Growing up is a funny thing. It means different things to everyone: for many people, I assume their milestones are things like getting married, buying a house, or holding their first baby. For me, it’s liking the taste of red wine and not feeling the urge to eat frosting out of the can.
I spent most of my younger years feeling terribly mature. I read The Scarlet Letter for fun, and I didn’t laugh when the boys spent our 8th grade Halloween smashing jack-o-lanterns. I was a stick in the mud, but I thought that’s how adults behaved, and I wanted to skip the messy business of being a teenager. I thought I had, and then my dad died suddenly about nine months before I headed off to college.
I’ve always considered myself blessed, even after he died – I have a loving family, and I don’t live in Darfur – but this knocked me off my axis. It was life’s cruel joke – it forced me to grow up for real while showing me for the first time that I didn’t want to.
The silver lining to all this was that it forced me to muddle through life like everybody else. I gradually grew more adventurous in college, including a life-changing semester in Scotland, and then I moved to New York. NYC is a paradox. It’s a Peter Pan town, where you can live your whole life never owning a house and can go out to a different bar every night, but if you’re open to it, New York brings you experiences more challenging and rewarding than you expect.
Many people happily find their place in the Big Apple, but for me, I needed different trappings to feel like I was building towards “real life.” Namely, I wanted a car, a washer and dryer, and more personal space.
Of course it’s silly to think that one day you get an engraved invitation to some mystical maturity club (unless we’re talking “euphemism for some other kind of club”) – a few years ago I asked my mom when she felt like an adult, and she cocked her head and said, “I don’t know…never?” But the other day I was making an egg white omelet and listening to NPR, and I was able to answer the listener quiz question because I’d read about the topic in the latest issue of Saveur.
So I guess, in the last year of my 20s, this is it for now: I enjoy watching movies with subtitles, but I also jump at any opportunity to wear a wig or goofy sunglasses. I like corny pop songs, and sometimes I drink too much, but I’m equally happy walking around a museum.
And you know what? That’s pretty OK.