And I suspect I am not the only one who feels that way.
I feel like I have not yet grown up. I feel like most adults are more… “adult” than I. They do grown-up things and talk about grown-up things.
However, I also feel like most grown-ups are not really living—like they have boring, miserable lives.
On one hand, I like my version of adulthood. I am intentionally playful, joyful, positive. I am intentional about almost everything I do—especially the adult things that matter: parenting, marriage, and money management. I see very few people (of any age) who are intentional about the way they think and act and live.
On the other hand, though, I am uncomfortable around most grown men, with their boisterous greetings, their clever teasing, their worship of sports, and their constant coffee or beer. I feel like an outsider, a child. When will I grow up? And how?
A lot of children are eager and ready to grow up. Not me. I never saw the appeal. I understood that growing older was inevitable, but adults seem lost and dead—to me as a child and to me now. They seem unmoored and uptight and kept upright and in motion only by various drugs: alcohol, over-working, accumulating possessions, the distraction of sports, prescriptions, etc. Why would I want that? I always wanted to stay in my fantasy world.
As a child, I stayed lost in my imagination, and I did not ask questions. One of many problems with that is that I had to teach myself everything I needed to know. And I didn’t start that until age 35. There is profound joy in the discoveries I have made, but I feel behind the rest of the adults.
I envy those who seem like they grew up early; those who were responsible and focused and hard working and comfortable leading as teens. Adulthood seems to fit them perfectly because they were ready for it.
I would like to grow up. But I don’t know what it means or how to do it. What I think I mean by “grow up” is this: there are some men that I wish I was more like. What those guys have that I don’t is leadership ability (or presence). My observation says that their leadership is less of a skill that they worked at and more of a personality trait. I would like to be more confident and commanding. But my personality is, and always has been, pensive and kind. Less like Douglas MacArthur, more like Dalai Lama.
At least part of what I am saying (and experiencing) is that I am not comfortable with who I am. Also, I do not have specific goals. I just wake up and repeat the same day over and over.
Again, I suspect that I am not the only one who feels that way.
Even though my adulthood feels awkward or lacking, it has rewards. Here are the great joys of adulthood… according to me:
- The realization of how much work you are capable of. Especially after you have children.
- Having children. Far and away, the most fulfilling thing I have done.
- Being married. When it’s not fun, it’s good for you. When it is fun, it’s good for you. A win-win-win.
- Having the time to accumulate real money—the time to earn it and the time for it to grow.
- Having the time and discernment to learn what you want and/or need to.
- The beginning, and increase, of wisdom. This started at age 35 for me.
Here are the pains of adulthood for me:
- Feeling trapped—you have to keep this routine because the bills have to be paid, and there is no longer time to pursue a dream. Life no longer lays stretched out infinitely before me like it did in high school and especially in college. This day is as far as I can see into the future. The urgent has smothered the important.
But there is a chance that my adulthood is preferable to what I often envy. The lives of most adults are marked by:
- Routine. It is what everyone else does. It keeps a person from having to think or make decisions. But it keeps them from living or being alive.
- Accumulating possessions. Mindlessly spending all the money you make just because everyone else does and to silence the thought that whispers: “You are missing what matters most.”
- Worshiping sports… because everyone else does and to silence the thought that whispers: “You are missing what matters most.”
- Using “exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.” Again, to silence the thought that whispers: “You are missing what matters most.”
- Drinking alcohol daily. The average American adult man drinks six alcoholic drinks per week. The average for all American adults is four drinks per week. Or 2.5 gallons of alcohol per year. Somebody is trying to numb something.
Maybe someday I’ll feel grownup. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable with who I am.
I hope this confession is useful or helpful. Honesty frees. Communication connects.