Now I Know Who I Am, as a Grown Up


Beyond playacting

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

I am now thirty-five, stacking up decades as casually as I stacked up weeks, as a child…. I have finished being truly young. There will be a holding period, a decade or so of stasis, and then the next thing that will happen is I will start to be old. That is what is happening next.
—Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

A Doll’s House

I will probably always remember the day that I drove home from daycare with an eight-weeks-home baby, to a husband in a suit who’d just come home his first day at his new firm job. We were all tired and tense, but this new life of ours felt like playacting. I was playing the role of wife who gets the baby, he was playing the role of stressed out dad, but we all knew that only yesterday we’d all been our normal selves, at home with our tiny lump of baby watching Project Runway.

“Remember,” I told myself, “this is only playacting.” But plays end, and this did not.

In the many months that followed, I hung on to that thought. The trouble was, we weren’t pretending to fill roles, we were really filling them. The life we’d had together for eight years didn’t exactly resume. The billable hours and staff payroll stuck around, and there was noticeably less time for Project Runway. There were arguments, as we tried to negotiate how much of our identities we were going to give over to this new life. There was not enough sleep, minimal exercise, and probably a little too much whiskey. But there was also good stuff. Great stuff, even. Learning all the ways to love our child, and the new shape of our family. Growing by leaps and bounds in our careers. But the truth is, despite those shining moments, there was a lot of slogging along.

Over the past few years, David’s and my responsibilities have mounted. We’ve had a kid, but it’s hardly that simple. We also entered our thirties, and watched our careers take root—with the accompanying responsibility. Serious family illness and stressors accumulated. We were suddenly at least a third of a way through our working lives, and the generational math of no pensions and no social security became something we could no longer totally ignore. I’d love to tell you that we’ve handled this snowball of stress with charm and grace, but that is not even close to the case. Instead, we handled it by not going to the gym enough, and exploring the variety of ways you can fight with your partner.

I’m not sure what happened to end the awful period of struggle. We didn’t decide to become the new people—the stressed out lawyer father and the carpool driving mother. But we didn’t stay exactly the same either. We got more practiced at the responsibility, in the way you do when you’ve spent a year or two at any new job. We started sleeping through the night after almost a year and a half, and that helped more than we’d imagined. We fought with each other enough that we figured out how to fit together in a new way, again. And also, we just accepted our current version of adulthood, with all its shitty drawbacks, and all its lovely perks. Here it is, we realized, now let’s try to do something we’re proud of.

This Was Our Youth

For as long as I can remember, if I read about something someone was doing that seemed both amazing and unattainable, instead of getting jealous I just thought, “Oh well, I’ll do that someday.” And then I added to the list I kept in my head of things to work toward. It wasn’t a life plan, just a recording of things that I should really consider doing. I figured someday I’d wear a designer dress, have a rewarding creative career, buy a dream house, write a book, give lots of money to inner city arts programs, walk a red carpet.

By its very nature, any recording of this list is going to be incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, because it has always shifted like the sands. But this scattershot list-making has, on the whole, worked well for me. That level of what I’d call self-delusion is the only thing that kept me powering forward, well past what anyone would consider reasonable limits for a kid not born into power or money. But as I watched the opening of the Emmys this weekend from the bleachers, and pondered the fact that I had not, in fact, walked a red carpet, I wondered if it wasn’t time to reconsider. At going-on-thirty-five, wasn’t it time to resign myself to the things I would never get a chance to do? Isn’t that what this period of my life is supposed to be about?

And then I thought, nah.

That’s no way to live.

Beyond Therapy

I spent a good chunk of my twenties facing up to my limits. When forced to make a big decision, my guiding principal has always been that I don’t ever want to look back, and wonder, “What if…?” I would rather know with certainty that I couldn’t, than look back pretending that maybe I could have, if I’d been one of the people brave enough to give it a go.

When I was asked at David’s ten-year college reunion why I quit acting, I said, “I wasn’t good enough.” The question asker gasped, and I shrugged, because I knew it was true. I’d failed, I’d sat on the sidelines for a while recovering, I’d tried something new and hated that far more, and then I’d allowed myself to be surprised by something I was unexpectedly quite good at. Whatever sting there might have been was long gone.

