Am I a grown up yet?

3 Jun

Sunday is my 39th birthday. So, I am one year away from the big 4-0. Meaning, chronologically at least, I am truly an adult. But what does it mean to be grown up?

My opinion of what an adult should be, of course, comes from my own parents. Collectively, they financially supported the family, maintained a clean and well decorated home, had a gorgeous yard, balanced checking accounts, saved for college, sewed on buttons, removed stains, entertained their friends and mine, read bedtime stories, sat through dance recitals and kissed boos boos with the best of them. None of these activities appeared taxing from a child’s perspective. They were all in a day’s work – almost as if Mom and Dad had been training for their entire lives to be proficient in all areas of their professional and domestic lives. And in retrospect, I guess they had.

 I was under the illusion that I would reach a certain age – 39 perhaps – when I too would have all of this know-how. I have arrived in adulthood without such a wide skill set. Yes, we are financially comfortable, we are devoted to our children, and we have a great circle of friends. But don’t check out our bathroom grout too closely, I haven’t managed to buy furniture for our living room after four years in this house, we take shirts with missing buttons to the dry cleaners for repair, and no we don’t own a lawn mower. I am bedeviled by the little, daily mundane things in life, like the laundry piling up, keeping up with the mail and hairspray shellacking my bathroom wall. I still rely on the automatic teller for my most accurate account balance, I use the microwave more than the oven, and I polish my nails more often than my shoes.

What I now realize – after 39 years – is that becoming a responsible adult is not like hitting puberty. It’s not something that happens to you, and when it’s over – like it or not – you are different. It’s more like college graduation. You can arrive at commencement after four years of study and growth ready for the real world, or you can show up hung over and relieved a 2.5 is good enough to earn a diploma. Either way, you are graduating, but it doesn’t mean you are ready for what’s next.

So, for the next year, I am going to take a look at what it means to be in this phase of life (dare I say middle age). The accomplishments, the contentment, the struggles, the self awareness and the hopes for what the next 40 or 50 years will bring.

Hitting 39 makes me realize there are some things I will never accomplish – like being an Olympic gymnast or going to medical school. On a smaller scale, I know that I will never get up a 5 a.m. to work out or give up cheese for Lent. On the flip side, I have surprised myself with the amazing amount of multi-tasking I can do as a parent, that I really can get up every night at 4 a.m. for nearly a year to comfort or feed a small child, and that I have had several really fascinating careers. My resume – personal and professional – is beyond needing padding, and it will never fit on one page again.

I hope you will find ideas that you identify with, stories that make you laugh, opinions that make you think and (I should say) positions that make you mad, (but I don’t really ever want to make people mad because I am a pleaser, and I knew that long before 39.) Join me as I count down to 40. And hey, if 40 really is the new 21, I guess I have plenty of time to learn to sew on a button.


6 Responses to “Am I a grown up yet?”

  1. Robin Krissel Denton June 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm #

    Awesome idea Kathleen! I will so enjoy following this journey with you and I’m sure I will also relate!!

    • 40countdown June 3, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

      Hey Robin~ Thanks so much! Let me know if you have ideas for the blog — I would love to hear them.

  2. Friendly Dan June 4, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    Gather ye rosebuds, Countess,
    Old time is still a-flying

  3. Muzzy June 5, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Kathleen, I love it and can’t wait to follow! And from someone closer to 49 than 39, i can tell you it only gets better!

  4. Jennifer Venable June 6, 2011 at 12:06 am #

    I really love this idea — especially since I just turned 40 myself. I saw 40 as an opportunity to look at my life and see if I was doing what I needed to be doing to be happy when I am 70 — because that’s a LONG way off! 🙂 Can’t wait to read about your journey over the next year!

  5. Susan Brice June 6, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    What an absolutely wonderful idea, Kathleen! I’m so looking forward to your helping me along this journey as well. Wonderful first post. You are a good writer. I’ll be back to visit for sure! xoSusan

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