Friday, April 1, 2011

Growing Newer Every Day

Today, I was feeling the typical rush one gets from accomplishing those tasks that have been on the to-do list for days (sometimes weeks, in my case).  I filed my taxes, I called my health insurance company and garnered some crucial information about out-of-network mental health coverage (I haz it! With some caveats, of course. Like deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums and other fancy things like that.).  I talked to my bank and successfully argued myself out of an overdraft fee, I picked up a library book that was being held for me, I washed all the dishes, and I watered the plants.  I cleaned up cat vomit, I went on a second part-time nanny job interview, I did some quality nanny/babysitting networking in the coffee shop this morning, and I filed a pile of paperwork into my Important Documents File Folders.  Fueled by caffeine, I chirpily exclaimed to Alix as I dried the wineglasses, "I feel like such a grown-up!"  This isn't the first time I've uttered those words after a day of being particularly productive or accomplishing tasks that are difficult and/or stressful for me.  But then I got to thinking - at what point will I stop occasionally "feeling" like a grown-up and actually be a grown-up?

When I was young, I imagined that once I went to college, I would be "grown up."  Then I realized that college was full of a whole mess of moments where I needed my mom more than I ever had before, and one particular semester of such utter helplessness during which your typical four-year-old was more functional than me.  So I readjusted my expectations, and figured that once I managed to graduate, I would have successfully reached the level of maturity I sought.  Once again, reality kicked me in the gut and my post-grad life has thus far been filled with plenty of material to remind me how far from "grown up" I really am: a messily broken lease, a misguided apartment search, plenty of subway rides in the wrong direction (Manhattan is a grid, people.  There is either uptown or downtown.  It's really not that hard to get it right.  Unless if you're me.), and most recently and most devastating - the failure of my first "real" job.  I have more emotions about quitting than I know what to do with, but right now, what it feels like is a huge gut-sinking-to-my-toes sense of failure.  After all, I went into it with the cockiness only a 22-year-old can muster, believing that I could handle 14-hour-days, hour-long commutes, 65-hour-weeks, unpredictable schedules, and 4 AM wake-ups no problem.  Turns out I was wrong, and all at the expense of my health, my sanity, and my self-confidence.

Trying to piece all of those back together, knowing it was my own undoing that got me to here, is a sobering experience.  So is the realization that all of those supposedly grown-up things I did today were hardly a product of my own blossoming maturity - for example, my mom helped me fill out my taxes last week so all I had to do was ink them in and mail it.  Not so impressive when you know that detail, now is it?  Maybe what the really mature thing to do is for me to accept that there is no moment at which one suddenly becomes an adult.  Maybe my definition of "adult" needs to change as well.  Maybe making the decision to quit was the most mature thing I could have done, given the situation.  And maybe just because I'm lucky enough to have a mother who helps me with my taxes and a partner who hugs me when I pout over the lack of ice cream in the freezer makes me just that - lucky. And maybe just knowing that I'll always have a lot of growing up to do means I'm more of a grown-up than I thought.


Wiley said...

I feel this way all the time. I'm starting to feel more grown-up now that I am pretty far away from my family--like yesterday I had to buy a new bed from IKEA which was OVERWHELMING and everything was HEAVY and Brigid and I had just finished moving all of our crap from one side of town to another and we had to return the Zipcar and it was just the worst--because now when something needs to be done I just have to do it. And it makes me think about my parents and how they did all the things I'm doing now, like going to the store and cleaning up cat vomit (also a big part of my life).

Margaret said...

Caitlin, I completely agree-- while I like calling myself an adult, I also use the phrase "feeling like a grown-up" when I say, make semi-independent financial decisions (my dad helped me with my taxes, don't worry), but that means I don't actually feel like a grown-up all of the time. Well, kind of. I remember asking a teacher in high school when she felt like an adult and she said, without hesitation, when I had children (in her 30s). Damn.

Cait said...

If I have to wait until I have children to feel like an adult, so be it. But Wiley, moving a bed by yourself sounds pretty darn grown-up to me. And you're right - it's all about the fact that when something needs to get done, it has to be done