At almost thirty-five, and I’m in the middle ground, these days. I have plenty of time to accomplish all kinds of things, if I’m willing to keep risking failure. But I no longer have seemingly endless time. My life no longer stretches out in front of me as a series of “What if’s?” Some of those questions are asked now, and answered. But to stop asking the questions? That is not a kind of adulthood I’m willing to even play at.

The Homecoming

I don’t know when the feeling of being grown-up will arrive for any person. But this month, we’ll discuss the uncertainty of not feeling like an adult, and the gritty reality of acknowledging that life is happening right now. We’ll talk about owning up to our limits, going easy on ourselves, and settling into our own skins. And while the process of growing up is never over, this month we’ll talk about that feeling of arrival.

On the night of our five-year wedding anniversary, I sat looking out a hotel room window, thinking that I always wondered what kind of adult I’d be, and now I know. This is it, for better or worse, and I need to pay attention so I don’t miss it.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • Grace from England

    “the gritty reality of acknowledging that life is happening right now”. This is so true for me, I’m really excited about Growing Up month. We’ve had some major setbacks the last few years and it’s taken me a long time to stop clinging onto what may or may not happen in the future and start living for today. To be honest, it’s an ongoing battle in my own head.

    • I am looking forwar to this month too. And I have spent the last year learning to let go of dreams that fell apart. It’s a long process, but worthwhile. I mean, what’s the other option? Stay bitter forever? No, thank you! I’d rather embrace life, even with the unexpected twists and turns (some painful, some good)…

  • Emily

    During this very last stretch of wedding planning my mother keeps repeating the mantra “life is what happens when you’re making other plans”. I think it is her way of telling me to stop stressing out, embrace the f*ck its, and remember this is supposed to be the happiest time in our lives. And I try to listen to her, and I try to appreciate the sentiment in all of my life because I am not very good at stepping back and enjoying the moment. I like to plan, to keep moving forward, to check things off the list–that’s what I think of when I think “adulthood”. But I also want to revel in the freedom I’ve finally achieved by finishing school, by getting a job that doesn’t force me to choose rent or groceries every week, by agreeing to spend my life with someone who I truly love inside and out. I just need to figure out how to make that adulthood too…

    • Violet

      I was just talking with a friend who’s in grad school about this. For me, something about school lends itself to not living in the moment. When I was in school, I was constantly checking how much I’d done and looking to what was next to do. Settling into “adult life,” as in, no more school, has been a head trip for me because living in the present amplifies my emotional realities. When I was in school, it always felt like life would start when this was done, once that was finished, etc. That meant things that were good weren’t fully realized yet, and things that were bad were only temporary. NOW, when things are going well, I can say, “Wow, this is my life!” and I totally revel in it. But on the flip side, when things are stressing me out, there’s no comfort to be had in To Do lists, checklists, progress, and timelines. My life just stretches out before me. Scary stuff.

      • Caroline

        I find this really hard about school. I went back for my bachelors, and there’s definitely this feeling of “life on hold” while I’m in school, that school isn’t really living life. Which isn’t true, but it feels that way. I’m really sick of that feeling, and can’t wait to be done honestly.

  • lady brett

    i love this letter!

  • Bethany

    Knowing that you’re looking at life this way at 35 helps me as I’m watching 30 approach (just over a month away) and I’m not at all where I thought I’d be when I imagined being 30. I’m jobless, no real retirement savings, barely any other savings, and my partner and I keep putting off getting married because we want life to settle just a little bit.

    • Sarah E

      I feel that way, too, though I’m a couple of years behind you. I keep wishing the age gap between Meg and I was a little smaller, because she writes such great pieces like this, and I wanna yell “Wait! I’m not there yet! Let me catch up first!”

      • Meg Keene

        They’ll still be there. You need to go back and read what I wrote at 30!

  • Sara

    I had a realization recently where I kept pushing things I wanted to do to a time when “things slow down”. And then I woke up and figured out that this is just the speed I live at. I have to adapt instead of trying to resist it.

  • Lindsay

    “I sat looking out a hotel room window, thinking that I always wondered what kind of adult I’d be, and now I know.”

