How do you adult?

Found this while trawling through the notes on my iPad. Apparently it was written 420 days ago, in July last year. Like to say it’s gotten better but, as I haven’t showered in two days and ate pancakes for lunch, that would be a lie. And everyone knows adults don’t lie.

In three months time, I will be 25-years-old.
The panic has started to set in.
Panic is probably too mild a word. It’s more like the grey dawn terror of an exam morning when you had put all hopes of passing on an all-night study session and suddenly woken up, covered in post-it notes, having slumped asleep at the books. Too late to catch up. Failure awaits.
The problem is that 25 sounds rather too old not to be a Proper Adult. And I’m just not ready for the title. There are things one ought to have done by now that I have not done, like stopped eating cake for dinner.
I’m not married or likely to be in the next five years, I don’t own a house, there are no stamps in my passport and I’ve neither won a major industry award nor started a successful online business that combines artisan local cheeses with a social network promoting breakfasts with Ita Buttrose.
And, apart from all that, I know I’m not a Proper Adult because Proper Adults don’t talk about Adulthood, and certainly don’t capitalise it.
(Proper Adults are also presumably able to talk about life without quoting Gilmore Girls, and would therefore avoid saying: “Grown-ups don’t call themselves grown-ups. They say adult; and when they say it they say it like this, ‘Aaadult’.”)
I was listing these woes to my mother, which I should not have done, because Real Adults don’t talk to their mothers about things like this. They talk to their psychiatrist or their group of fashionable and impossibly well-accessorised and witty friends. Real Adults do not have their mother come down and look after them for the weekend when they have their wisdom teeth out and watch back-to-back television adaptations of Jane Austen novels. And the mothers of Real Adults, if they do stumble into such conversations, are too much engaged bemoaning their lack of grandchildren to mock the vain societal benchmarking which may give rise to such grandchildren.
My mother felt no such constraints.
“It’s not like when you can’t make the pinching motion to pick up peas when you’re 10 months old,” she said.
“These aren’t developmental goals.
“Failing to meet them doesn’t indicate a problem or some kind of learning disability, it just means you have a different life.”
Now, it’s all very well for my mother to say this. She was married at 23 (“Yes, and I wonder now if that was a good idea,” said she, a lady three weeks shy of her 34th wedding anniversary), had bought her first house before that and then spent seven years building a life with The Husband before deciding to have children. That all sounds properly Adult, to me.
My big sister, in the four months before her 25th birthday, got a fiancé and a mortgage and started colour-coding her freezer.
Indexed food storage is surely a pillar of adulthood. I don’t even have dining chairs. If I have more than two people over for dinner it means someone’s sitting on the computer chair, and we’re all huddled around the coffee table.
It’s easy for mum to point out that if I wanted any of those things there’s nothing particularly stopping me from getting them.
Mum: “Do you want to get married?”
Me: “No.”
Mum: “Well, there you are, then.”
Me: “That’s not the point, mum.”

But for all her cunning stealth attacks my determination to feel inadequate remains in place. I’m not sure what would shift it. Matching bed linens, perhaps, or an ironing board that wasn’t covered with dust. I did recently buy a new shower curtain, at mum’s insistence, but as it’s covered with tropical fish and I now sing “just keep swimming” whenever I use the bathroom, it probably won’t help.
I have a university degree. I have a job. I rent a small but neat flat and most of the time it’s clean and free of the conspicuous signs of feckless youth, like goon bags and condom wrappers and empty tequila bottles and an Arctic Monkeys poster. I am, by all accounts, properly shit at being a carefree party-loving 20-something.
So why do I still feel like a kid?

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