At twenty-five, I’m starting to see my peers as adults.
We’re no longer floundering around, renting our first apartments, burning our first meals, ignoring the squeals on our brakes until our cars are unable to stop.
We’re looking for a place that suits us and our budget instead of one or the other.
We’re developing spice racks – and have a few key dishes we can whip out for guests.
We regularly change our oil and cheer when our insurance rates go down.
We have a logical, thoughtful exchanges that I’m far more accustomed to having with people 3-5 years older than me, and later find out my conversation partner is a few months younger.
I look around in astonishment and realize that without my consent, I’ve grown up. I have conversations about retirement accounts and the practicality of millennials being willing or able to leave the workforce. I track my expenses and have a budget. I have a shiny university degree that says I show up and do my work. I keep being put into positions of authority where I hire and train and manage people and places.
By all external manifestations, I’m an adult.
And I feel like I’m an utter impostor.
This isn’t one of those “Adults shouldn’t have to grow up! Be a child! Have fun! Enjoy life!”
I’m a traveler. I absolutely adore life.
It is the responsibility aspect.
I get surprised when someone comments that I’m doing really well at something, or call me a sweet person. I’m just floating through life, doing what I think I should be doing. I don’t feel like anything I do is exceptional – it simply is what it is.
I sometimes feel like I intentionally stopped at 19, but my body continued without me. Hence I feel like an impostor. The only time I get carded anymore is when I’m with a beardless man (which in and of itself is a little insulting – I mean, yes, I’m plenty old enough to buy this drink, but really? I don’t look 30 yet!).
I was talking to some friends about this situation the other day, and we bemoaned wishing we were still 19. Back then, we had no money but somehow everything just worked. We had all the adventures, all the magic, and being poor was more fun than stressful. We didn’t sleep but had energy, we didn’t eat well but it didn’t affect us.
Now, just a few years later… it all falls apart. We get home from work and are too tired to do anything. We manage to socialize once a week or so, but after a few hours happily escape to our beds. Money means something, and the lack of it is scary. We thank our lucky stars that we don’t have children to throw into this mess of life, being responsible for a tiny creature when we can hardly afford to clothe ourselves. (Oh, yes, living in an expensive city because we love it and want to work at something we love has its disadvantages.)
We’re impostors. We feel like we don’t belong here – and yet somehow, we’re told that we do. Others look at the beautiful final reel instead of the raw footage and think somehow we have it figured out. Somehow, someone, somewhere, decided that we deserve the title of being an adult.
I may not believe it.
I may get confused when people assign it to me.
But somehow, it’s mine. And if that’s the case, I need to claim it, redefine it, make it fit me rather than the other way around. I need to be comfortable with it, greet it like a friend rather than a person I need to impress.
It’s a dangerous thing, this impostor syndrome.
I met a delightful stranger the other day. Very rarely do people answer the question, “How are you?” genuinely. But she did. She looked at me sadly and said, “I’m wrestling with the wolves, trying to decide which one to feed. So I bought a one-way ticket to Mexico for tonight.” To my surprise, I saw her two days later. “Wait,” I exclaimed. “Why aren’t you in Mexico?!” Her eyes twinkled, and I could see the relief that had been absent before. “I moved to Boulder instead. The universe reorganized itself – I’ve never wanted to live there! But things just… worked. So I moved instead of leaving.”
I don’t know if I’ll ever run into this young woman again. But she has it figured out. She allows herself to get lost and find herself again. That genuine response to reality was confusing and beautiful all at once. She embraced the uncertainty, and in doing so, staked her claim on who she wanted to be.
So today, I sit here sipping coffee and dreaming. I may feel like an impostor, but I’m going to find me.