    Wow, this piece is so beautifully written and comes at such an appropriate time. I remember graduating from college and giving myself what I thought as a very generous goal of figuring things out by the time I turned 25. Ha! I just turned 36 this weekend, and I am in the process of (finally) making a pivot in my career that I am truly excited about and that will hopefully provide a lot more options for my future…I’m both excited and terrified. At the same time my husband and I are wanting to start a family, and I still wonder how I’ll feel “grown up” enough to care for and mentor another human being, when I feel like I’m still figuring out this thing called life. It’s so helpful to talk with others and realize that no one truly has it all figured out and that that’s not really the point.

  • I’m so excited for this month! AND can I say I loved how the section titles of this piece were play references ;)

    • River

      Yup, made my lil’ actress heart glow :-)

      Also the line about quitting acting because you weren’t good enough – Meg, that scared the beejeezus out of me. Because I am good enough, and I still think of quitting but I know I would wonder “what if…” Anyway, it was a GOOD scare. Thank you for that.

  • Hannah B

    That picture is amazing. I want a picture like that. Recommitting to anniversary pics in my mind.

    Also, all these things. I can relate to the trying and failing, though I am not ready to give up yet. I just don’t know if I AM good enough yet. My husband came to my voice lesson yesterday and he’s all resolved to help me really go for the brass ring this year. After this audition season, we’ll re-evaluate. :)

    • Meg Keene

      We took those pictures in about five seconds before we left for our anniversary with a baby running around screaming. Actually he also took a bunch, and his composition is a little… off. So imagine what you could do if you actually tried ;)

      ALSO. I really want to take voice again. It’s on the list of “things I would like to do one day just for me.” My voice is pretty ok, and I just never had a chance to train, other then a few semesters in college (where I discovered my voice was actually pretty good). I don’t have a ear to be a pro—not that I want to—so it’s just for fun.

      BUT REMEMBER. Mark Ruffalo, for example, got 600 nos before he got a yes, but he knew that was the only thing he could do. Creative fields are… complex. I felt like a total failure when I quit, because that’s what they drill into you in art school, that by quitting you’re giving yourself up. But I WANTED to quit. My best advice is that you don’t quit until you WANT to. By the time I quit, it was such a relief.

      • Hannah B

        Thanks! I don’t want to quit yet, so I won’t. That feels so simple! :) Opera is such a weird field because on the one hand it’s all “you’re developing as a singer physically til you are in your early thirties, so don’t worry you’re still young ” and on the other it’s “oh you’re almost 30 and that’s what your resume looks like?” It’s very split, and there is a whole industry built around charging young people to sing in order to eventually move up to the ladder where they can just not get paid, etc, but we’re all in it for the “someday” when maybe someone will pay you for all the training you’ve had and you get to be onstage.

        Except someday is now and everyone’s career looks very different. Paths are only visible when you look behind you.

        As for taking lessons, DO IT. Voice lessons can be pricey, but since you’re in it for fun, I’d recommend checking into the university scene first and seeing if they either have a vocal pedagogy program where there students are learning to teach and take students for free, or if the university teachers take private students (or even if the graduate students take students). Or join a karaoke league. :-) Singing is fun and often cathartic. One of the biggest surprises of my wedding was that I cried 11 times but still somehow retained the ability to sing along with the hymns.

        • Lisa

          I got linked to this post from this month’s Letter from the Editor post, and I just wanted to commiserate with you here for a second!

          I also studied voice in college/grad school, and now I’m living in a city with few to no singing opportunities outside of the university while my husband is getting his DMA. I took the year off from auditions last year since we got married fall 2014, and when I looked at my resume while on my way to an audition the other day, I noticed I haven’t performed in a role since 2013 and started thinking, “Has it really been that long? And is my singing career now dead forever?”

          I agree the split between vocal maturity and resume building is so weird. I’ve got a bigger voice so I’m looking at mid-30s, but programs cut off at 27-30, and I’m right there. I had a friend who did a mainstage role at a big program last year, and when she said she was taking summer 2015 off to get married, she was told that she would effectively kill her career by taking a 3 month hiatus.

          Sorry to ramble at you! I guess I’m trying to say that I don’t know where I am or what I’m doing at this point in my careers and am still trying to figure that out. It’s comforting to think that I’m not alone in this!

