Who as a child didn’t dream of their impending adulthood with fond longing? Adulthood was going to be amazing! You could eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You could stay up late. You could travel. You could drive a car. You could own a house. Sure cars and houses cost money, but they’d be such awesome cars and houses that the money would be worth it. Plus, you would have an amazing job that you loved going to, were always appreciated at, and paid at least six figures while also providing full medical, dental, and vision benefits. Yep, being a kid was a drag. Adults had it going on.
Of course, what I always failed to appreciate as a kid was just how many things from childhood adults routinely longed for. A child will never fully appreciate the beauty of an afternoon nap. Kids can’t possibly understand how incredible their little metabolisms actually are. Cars and houses come with maintenance and insurance costs that, for whatever reason, my childhood imaginings never included. The simple magic of childhood is quickly replaced with a critical skepticism in adulthood that’s exhausting in a far different way than chasing lightning bugs until well past bedtime used to be.
The dreams from my childhood of what it would be like to be a grown up were largely inaccurate, not because they weren’t entirely true, but because I couldn’t possibly have predicted the shift in my adult priorities. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, and yet I don’t choose to eat the things my eight year old self would have selected. I can stay up late, but I’m just as crabby if I don’t get enough sleep today as I was when I was a kid, and I have real responsibilities that need to get taken care of regardless of how cranky I get, so I actually like to keep a bedtime. I do have a house and car, and though one is paid off, I’ll spend 15 years paying for the other one because, though I love my job, I’m not making six figures, (nor do I have full dental and vision insurance).
But perhaps the biggest thing I failed to imagine when dreaming of adulthood as a child, was how often I wouldn’t feel like an adult at all. I think this is probably the single biggest, constantly perpetuated, lie in all society! As a kid, I looked up to adults because…they were the adults…and some day, when I was an adult, I was sure I’d be able to answer questions, take control of situations, and “know things” like they did. For a long time I waited to feel like I was an adult. I went to college, and rented an apartment, and bought a car, and dated, and started drinking, and eventually got married, bought a house, and all the while waited to feel like a grown up. And then the grown ups that I had long looked up to as a kid revealed the truth of adulthood to me; they didn’t really feel like “grown ups” very often either!
In a way, this is a comfort. I’m not a bad adult! The trick of adulthood is just to pretend you’re a good adult and take care of the things that are in your control to take care of. In another sense, I find myself constantly surprised by when I do actually feel more adult-like, because it’s rarely in the moments that my younger self expected. Signing my name to a mortgage was scary. Getting married was romantic and life changing. Going to work every morning is a necessary evil that’s also, on most days, very satisfying. But while it’s perhaps best to do those things as an adult, the things that actually make me feel “grown up” are all together different. And if I could go back and tell my eight year old self these things in hindsight, my childhood games might look a bit…different!
#1: Sleeping in a bed larger than a twin
This revelation was not so much about sleeping in a bed larger than a twin because there’s another person in it, though it was at about that point that I started consistently sleeping in a bed larger than a twin, so maybe the two are inherently linked. That said, two people can fit in a twin bed if necessary 😉 , so let’s assume they’re two separate factors entirely! I slept in a twin bed through my entire childhood, and then on twin lofts in college, and then on twin bunk beds in my first apartment, and then back in my childhood twin bed when I moved into my own place when I graduated, which I then moved with me to two separate apartments.
I once mentioned to my mom shortly after my second move that I thought maybe I’d swap it out for a queen bed, to which she skeptically asked what I’d need that for. That I had also started dating my now husband at that point maybe tipped my hand too much, but more than that, there was something that felt particularly childish about sleeping in a bed that was, in essence, child sized. Sleeping in a queen or king sized bed alone feels luxurious. You can lay across it diagonally, swim in the sheets and blankets, lay claim straight down the middle, pile it high with pillows. As a kid, such a bed felt huge, almost overwhelming. As a grown up such a bed feels proportionate, and even if my husband isn’t in it next to me, our queen bed feels like the appropriate thing to be sleeping in at 30 years old!
