What’s My Age Again?

Posted by on March 24, 2011 at 1:42 am.

Growing up dollsJust a few #posts ago, I had just graduated and moved two hours away from my university town for an almost-full-time job. I was commuting to an office every day, I had a gym membership, I adopted a dog. I was feeling very much like a grown-up, and I think I talked about using my disposable income (of approximately $8) to buy shampoo.

I don’t want to say I’ve regressed, necessarily, but ever since I started freelancing for a living, that illusion has more or less fallen away. The truth is, I still very much think of myself as a kid in some ways.

When you think about it, age really is just a number. What counts more as far as how old you FEEL is how many life points you’ve got. How many benchmarks you’ve achieved. Whatever you want to call it.

Until recently, my older brother was working part time and living with my dad. I’ll confess that even though he’s three years older than me, I secretly thought of him as my little brother at times, just because I had my own apartment, four-year degree and had payed off my car. Now, I’m happy to say, he’s got a full time job and a benefits package and again is my big brother in life points as well a in age.

The reverse is true with a friend who is three years younger than me, my sister’s age. She dropped out of high school and moved back to Scotland, where she married a boy and is now eight weeks away from having a child. I was chatting with her this morning and found myself talking to her as if she were older than me—the very same girl who used to run around complaining about homework and moms with my little sisters! She’s confusing to me because she’s skipped ahead like ten years, according to my subconscious age scale.

The point is, I’m only 22 years old, but I’m trying hard to grow up mentally. I don’t mean that I’m going to stop laughing when my dog farts, and I reserve the right to think babies are dumb. However, just because I don’t have a daily commute or a 401k yet doesn’t mean I’m any less of an adult than my friends who do. My taxes say I am “self-employed,” not “killing time while I look for a grown-up job.”

Maybe, once I get a big-girl purse and some grown-up clothes, sources won’t tell me I look like their daughters or nieces anymore. Maybe, if I think of my freelance work as a business that I own, I will start charging rates that are more fair to me instead of allowing myself to be taken advantage of like a college kid thirsty for experience. Maybe if I loosen up on the order of life points, or stop projecting them on other peoples’ lives, I won’t have a nervous breakdown when my boyfriend mentions he wants to buy a house.

So, I know I’m not the only one who has them. What are your adulthood benchmarks? Does the order they come in really matter?

2 Comments

  • Jen says:

    My adulthood benchmarks? These are roughly in order: engagement; college graduation; moving away from home; starting grad school; marriage; pregnancy; finishing grad school; job; baby; quitting job to stay home with baby; finding a way to work from home. Currently working on the next benchmark, which is buying a home in the country. Wow, writing it all out makes it seem like a lot!

    I, too, have been in your situation. I think college stunts us emotionally to a degree; it helps delay the “real-life” stuff, like work, marriage and kids. But I don’t think order matters. I have an older brother who, at 30, went back to college and is working on finishing his bachelor’s degree. In a lot of ways, I feel 10 years older than him. He spent 8 years in the Army and was kind of blocked from normal, civilian life. So while he’s seen places and dealt with situations I can only imagine, at 31 he’s just figuring out a lot of the things we “regular” people deal with in our early 20s (what career we want, what type of person we want to be, etc.).

    I think by the time you’re my age (27), you’ll not notice lifepoints so much.

    Oh, and thanks for putting that ridiculous Blink 182 song in my head. Took me right back to high school!

  • JPS says:

    To me, the order matters. I’ve got a real job and a place of my own and I’ve moved off and away, but I still feel like I’ve not gotten somewhere.

    Mostly, it’s because I’m not living in the same city as Jean, and I don’t think I can REALLY be on my way to being an adult until that is happening. We are working on our plans to make it happen after she finishes grad school, but having a real job and having to move halfway across the country from the only person you feel like you have to live near really makes the job less glamorous.

    But then, I suppose that all depends on a person’s priorities.

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