          • Hannah B

            It’s ok! It’s nice to have other singer friends when you’re out of school :) Especially when you have some successful friends and you’re just hanging out with your voice teacher.

            I live in nyc where there is presumably lots of opportunities, but I am apparently bad at pursuing them. I have made a goal for myself this audition season to audition for TEN WHOLE PROGRAMS/shows/whatevers, just to put myself out there. Seek and find.

            I have a feeling that once you make a splash, momentum is everything. Or maybe momentum has always been everything, and since we both have none we don’t face the risk of tanking it all forever. Maybe?

            Remember, we can always work on roles that will be good roles for us so they’re in the voice when we need them, so we can have them ready to go! Not just the arias (the recit is always the killer, right?) And if you’re a bigger voice then Verdi/Wagner are both such long sings I can only imagine how long the role would take to learn. I think I’m going to tackle Cherubino this summer, and a few “money”/concert pieces that people want, and maybe plan a recital, because I am deadline oriented and if I have nothing to work towards specifically I’ll probably do nothing. Make your own art!

            At the end of the day, though, I want to know that I’m doing it for a reason (cue guidance counselor journal: why do you want to be a singer?), and not for my vanity. That’s the scariest part to me, what if all that debt is for naught? (It feels unjust to have to pay for auditions when every month I am paying student loan bills, but that is an aside.) Are you on the New New Forum for Classical Singers on facebook? Since I joined it a few months back I at least feel surrounded by singers again, even if it’s only virtual. (they are totally NSFW and swear a lot, but they do discuss things! Nerdy singer things your hubby may not care about, though he’ll try!)

            Thanks for commiserating :)

      • Caroline

        I have to say, despite no longer performing/acting, I am still so grateful for my years of voice lessons as a teenager. I remember I walked into the door on the first lesson, and the teacher couldn’t even hear me, I had so little confidence that I completely muffled my voice. I’ve lost some range over the years of less practicing, but the ability to sing confidently has significantly affected my life for the better: I regularly lead services at my synagogue, I’m leading high holiday services for the first time this year (hundreds of non-regulars I don’t know, whoa), and I’m relatively comfortable public speaking.
        I think voice training, even if you aren’t going to be a pro, is incredibly valuable.

        • Meg Keene

          Public speaking, I’ve got. Could I do it everyday, please???

          But yes, I totally agree with you. I remember my voice teacher saying I was the best student he’d ever had that thought they couldn’t sing at all. I was actually hiding a pretty good voice under all that muffling (not a pro voice or anything, but who cares). And that class was better than therapy, I think. Physical is emotional, and the physical work you have to do to open up your voice is huge.

          • Caroline

            Mine was definitely better than therapy. And I liked my singing teacher more than my therapist too. There’s also the emotional work of developing the confidence to open up your voice.

  • guest

    I went to my grandmother’s 90th birthday recently. She has lived through wars, the great depression, her husband’s death, her children’s deaths, many many jobs and other life changes that I probably don’t know about it. Her legacy has impacted hundreds of people. Certainly humbling as I realize my 34 year old self (as a wife, mother, employer, sister, friend, etc.) doesn’t know very much after all. I hope to attain my grandma’s level of grace!

  • CPR

    Oh, god… “Growing Up” month could not come at a better time. How did you know?!? I’m a month away from my wedding and, at a somewhat “advanced” age, my fiancé and I are feeling a lot of pressure to make many, many grown up decisions – new cars, home ownership, babies (and which one of us stays home with them) – very, very quickly. When I think about what my life might look like 1 year from today, I start to freak out. So much change, so much still unknown, all of it requiring what seems like a lot of responsibility and maturity…and here I am, still feeling like a 10 year old half the time (despite that advanced age of mine)! The very idea that I get to spend the next month reading amazing APW contributors share their growing up experiences with me helps me breathe a little easier!

  • Erin

    Gorgeous photo, Meg and David! Cheers to you both for coming through rough patches and sharing the journey/struggles with us. Wishing you both the very best in your marriage.

