Today is my thirty-sixth birthday. I suppose in the traditional and literal sense, it means that I was born 36 years ago today, but it also means that it has now been eighteen years since my eighteenth birthday. I have been an “adult” for eighteen years. My adulthood is all grown up.
When my adulthood was born, on April 21st, 1996, I was still in high school. If I was truly an “adult” like my driver’s license said I was, the whole thing was still in its infancy. I relied on parents, teachers, and other adults to take care of me. I was a grown-up, but a baby version. As I grew into the toddler years of adulthood I experienced the terrible twos and the trying threes, rebelling against adult advice, asserting that I could do everything myself, and generally refusing to act like an actual mature person.
As I settled into my prime “kid years” of adulthood, which lasted from around 22-30, I was exactly what one might expect from a man in his childadulthood years. I held down jobs, got married, bought a car, successfully cared for pets, and was generally responsible. I also spent all (and I mean all) of my disposable income on comic books, video games, and action figures. I railed against the very concept of adulthood. My mantra was “Child-like, not childish.” To me, the unattainable but perfect goal was to be ten again, but I would settle for recreating it as best as I could.
Then I had children. Disposable income was a thing of the past. My adulthood entered its teenage years, and it was rough. I had to figure out what my adulthood wanted to be when it grew up. Everything was strange and different. My body started to change. Hair started to disappear where it had never disappeared before (my head). My knees started to protest more than they ever had before. I began to realize that I didn’t know as much about life, money, marriage, parenting, and action figures as I had previously assumed. These were growing years. They were painful years.
But somehow I made it through. And now, after all of that, my adulthood has reached maturity. I actually feel like a grown-up, for better or for worse. I will continue to (hopefully) emit a youthful energy that has nothing to do with my age, but I feel more settled. I feel like I almost know what I am doing with this whole grow-up thing. It’s a melancholy sort of feeling, but a hopeful one as well. It feels like something is ending, but something new is beginning. It actually feels like it did eighteen years ago, as I prepared to graduate and move to a new city. A day of new beginnings. And now that I finally have it all figured out, I’m sure there will be plenty of new stuff for me to work on. My fully grown adulthood has just been born. I’ll let you know how it turns out on April 21st, 2032.