it wouldn’t be. Being a childfree adult means I can nap at will, don’t have to provide a nutritionally balanced dinner, and can wander away for the weekend on a whim (well, as long as the dogs are taken care of). It’s all the best things you dreamed being an adult would mean, back when you were a kid: ice cream for breakfast, never getting out of your pajamas, and playing video games until 3 a.m. Sure, people with kids can certainly do these things, but not without a certain amount of effort. So +1 for being an adult my way, I suppose.

I don’t have a “real job.” This one bugs me the most often, I think. A “real job” being one that has prestige, pays outrageously well, and uses my expensive higher education in even some small way. Instead, I work in customer service, and have for the past 15 years. When I start getting depressed about my job, though, I remember a few things. Like, I can pay my bills. I have health insurance and a retirement plan. I have a schedule that I love and that allows me to work full-time in four days, instead of the standard five. I don’t take my job home with me. Sure, it stresses me out from time to time, but I don’t spend all my time at home checking emails and freaking out about work-related shit. I leave the job at the front door of work, and there’s something to be said for that. I’ll never be rolling around on giant stacks of cash strewn over my bed, but quite frankly, that’s horribly unsanitary, and I choose to believe that having a lot of money brings its own set of problems.

Everyone I talk to who is around my age has the same feelings every so often: that they aren’t doing something they’re supposed to; that something is missing; that they aren’t as adult as they should be. And if we all feel this way, how valid is it, really? Maybe this is the new way to be a grown-up: pick and choose the parts that you want in your life, and disregard the rest. Because, seriously, what good is it to be an adult if you aren’t having any fun?

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7 responses to “I suck at being an adult, and I don’t care

  1. I’ve been there. At 36,I do have a house, but no kids. The worst adult moments are when I get stressed about bills or have a bad fight w my husband. That’s when I want to rewind to my studio apartment and forget obligations. I think I’m about ready for kids, but I look at the lives of some “responsible” friends or think of my parents at my age and don’t get how they hold it all together. I don’t have enough time now, can’t imagine what younglings will do. Anyways, my husband just figured out what he wants to do & is in his last yr of grad school- read “I never see him”, so any kid stuff is moot for a bit longer. (@eileen53)

  2. I totally relate to this blog. House owning just comes with way too much responsibility and all my friends who own spend all their time and money fixing things and decorating. Plus many of them are in negative equity as they bought at the boom with 100% mortgage. And they tell me renting is ‘dead money’! I rent a lovely little house with enough room for me and my partner and its really cheap. This allows me to put money away each month and go on good holidays in the summer. I also like the freedom of being able to move away at short notice as I don’t mind the city I live in, but I don’t love it and like the option of being able to move at whim.
    I have the responsible, stressful job (a teacher) but am looking at ways to downscale and do something with less responsibility once my debts are paid off.
    I am childfree and also marriage free (I find weddings boring and have no interest in having one of my own). I guess I just love the idea of having my freedom and I really value my social life and holidays. I used to think until recently I wasn’t a proper ‘grown up’, but as you said one size doesn’t fit all and you can be a fully functioning adult without have to bow to pressures in society. I wonder how many people who opted for the life of the huge mortgage, long working hours and children would have done so if they didn’t feel pressured?

  3. Wow … I could have written this. I’m in much the same position you are, except that I’m not married (although my bf and I live together and have been a couple for nearly 7 years) and I do have a reasonably career-oriented job. I do fine financially, but I don’t make tons of money and probably never will, unless editing and/or the nonprofit sector become insanely lucrative in the future.

    But I LOVE my life. I’m not interested in the responsibility or the constant time and money suck of having a house. I’m definitely not interested in having children and all the trappings thereof. I love having the time and little bit of spare cash required to pursue my hobbies, I love that I’m not stressed out all the time.

    And I find the pressure to live a more “conventional” lifestyle kind of interesting. What the hell does anyone else care whether I’m married or not, or whether I rent an apartment or own a house? I honestly think that there’s an element of “well, if I have to be in this miserable situation, goddammit, so do you! THIS IS WHAT GROWN-UPS DO! HOW DARE YOU AVOID THIS???”

  4. I’m in heaven! Finally! Other people failing to grow up – and being happy with it. I just have to get that last part right. For me, pressure to become a proper grown up with a career and house and a husband and a Volvo comes predominantly from my parents, but seems to be echoed from the people around me as well. I want to be a “writer” and that kind of aspiration warrants nothing but an audible scoff from someone else followed by the inevitable “what are you going to do if that doesn’t work out?” question.

    I can’t be bothered with weddings, or houses. Maybe I’m lazy, maybe I just have entirely different priorities to other people. Who knows? Either way, I wish they’d just get off my back!

    Gah.

  5. I’ve talked about this quite recently with a bunch of soon-to-be 30-somethings and not a single one feels like an adult, even though we all have decent jobs, own apartments and some even have babies. Maybe the whole adult thing is a myth, or maybe you become one once you start feeling OLD.

  6. I suck at being an adult, too. I work for myself, I’m not married, I live with two roommates, I don’t have a boyfriend or kids. Nothing. I don’t even have a pet or a plant.

    Yet, I manage somehow! I do enjoy sleeping alone. I do enjoy leaving the house at a moment’s notice. I do enjoy being alone and not having to worry about another person and his happiness. I’ve had two recent relationships and both were fraught with stress.

  7. Well toots, you have always leaned toward the mature end of the spectrum so it has been up to your elders to try and instill in you the non-adult facets of existence. Those are made up primarily of the things we wish had time/confidence/guts/permission to do or try but somehow woke one fine morning to discover we’d missed the train completely. Responsibility is one of the most misunderstood concepts and each generation attempts to embrace it or ignore it, while not truely understanding what it;s all about. Hence, we of each generation do indeed suck at being adults until that real “AHA” moment arrives. Generally at that time people much younger that us look over at us with sympathetic eyes and whisper amongst themselves about pre-Alzheimer conditions.

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