  • H

    I’m on my way to introduce myself to my new colleagues and potential students, wearing a new eyeliner that contrary to making me feel sophisticated is making me feel about eighteen years old again. I still sometimes feel like a kid masquerading as an entrepreneur…but here I go. Just wanted to say I’ve really been looking forward to this month. Thanks for opening on a high note, Meg!

    • Bethany

      Hope it went well. New makeup tends to feel like a costume to me.

  • joanna b.n.

    So, I have a submission bubbling up on this theme that I want to share, but I’m wondering if you’ve already filled all the post spots for the month, and I would be wasting effort sending it in. Do you have room for more on growing up?

    • Emily

      I do not work for APW and am not affiliated (except as a reader), but I think you should send it! What do you have to lose? Let it out into the world, whether they use it or not. :)

      Personally, I have an unfortunate amount of room left for growing up!

    • Meg Keene

      We have not filled them up! :)

      And I agree with Emily, I feel like it’s mostly letting it out into the world. I’m in a weird position since I read submissions, and often I read things that won’t work, because they’re mostly journal entries, but it’s sort of a honor and a priviledge to get to read people working things through. Usually they clearly figured out what they needed to figure out by the end, which is basically the whole reason I write essays (not books, they’re different, because they’re a service industry). I mean, if you guys like it it’s nice and stuff, but I actually wrote it for me.

  • This post reminds me of one of my favorite parts of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (one of my favorite books!). It’s just before Henry & Claire’s wedding day and he suddenly remembers something about their wedding photos (which he’s seen in the future)…so he goes to get his long hair cut short. The scene (it’s actually a lovely little two-page chapter) ends with “When he is done he brushes me off and removes the cape and voila…I’ve become the man of my future.”

    I think about that line a LOT as I get older…I don’t know if it was QUITE that sudden, but there have been several moments in the past two years when I feel like I really became future me, grown-up me. And I’m getting used to it and I actually quite like it. Because I like what grown-up me has going on. I think past me would be REALLY impressed.

    • Kina

      LOVE the book. Hate the movie, which makes me sad because I love Rachel McAdams…but it just did not do it justice :(

      • I know, it didn’t even come close. I loved her for Claire and just…nope. It did. Not. Work.

        The book though. God.

    • Caroline

      I feel the same way. there have been a bunch of moments like that. Getting married was a big one, but so was hosting our first holiday dinner, and there have been lots of little moments, where I think “Hey, so this is how I do grownup. I approve.”

    • Jenny

      I love that book! I read it in college, then again like 5 years later, and I was worried that it wouldn’t hold up, but it not only held up, the older me reader just added another layer onto a lot of the themes. It is one of the books that I just viscerally love. Like people want to critique it and probably have valid points, but I just DO NOT WANT TO HEAR IT. I don’t want anything to sully the book. But, yeah….. I just pretend that movie didn’t happen……

      • I read that book in high school and have revisited it at least every 2 years since. I am totally immune to any and all criticism anyone has about it. It’s too entrenched in my brain. I feel like every re-read was at a new point in my life, and meant something different.

  • Lily

    Perfect timing on this one as we’re closing on our first house on Friday and I am thinking to myself, oh crap, when did we become GROWN UPS?!?

  • Becca

    This photo makes me regret all the pictures we haven’t taken and strengthens my resolve to take more pictures as we move into the future.

    • Meg Keene

      Ha! Just take five seconds out of a moment and ask a friend. This was not exactly a photo shoot. And this is obviously kind of a outtake ;)

      • Becca

        I mean, I think that’s why it seems special to me. I’m in recovery from an eating disorder, but body image stuff can still be really devastating. I think I’ve allowed 5 pictures to be taken of me in the last two years, and in each my inner dialogue is, like, painfully obvious (“tilt your head slightly to the right to minimize your double chin, suck in your stomach, contort your legs to make them seem smaller…”). Sometimes I feel like I’m missing my life, you know? So, yes, I’m redoubling commitment to take more pictures and try to find excuses to remember moments :)

  • When I was in a dance class as a child the instructor told my mom I reminded her of a butterfly. I’ve found out it was in part because of my grace, but I always knew it was also because of how I approach life. I flit along in my own world and occasionally touch down on reality. Even today, when I touch down on reality, I look around and wonder how in the world did I became a college student? When did I grow up enough that parents trusted me with their children as an elementary teacher? Why are these college students looking at me like I know what I’m talking about as their professor? Whoa, I’m married! I have a kid when did that happen? This growing up thing is a lot of fun, but it continues to catch me off guard.