#2: Paying more than $15 for a haircut, and seeing the same stylist each time
I was, for the most part, a Cost Cutters kid. There was a rare, special occasion in which my mom would take us to her hairstylist for a more “fancy” cut. My sister who regularly donated 12 inches of hair to ‘Locks of Love’ received this privilege more often as I don’t think anyone trusted Cost Cutters to make that kind of dramatic change. But when we needed a normal trim, Cost Cutters it was. At some point, after I got my first job in high school, hair cuts became my responsibility, and because I didn’t have a relationship with any specific stylist, and because it was all I could afford on my minimum wage paycheck, I became a Cost Cutters teenager. And because it was convenient, I also was a Cost Cutters college student, who became a Cost Cutters adult post graduation.
But something happened shortly after graduation that changed my whole perspective on my Cost Cutters habit. I got a really REALLY bad haircut. What’s worse is that I was finishing my student teaching and getting ready for my first real job, and didn’t have the luxury to jut shove it all under a hat for 4 weeks until it started to grow back out. It was time to get a grown up stylist, and a grown up haircut. The thing about grown up haircuts is they’re expensive, so having a real job was a critical part of being able to find a real stylist. But in La Crosse, I found a great one, and when I moved to Rochester, finding another great one was one of the first things on my to-do list, before even choosing a doctor and dentist. And today, I see a great one every two months who not only cuts, but colors my hair, and I never worry about a bad cut or style, and I can afford it, and it’s so far from my childhood experience that it’s hard not to feel a little grown up about it!
#3: Wearing shoes that make noise in the hallway
There’s a reason little girls play dress up and try to walk around in the mother’s heels. I imagine I must have done this at some point, but I have two childhood memories of heels, more specifically the sound of heels on tile. The first is the sound of my first grade teacher’s shoes in the hallway when we used to line up and walk to our specials classes around the school. The second is the sound of my mom’s heels in the kitchen when she’d get dressed up to go out for the night with my dad. When I bought my first pair of heels, some time early in my twenties after I finally grew into my tall, awkward, gangly body and felt like I wouldn’t tip over or make a fool of myself trying to balance and walk around, I loved wearing them to school for the very sound they made on my classroom floor. Better yet was my student’s reaction when they could hear them coming down the hallway before class. Today if I’m ‘clicking’ down the hallway invariably you will hear someone yell, “She’s coming!!” And it’s impossible not to feel at least a little grown up when you know you’re now part of a childhood memory that you once had about the “real” grownups.
#4: Making my own doctor and dentist appointments
Despite the fact that my first priority in moving to a new city was, as previously mentioned, finding a stylist, it was quickly followed by choosing a new doctor and dentist. As a child, I disliked both my annual trip to the doctor, and my bi-annual trips to the dentist. One time, when going to have a tooth pulled, I locked myself in the car in the dentist’s parking lot, refusing to go in until…I actually don’t remember why I eventually decided to get out of the car, but I did, and I don’t have that tooth anymore!
There are lots of adults that don’t make an annual physical or regular trips to the dentist, and if you would have asked me about it when I was a child, I would have absolutely told you that I would become one of those adults. What actually happened was that I became a very health conscious adult who made a point to eat well and work out regularly, and even started running half marathons, and as a result decided that there was some merit in checking in with a doctor once a year. And then I realized that if I didn’t want to pay thousands of dollars for braces again, I should probably check in with a dentist as well. And all of a sudden I’m making these appointments that I swore I’d give up the moment I was a “grown up” because it’s actually what grown ups do. Darn it!
#5: Looking at clothes in the juniors’ department and Forever 21, and then shopping other places
There was a point in college, and even shortly there after, during which I still browsed the juniors’ department looking for the odd find that could pass as appropriate clothing for a twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two year old. The very name Forever 21 suggests that those of us beyond Twenty 21 can, with just a wardrobe change, feel that way again! Then two things changed. One, I started liking less and less of the things I saw marketed towards younger demographics. Two, I realized that I didn’t like being twenty-one all that much when I was twenty-one, and I liked twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven a lot better. Forever 21 wasn’t a fashion dream, it was a lifestyle nightmare! In general, I dislike the phrase “Ladies’ Department,” but I’ll shop there because it’s where the grown-ups go, and I legitimately like it better!
So if you’re a grown up who is just pretending like the rest of us, congratulations! I won’t tell anyone your secret. However, if there are things that make you feel more grown up some days, do share in the comments below. We can all help each other pretend better because it’s up to us to perpetuate the idea that we’re grown ups and we know things!