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is it okay: to not be a real adult?

Despite what my age may tell you, I am not a real adult. While I can legally drink, smoke, vote, go to jail and buy spray paint cans, none of this changes the fact that underneath it all, I am a twelve year old that is just pretending.

It’s starting to become a problem, as the further into life I get, the more responsibilities start to crop up. According to the life plan mentally mapped out by five year old me, by now I should be enjoying things like The Financial Review and books about economics. Instead, twenty three year old me simply revels in the autonomy adulthood gives me to indulge my childish nature. Cereal can be a dinner time food, at long last I can buy the Batman band-aids, and, if I so desire, I can watch Captain Planet before I do my piano practice. Also I don’t have to do piano practice.

If I were somehow able to tear a hole in the space-time continuum and fold time back on itself, I know that pre-pubescent Elizabeth would tell me that life as an adult is supposed to be serious. She’d sternly tell me that I’d had my teenage days of nightclubs and dance parties and blue eye shadow and glitter and that now it was time to be a grown up.

She would paint a picture of adulthood filled with spectacles and board meetings and of reading the newspaper on the train. At home I would drink coffee from a plain coloured mug, and always use a coaster. The television would sit in the corner, dusty, as I sat straight-backed in a chair with the good posture I was supposed to have developed by now. I would be reading agendas or books filled with numbers. There would be trouser suits.

Imagine her disappointment when she learns that not only were my school days less Smells Like Teen Spirit, and more Looks Like Studying In My Room Alone In Between Binging On Entire Seasons of Buffy, but that my adulthood is terrifyingly sans trouser suits (five year old me knows only the ’90s).

I am beginning to reconcile myself to the fact that this “real adulthood” I’d imagined does not in fact exist. At least not for me.

My eighteenth came and went, and my uterus didn’t suddenly scream ‘Fill me with children!!!’. Similarly my brain didn’t say, “Hey, I’ve got a swell idea. How about we read instruction books for electronics all the way through from now on?’ Instead I emerged on the other side with some scented candles and a bitching Monopoly board that everyone refuses to play on with me because of my pervading reputation for getting “a bit too intense” about the game. My twenty-first was similar, except replace scented candles with a novelty mug and Monopoly with a lightsabre.

Nothing happens at milestones except for a tumbleweed and a vague sense of anticlimax. Also, alcohol.

Essentially I’ve been spending my life not quite being the person I thought I ought to because of some weird mental image of “adult” which came from…where? TV? Family? Maybe. Furniture catalogues? Probably.

Looking back over it, I’ve had a mental checklist which, by my calculation when complete should make me a real adult. Driving. Working. Saying Uranus without sniggering. Tick tick tick.  But, at the same time, the more I check off, the more that gets added. Then there are the ones that I know will never get crossed out – like not sneaking in a cheeky episode of Captain Planet, or not wanting to laugh at farts. Or, when someone says that the next time they see me that I’ll probably have children, not immediately fleeing to the bathroom and playing DragonVale.

Adulthood is a state of mind which I think I will never get a full visa to. And that’s ok. Because I can successfully pay a tax return and rage out during Monopoly.


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