  • Class of 1980

    Have you arrived? I have NOT. Even now at 56, I don’t feel like a grownup.

    I gave up looking for that feeling a long time ago. ;)

  • Erin E

    Isn’t it so weird to think about what your parents were doing at your age? Mine were established in their careers, had a 10-year-old daughter and were getting closer to purchasing their second “slightly bigger than the starter home” house. And here I am in my mid-30’s, feeling nowhere near many of those things. Interesting to wonder whether that’s a new societal trend, or just something that every generation feels.

    • Not Sarah

      My parents hadn’t met for another two years at my age! But my boyfriend’s parents got married at my age. Everyone has different priorities/timelines!

  • Tania

    I firmly believe that partner/children/house/career are not fair indicators of ‘grown up’. I spent years looking at friends the same age as me who had all the above while I was only just starting to get ahead with the ‘career’ bit. I thought it was unfair that on the face of it my world would consider them more grown up than me. I think ‘grown up’ is the ability to shape the life we want – whatever that looks like.

    • Caroline

      I agree. Those are not the only things that make one grown up. Honestly, one of the things that makes me feel like a real grownup is being on a committee at my synagogue. I go to meetings, make important decisions and do work for an organization that matters to me? Super grown up.

      I also think that getting married, having kids, buying a house are also (not only) often abrupt moments of growing up. I just got married and honestly, when people ask me if it feels different, it does. Because it’s not actually possible to be a wife and a not-grownup. Only grownups can be wives. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be a grown up without those things. But three weeks ago, I woke up feeling like a fake-grownup, a little girl play-acting in a wedding dress, and went to bed a wife, a not-fake-grownup. That’s a much more abrupt moment of growing up than the growing up, and becoming a grown up of serving on a committee at my synagogue, of giving charity money, of volunteering at the men’s shelter, because that’s the kind of grownup I want to be. The growing up of each transition in job/career is more subtle growing up, for me, that the abrupt change of getting married.

      • anon

        It seems to me that it’s quite possible to be a wife (or, rather, to be married) and to be a not-grownup. Being married and being a grown-up are, to me, 2 circles that sometimes overlap fully, sometimes partly, sometimes a smidgen, and sometimes not at all. To assume that marriage makes someone a grown-up is to slide into or toward a definition of being grown up that does, in fact, assert that certain life stages are more grown up than others. And this is rather…problematic for those whose lives throw them down different paths.

        That’s why I like Tania’s point that external signs (partners, careers, kids, houses, cars, etc) are not what makes someone a grown up. It’s the internal awareness of what we want and how to pursue it, whether or not markings of “success” follow.

        • Caroline

          I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree here. For me, getting married was fundamentally about becoming grown up. We’ve been committed to each other for 8 years, and we always knew we wanted to get married, but we were “still kids” too much in our own eyes and the eyes of our community. We had to reach a certain point of grown-up-itude in order to get engaged, but what I found was that actually getting married brought with it significant increases in grown-up-itude, in my own eyes more even than the eyes of my community.
          Now, I’m speaking as a 24 year old, still in undergrad bride here. I don’t necessarily think that someone who is 34 and has already been a grown up for a long time will have the same experience, and maybe that’s the point of issue here. If you’re already an adult, getting married certainly doesn’t make you extra-officially an adult, you can be a full adult without a partner, without kids, without a house, without a career, etc. But when you have yet to really achieve grownup-hood, when you don’t feel so grownup, getting married does catapult you into more grownup-hood. It’s not the only thing that will do so though.

