A couple of weeks ago, I met up with some friends for some lunch and some window shopping.
I walked into Crate & Barrel for the first time. I tend not to venture into stores if it’s safe to assume the sticker prices will be quite high. The store is really nice. The sticker prices were indeed on the high side, but it was really nice. It’s akin to being Ikea’s affluent older sibling.
We came across this really nice bar cabinet, and what came out of my mouth? “Wow, this is sooo nice! I’d love to have something like this when I grow up”. As soon as I said it, my eyes met my friends’ eyes and we laughed. One admitted she was thinking the same thing to herself. When we grow up? We are both 28. If we are not grown-up by now, when exactly is that supposed to happen?
I’m not sure when 28 even happened. I was in school… then I got a full-time job, then I moved out of my folks’ house, … and now I’m 28?
I came across this article in the New York Times today on a related subject. It’s long but it’s worth a read if you are into sociology and psychology. Here is an excerpt:
Arnett spent time at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago before moving to the University of Missouri in 1992, beginning his study of young men and women in the college town of Columbia, gradually broadening his sample to include New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He deliberately included working-class young people as well as those who were well off, those who had never gone to college as well as those who were still in school, those who were supporting themselves as well as those whose bills were being paid by their parents. A little more than half of his sample was white, 18 percent African-American, 16 percent Asian-American and 14 percent Latino.
More than 300 interviews and 250 survey responses persuaded Arnett that he was onto something new. This was the era of the Gen X slacker, but Arnett felt that his findings applied beyond one generation. He wrote them up in 2000 in American Psychologist, the first time he laid out his theory of “emerging adulthood.”
DURING THE PERIOD he calls emerging adulthood, Arnett says that young men and women are more self-focused than at any other time of life, less certain about the future and yet also more optimistic, no matter what their economic background. This is where the “sense of possibilities” comes in, he says; they have not yet tempered their ideal istic visions of what awaits. “The dreary, dead-end jobs, the bitter divorces, the disappointing and disrespectful children . . . none of them imagine that this is what the future holds for them,” he wrote. Ask them if they agree with the statement “I am very sure that someday I will get to where I want to be in life,” and 96 percent of them will say yes. But despite elements that are exciting, even exhilarating, about being this age, there is a downside, too: dread, frustration, uncertainty, a sense of not quite understanding the rules of the game. More than positive or negative feelings, what Arnett heard most often was ambivalence — beginning with his finding that 60 percent of his subjects told him they felt like both grown-ups and not-quite-grown-ups. [my emphasis]
I think part of my resistance to adulthood is because things typically associated with getting older are things I have no interest in doing – like getting married or having kids or owning a house. A condo maybe – but only because a condo allows me to live like an adult without the responsibilities of one (buying shingles, mowing the lawn, replacing windows, etc).
When I was younger, I definitely romanticized adulthood. I would get to do whaaateeeever I wanted! That was it. I mean, I did see myself graduating university and being in a committed relationship. Beyond that… it was kind of muddled. My thoughts of owning real estate only began in university, and then when my educational plans didn’t pan out, I had to let go of the fantasy of owning my own house by the age of 30. I never really saw kids in the cards. Nice if I had some, nice if I didn’t. Perhaps my lack of dreaming led to my current state of complacency. This sort of “yeah, maybe I should get started on that whole saving-for-a-place-of-my-own-one-day thing… or not. That’s cool, too”.
Damn – do I have any goals? There are three that I can think of:
One is to maintain and cultivate a group of friends I love and trust. As an introverted person, this is very important, as I tend not to cast such a wide net when it comes to my social circle.
Another goal is to find someone to spend my life with. I hesitate to use the word soul mate, but that is essentially who I am waiting for. This may be a childish or fool-hearted dream which may prove to see me spend the rest of my life alone, but I can’t let go of the idea of being with someone I’m meant to be with.
My third goal is to have a comfortable retirement, so that whether I am single or partnered when that age of retirement comes, I’ll be able to have enough funds to not worry about necessities and hopefully have enough extra to do some traveling. I really should get started on investing for this…
These are… sort of… adult-like… ambitions, no?
I suffer from depression, something that I can only describe as a roller coaster ride of unexpected dips and turns. I’ve been from suicidal, to okay again, to mildly depressed, to okay again, to MIA for weeks that are still hard to recollect, to being put on meds, to being okay again. In my final year of university, I experienced a very steep dip, and seeing that I wouldn’t be able to graduate with my intended double major, I reluctantly decided to leave with the one major in Sociology. One of the hardest days of my life was telling my parents – two people who immigrated to Canada from the Caribbean in order to better their lives and give their future children what they couldn’t have, who worked factory jobs for decades to move us out of a rough neighbourhood into a nicer neighbourhood – than into an even nicer neighbourhood – on a mortgage they could barely afford – that I dropped out of school.
You may be thinking to yourself: well, you didn’t really drop out if you left with a degree in your hand. That may be true, but to me, leaving school unable to finish what you set out to do is quitting. Giving up. Dropping out. My degree sits in a drawer somewhere, unframed. Unwanted.
I think most children of immigrants have that pressure on themselves to be the best they can be. I remember being in my OAC* physics class, getting back our midterm grades and consoling one of my classmates who was crying because she only got an 87% average. How could she possibly show her father that? Apparently her father was an engineer from Pakistan and she wanted to be an engineer like him. She had to be.
Once I left university, I was lost. I remember looking into online dating, and when asked to describe myself in a paragraph, I ended up having to skip it. My profile went live, blank of meaningful detail, for months. I had been a student for so long. At family functions, when my parents would update my relatives on us kids, I was always the studious one: getting good grades, not getting into trouble, etc. I could no longer use that to describe myself. I didn’t read anymore, I hadn’t watched or played sports in a long while. I had gained weight. I was working in a horrible office doing thankless reception duties. My sense of self was gone. Poof! Having said that, I probably shouldn’t have been dating anyway if I didn’t have any sense of who I was. If you ever come across an incomplete dating profile, run the other way. Don’t waste your time.
Over the past few years, I have definitely grown a lot. I’ve learned to close the student chapter of my life in order start a new chapter that will hopefully be just as rich as the first. I’ve reignited my passion for reading and sports. I’ve lost the weight. I now hold a job I’m appreciated for and am good at. I’ve moved out of my parents’ house.
And yet I don’t feel… accomplished. Yes, I have accomplished some significant things over the past few years but I feel like I’m lagging behind. Perhaps this is because when I think of adulthood, I think of the responsibilities my parents had. In comparison to what they did – marrying, emigrating, having kids, working double-shifts, buying a house – I feel immature. I also associate having cash-flow with being an adult. I imagine having a swanky condo apartment and having the expendable cash to throw down hundreds of dollars on something as unnecessary as a bar cabinet. And throw dinner parties with cool people. “Pass the brie” I’d say, rather than “pass the Doritos”. Not that there’s anything wrong with Doritos… and I can’t digest cheese so I’m not sure why I would ask for brie – but you see my point.
My mom worries about me… being that she married at 19 and had all three of her kids by age 30… and I’m approaching 30, with no real relationship experience to speak of.
I assure her that I know what I’m doing. I’ll get to… where ever it is I’m going.
I am grown-up, just… not quite.
* OAC stands for Ontario Academic Credit. It was a fifth year of high school (grade 13) in the province of Ontario that students took and needed to succeed at in order to qualify for university. For more info, see Wikipedia.