I Am Not A Grown-Up.

posted in: Day In The Life 20
Portrait of a woman, aged sixteen, previously identified as Mary Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk, 1565. Image: Wikipedia.
Portrait of a woman, aged sixteen, previously identified as Mary Fitzalan, Duchess of Norfolk, 1565. Image: Wikipedia.


Whatever you have heard, whatever conclusions you may have drawn, I feel compelled tonight to make sure you know that I am not a grown-up.

Saying such a thing is painful for two reasons.

The first (and probably the most painful) reason is that when I say it, I sound like someone in a Disney World commercial. I say that I’m not a grown-up and suddenly I see myself in one of those commercials, smiling a real cheesy smile while wearing a Donald Duck visor and a fannypack, throwing up my hands with a shrug while I whirl around in the teacups as the voiceover plays me saying, “I guess I’m just not ready to grow up, yet, Mickey!”

I think you trust that I like fun. But I am not a fan of amusement parks.

The second reason it’s painful to admit that I am not an actual grown-up person is because everyone expects me to be and I have convinced people for long enough that I can behave like a grown-up person, to bail out now would be difficult at best.

Since 2005, I have supported myself as a freelancer. Writing, performance, and quilting gigs are how I make my living. This means that I have to deal with self-employment tax and save receipts and fill out countless 1099 forms and keep track of so, so many things. When tax time comes, I think, “I can’t do this. This is very hard.” But I do it, anyway, because I am a good citizen. I’m not a grown-up, you see, but I am at least a good citizen.

But taxes are kind of like, easier, because they only happen once a year. (I used to file quarterly but I’m not making very much money right now, so I can get by doing it once in April.) What really blows me away is that I am grown-up enough to go buy groceries when I need them.

Let me ask you: Do you ever marvel at your ability to do any of the following?

  • buy groceries
  • pay the internet/electric/gas/phone bill/condo fee/tax man
  • get to a place (any place!) on time, with your act together
  • give to a charity
  • get to your gate early
  • cook a meal
  • go on a date
  • get a job, keep a job, lose a job, get another job
  • complete a lot of homework

I’m telling you, sometimes I cannot believe I can do any of those things. Because I am not a grown-up. I am a kid. I am a goofy, goofy kid. I don’t know how I can feed myself, half the time. I don’t know when I learned these things. But I am surviving, somehow, and I am generally content.

I do have a good mom. But my mother is not doing my homework, you know? Sometimes, I just shake my head. Because I have no idea.

20 Responses

  1. Kathryn
    | Reply

    I feel that way nearly every day of my adult life. The calendar says I’m 46; in my head, I’m still a dopey kid. Yet somehow I have held jobs, paid bills and worked out budgets, cooked meals, and – most mystifying of all – kept two kids alive and reasonably healthy, and I have no clear idea how I managed to do any of that.

  2. Meredith
    | Reply

    I am 53 and still am waiting to feel grown up. There have been many times when I have to “adult”, so not being a grown up helps cope with those adult times. It’s OK to embrace a youthful spirit.

  3. Ann
    | Reply

    My son 32 yr old feels very anxious over the same. Single,fears he’s going to be fired over a trivial issue, lives across from Lincoln Park so won’t be able to pay rent. I do his taxes. He feels he’s a member of Peter Pan syndrome.

    • Barbara
      | Reply

      My mother, now gone many years, used to tell my son when he was a little boy, “be like Peter Pan, and never grow up”. I thought of her when I read your comment.

  4. Baa Goldfarb
    | Reply

    Hahahahahahaha I’m not a grown up either even though my body / mind is 58 I’m am always surprised I am able to get up in the daylight & sort of function, sometimes in public places for short durations. My sons ( 23 & 38 )are equally amazed when I do this. Of course this entails copious amounts of fabric coffee & chocolate

  5. Linda
    | Reply

    I still do not feel altogether grown up. When my son turned 30 I felt oddly old, but not grownup. I feel you do not stop playing and being goofy because you get old. You get old when you stop playing.

  6. Jennifer Moore
    | Reply

    Every day I feel like I am “fooling” everyone with my attempt at adulting, but apparently this IS adulting??? Isn’t it funny how when we were kids, we looked at adults and thought, “Wow, they’ve really got it all together!” When, really, they likely felt super insecure and as clueless as I do now. Somehow, I’ve managed to survive (and in some regards thrive?) for the past 16 years of my official entry into the club.

    One of the things that baffles me the most is my inability to keep a house that “looks like other people’s homes.” I’ve owned three houses, but still have never had “grown up” furnishings in any of them. Eight years into marriage, and we still have mostly IKEA furniture. My bed sheets are currently mismatched, and we definitely aren’t ready for company to come over.