  • Ann

    Right out of undergrad, I was teaching high school. In my second year, I was working with a student one on one, and one of my coworkers came in to give me chocolate for my birthday. My student (reasonably) asked, “Oh, it’s your birthday? How old are you?”
    Me: “24”
    Him: “No, that’s not possible.”
    Me: Raised eyebrow “Why not?”
    Him: “My brother just turned 24. You’re a grown up. And he’s not. So you can’t be 24. 24 year olds aren’t grown ups.”
    Me: “You do realize that being a grown up is basically part of the teacher job description, don’t you?”
    Him: “I still don’t believe you’re 24.”
    I handed him my ID. Many parents of my students looked at me and thought I wasn’t old enough to be teaching their children, but kids generally “saw” the age I acted.
    That was a funnier moment, but nothing has made me feel more “grown up” than having young people turn to me as a trusted adult in their lives. In some ways, I feel less grown up now that I’m back in grad school, even though I’m now in my late 20s. Growing up can be a non-linear process…

    • Sarah E

      Yeah, it’s definitely weird to think back to some of the younger teachers I’ve had and realize I’m as old now as they were then. Time warp.

  • Meg, this was just beautiful. And I also make decisions using this idea (though often in the form of “What will I regret least?”):

    “When forced to make a big decision, my guiding principal has always been
    that I don’t ever want to look back, and wonder, “What if…?” I would
    rather know with certainty that I couldn’t, than look back pretending
    that maybe I could have, if I’d been one of the people brave enough to
    give it a go.”

    A year and half ago, I decided to give it a year to give yet another hard push towards making my artistic dreams happen. If I couldn’t, then I was going to re-evaluate. Fortunately, things have gone well and I am still pursuing those dreams and seeing results.

    I also liked this reminder of how partners choose each other again and again:
    “…we figured out how to fit together in a new way, again.”

    And I think having the willingness to risk failure cannot be understated. I’ve learned failure is not that bad. Plus, when you fail, there is a freedom in that because after that you know that you’ve already failed once and survived. That means you can risk again and be okay, even if things don’t work out. That’s been the huge payoff of having one life dream explode last year. Now I have become much more fearless than before. Because, really, what could be worse than what I have survived? Not too many things. So I embrace it. :) Helps me do all sorts of things, big or small, like sign up for a beginner ballet class for this fall. Scares me because I am not coordinated or graceful, but I felt like trying and no time better than the present.

    Thanks again for this essay, Meg. Beautiful writing.

    • joanna b.n.

      “…we figured out how to fit together in a new way, again.”

      This is the part that spoke most deeply to me (though the whole thing was the usual awesome dose of Meg).

      How else can you live a lifetime so close to another person? Only by finding each other again and again as things shift and change. And what a joy it is! But what work, as well.

  • KEA1

    For at least the past decade, I’ve described myself as having been “born 40,” and that I was really looking forward to turning chronologically 40 to see what happened. I’ve been a grownup longer than I’ve been an adult, and the older I get, the more fun I have because I feel like all the responsibilities of being an adult now actually come with the privileges that are supposed to accompany them. I will turn 40 in 2015, so I am very much looking forward to being the age that I apparently have some experience being!

  • Dana

    Just about everything you write on finding your way feels to me like it coming from my own head. Thank you putting into words so often exactly how I’m feeling! I’m a mom of a 9 month old and trying to find my way in this new version of life while staying true to how being me always felt has been a challenge and reading your thoughts, and many of the links/books/references you quote has been so helpful. Just wanted to say thanks!

  • Caroline M.

    Meg! Your vulnerability builds a sense of solidarity and hope in this APW community. You have been so consistent to convey sincerity in your essays. THANK YOU.

  • Kater

    APW/Meg, thanks for being INSIDE MY BRAIN!! I had this playacting sensation of adulthood when we attended my husband’s grandmother’s funeral this spring. We had driven to PA. As we stood in that church, my husband in a suit (which he NEVER wears), me in a sensible dress, among extended family, it all hit me like a mack truck of adulthood. Being introduced to his extended family as “Alan’s wife Kate.” It was all so surreal. p.s. I am 35 and he is 39 so it is not unreasonable for us to be considered adults I suppose :)

  • z

    Please, Meg, I beg you, do not reinforce the idea that there will be no Social Security. That’s just a Fox News talking point and it undermines people’s support for social programs. Yes there is a deficit, but there will be enough money coming in from payroll taxes each year to pay about 75% of benefits going forward indefinitely. That would be bad, but it’s a far cry from having no Social Security. You can read the annual report on the Social Security website.