The most unexpected part of being a grown-up is how little I feel grown up. My life does not in the slightest resemble the one I imagined for myself (well, except for the handsome husband part––shout-out to Mike!). Although Happily Ever After does not exist, I keep chasing it down, believing that once I’m “there,” then I’ll finally be a grown-up.
When I was a girl, I was seven going on 40. Or an old soul, as some call it. I could not wait to grow up, so I could be free. Free to travel the world, free to do what I liked without permission, free to drive to the beach if I felt like it or eat as many Oreos as I wanted.
My mother constantly had to remind me to enjoy childhood, that it was such a short time, and just wait until you’re an adult and you have to go to work and clean the house.
In the way children do, I retorted that I would grow up to like my work, that I would have a maid to clean the house for me while I went to my fabulous job (which at the time would have been a writer or a professional pianist, depending on which day you asked me. Because those two jobs do not fall under the category of “starving artist” at all). I could bat back all her protestations with the skill of a champion debater, not merely a stubborn child.
“What if you’re not rich?” she would ask.
“Oh, I will be,” I retorted. There was no deterring me.
What I didn’t count on was the feeling of life not measuring up to my overblown, childish expectations. Sure, they tempered as I got older; I no longer thought I’d be wealthy. But I still thought I could design my own life. If I followed the rules, the step-by-step guidelines for How to Be Successful, then I would end up in Happily Ever After Land, complete with sparkly unicorns and castle with a moat. Or at least an apartment in a city I loved, teaching Lit classes and traveling during the summers.
What I didn’t count on were the small but effective prisons of adulthood. The dollars I have earned did not go very far, and they are harder and harder to come by. The career I trained for isn’t an economic reality anymore. The depression I had as a child is more complex now, all neuroses with anxiety-ridden limbs flailing around and bumping into the furniture of my life. The sleeves of Oreos I ate now reside permanently around my hips, and the wine I can’t drink taunts me from the pulpit of pop culture every day.
My life as an adult has consisted of catapulting from one catastrophe to the next. Basically scrambling for purchase every time the floor crumbles from beneath me.
I need to recharge. I need to recenter. To reconsider my goals. Mostly I just need a break from the unending stress of looking for work. I’ll be camping all next week, somewhere where there are no cell phones, no Internet, no distractions, no pressure.
This camping trip could not have come at a better time. I don’t expect to come back with the answers. But hopefully I will come back remembering how to breathe.