    Our household income SHOULD allow us to do all that, but for whatever reason – we don’t.

    I can never get my towels to stay nice for very long, before they inevitably become discolored in the laundry.

    I vacuumed for the first time in 2 months today.

    We don’t even have children, and I can barely keep it together on the household front.

    I have most of my groceries delivered by Amazon Prime Now. (One of the best innovations of the 21st century, IMO)

    On the upside, I did do my taxes last week!

    We have also made major headway on paying off a plethora of student loans.

    My cat is still alive!

  7. Ann Bailey
    | Reply

    I think mot of us feel that way. Me? I’m 67. Here’s my advice, Mary: Don’t think about it.

  8. Lauren
    | Reply

    Adulting can definitely suck. Somewhere in the crushing rhythm of having and raising kids I suddenly realized that I identify as a grown-up. It was a powerful and liberating moment. But it didn’t come instantly or easily; I struggled for months to use the word “mother” when my first was born. It felt utterly wrong in my mouth, fraudulent, laughably presumptuous.

  9. Cheryl
    | Reply

    You may not feel like an adult on somedays Mary, but your posts always communicate a message that I am in need of hearing. And that seems like a very wonderful “adult” characteristic indeed ! Thank-you

  10. Monica D Hayden
    | Reply

    What is a “grown-up??”

  11. Britiney
    | Reply

    I couldn’t agree more. And yet, somehow, I’ve kept alive 3 growing boys who are about to be “grown-ups”. At least they insist they are. It’s miraculous really.

  12. Lindsey
    | Reply

    I’m 70 and a responsible woman, but inside I’m still goofy from time to time, especially when with my best friends. We are what we are, just getting through the mundane stuff while our thoughts are busy elsewhere.

  13. Barbara
    | Reply

    Mostly I think we don’f feel grown up because we don’t want to get old. Some of the things I do, I wonder if I look silly doing them, and then, what the heck, I’m having fun!

  14. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I’m about to undergo step three of “get a job, keep a job, lose a job, get another job” since my company is closing (no fault of mine!) This leaves me to step four, without which the other items you listed, besides homework, go out the window. (I feel weird about dating while unemployed.) And getting another job is no fun! Resumes, cover letters, interviews, looking for jobs, selling yourself! And rejection! I’m amazed and impressed by freelancers who do this over and over again every month. Also impressed that you did well enough at it to have to pay estimated income taxes.

    But only all of us adults could choose to go to the big PaperGirl sleepover, I mean retreat, 🙂

  15. Heather
    | Reply

    Ack! I know the feeling well!
    My “am I really an actual grown up” moment for the day was taking my dad to his cataract surgery. I picked him up, sat with him while the nurse told him not to do some stuff and then blinked at her when she gave ME instructions–ME. What?! I’m not the adult here….until….wait….yes, I am. Heavy stuff, Mar’. Hang in there!

  16. Pamela Keown
    | Reply

    Inside my head I feel like the same person I felt like when I was twelve. I make much better decisions now, but I am the same person.

    I always wondered when people would start treating me like an adult. They never did. When I turned 50 and decided I was an adult, dammit! whether anyone treated me like one or not. And slowly, more and more people do. I am 56 now.

  17. Linda
    | Reply

    In 15 days I’ll have a 45 yr old son. How can that be??? I don’t feel like I should even be 40. It wasn’t until I signed up for Medicare last year that I thought…. Holy crap, I’m a real grown up now!!! Nah, as long as I can chase my grandkids around the backyard with a water hose I’m still not quite a grown up.

  18. Tony
    | Reply

    Yes, marvel at being able to to do all the things on the list…chuckle…thank you for highlighting ‘those’ feeling we all have in such a humorous and eloquent way, this really helps people because it creates a sense of space, a rest from that constant ‘front’ where we are all grown up and sailing through, piece of cake in hand. and allows us not only to be ok with such feelings but laugh about them, just like a kid.

  19. Marcia
    | Reply

    The majority of the “grown-up” population probably feels the same way. At 67 I know I do.
    There are lots of milestones along the way: turning 16, then 18, then 21, then 30; getting a driver’s license; voting for the first time; graduating from high school and maybe college; and getting a first full-time, permanent job. However, none of these cement “I am a grownup” in stone for us to see.
    We don’t suddenly wake up having crossed over a magic bridge into adulthood overnight. We just have to bumble along as best we can.
    Once I turned 60 I stopped worrying about it and feeling like a fraud. I can generally be responsible to myself and those around me and that’s quite good enough.
    I enjoy, and occasionally indulge, my inner child, who, by the way, is growing stronger as the calendar pages flip off. We’re both having a grand time.
    Don’t worry about not feeling like a grownup. You have lots and lots of company

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