For most of our lives, we have this fighting urge to distance ourselves from the age that we presently are. It starts when we are kids, almost as soon as we gain a concept of rules and who enforces them, and then goes through adulthood, although the desire of being older reverses into wanting to be young again.
Remember how much fun recess used to be? Remember that rush of excitement that came with being let out of the jail cell that was your classroom to go run a muck on the playground and take leaps from the merry go round going at full-speed?
But then, an hour later (or longer, if you were lucky) came the dreaded BELL. The sound that signified the best part of your day was over. The ones like me, who were trying to grasp the very last straws of their playtime, usually got rounded up by a dreaded ADULT. We got marched back into our classrooms, muttering under our breath, “I can’t wait ‘til I grow up. Then I’ll be able to do whatever I want.”
Fast forward twenty years later. Now you’re an adult. Your wish came true — you are a grown up. Or did it? And ARE you?
If you’re one of the lucky ones, it might have. If you’re a trailblazer, making your own rules and fulfilling your heart’s desire, while still maintaining a steady income, then you kind of won at life (which makes me secretly hate you). The rest of us had to go to school for X-amount of years to start getting even remotely on the path of what we want to do with ourselves. And the rules never went away. The “guy in charge” never went away. He morphed from your parents to your teachers and into your boss. That endless recess we imagined when we were five may have never happened for us. Or did recess just begin to morph into something a little different?
Your mid- to late-twenties can be such a whirlwind due simply to the fact that you grow up faster during this period in your life than any other. People start getting engaged and married, having children, getting real jobs, buying houses, the list goes on. Everyone around you is GROWING UP. And one day you might look in the mirror and acknowledge that you too are growing up a little.
And this thought freaks out a lot of people.
All of a sudden, there is pressure all around us — to get the great job, the great partner, the big house, the money, the incredible social life, all while keeping a confident, yet cool composure. You ARE an adult after all.
But I say that you have a choice. I say you have the option to alternate as you wish, from kid to adult and maybe something in between. I also think that those in their mid- to late-twenties are pros at moving from one role to the other. We just sometimes have identity crises and can start to panic when unsure of when to be what.
Sometimes there are situations where we shouldn’t regress. Where we should start taking the adult role seriously and navigate life using it where appropriate, no matter how much we don’t want to grow up.
This is when we need to act like an adult.
If you’re lucky enough to have a job you love, cherish it. Which means work hard. Show your potential. Make connections. Be respectful to the thing that takes up 8 (or more) hours of your day. You’re making a name for yourself right now, so what do you want it to be? Pour your heart and soul into what you do. If you’re in the right place, work will just be that much more fulfilling. If you’re not quite where you want to be, all of the above will help you get there.
Don’t be the jerk that is mean to their parents. You’re not thirteen anymore and no one thinks that’s cool. It just makes people uncomfortable. Know your place in the hierarchy. Be sweet and kind to your parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles, which sometimes means doing things you don’t particularly want to. Just remember, they actually DO have way more life experience and knowledge than you do. So listen to them, love them, and appreciate what they’ve done for you. This can also apply to your bosses, supervisors, and those who have earned a role higher than yours. Instead of loathing them for holding authority over you, show them some respect and they in turn may show you how to climb higher on the ladder.
With decisions about your health.
Now is the time to start investing in yourself – in your physical health and your mental health. Find something physical you love to do and attack it. Go full force. That way, exercise won’t seem like a chore because it’ll be something you enjoy (even if just slightly). Also, invest in some self-care. If you’ve been managing your anxiety solo for years and still can’t get a hold on it, go talk to someone. Sometimes it’s okay to admit we can’t do it alone. Now is the perfect time do to the work because you’re young and things can be tweaked a bit more easily. Don’t wait until your doctor gives you bad news on your blood pressure, or your depression has you on full house arrest to make those changes.
How you spend your money.
Spend it on what you want and love and makes you happy. But make sure there is always enough left over for what you need.
And then there are those moments where the business suit comes off, the judgment goes out the door, and for a little while you remember what it was like to truly, TRULY not give a shit.
This is when we need to act like a kid.
When you’re dancing.
Or singing. Or both. Life is too short to care about what you look like when you’re lost in your favorite song, having your favorite drink, with your favorite people. You’re going to be eighty years old one day, wishing you could shake it like you did in your twenties. Take full advantage of a dance floor and good music. My favorite dancers are not the good ones — it’s the ones who are clearly giving zero f*cks. And the people who judge you? Well, you can’t see them when you’re doing hair whips anyway.
With your best friends.
These people get you. Like, really GET you. So there is absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about with them. Be gross, loud, obnoxious, cry like a baby, be giddy, gush, rant, rave, or all of the above with them. True friends will not judge you or make you feel insecure. They will most likely be doing the same right along with you. These are the people you can drop the act with. You don’t have to try hard with them. You don’t have to try at all. So be the weirdest version of yourself when you are with them. You can go back to acting cool when there are other people around.
When you start taking things too seriously.
I hate when this happens. Life feels like it gets dark and serious and like everything is falling apart. But it’s not. It just FEELS that way. So go do something that makes you laugh or feel silly. Shatter the dark mood with some cheesy music or by playing with your dog. Remember that we’re all just specks spinning around in space, and that life is so much more than boy problems or work problems or being thinner or being validated by others. You can CHOOSE to be light. Even if just for a second. Don’t let the dark side win, Skywalker.
When you are by yourself.
If you don’t take FULL advantage of being a complete, honest-to-goodness, no-holds-bar version of yourself when you’re alone, then you are missing out, my friend. What you do with this time is yours to decide. But my girls who sit makeup-less eating ice cream while watching Reality Bites in a Hello Kitty t-shirt know what I’m talking about. Or the boys who walk around in their Christmas boxers in July and play Backstreet Boys while making a peanut butter and potato chip sandwich know. It’s who you are when you KNOW there will be zero judgment, zero criticism, zero expectations. These moments are limited. Soon, husbands and wives and children and in-laws will take away this precious Me Time and constrict it to maybe an hour a week, if you’re lucky. So if you have full-blown access to it now, use it to its best and most ridiculous potential.
Then there are special occasions in our lives when one should be able to fluctuate from kid to adult to the weird, middle ground. For me, one of the biggest opportunities to practice our merging of both kid and adult is in relationships.
This is when you can be both.
We almost have to be both kids and adults to keep the train rolling in the right direction.
Be an adult when: you actually like someone. Or you actually don’t. In other words, be straightforward. By the time you’ve hit your mid-twenties, you know The Game very well. Every move, every Like on Facebook, every text and its timing is calculated to make some person want you more. Or less. Or just notice you’re there. And what’s lost is the fine art of honesty. Here’s an example of straightforward-ness. This may be somewhat mind-blowing to a few people out there:
“Hey, I like you. Let’s hang out.”
“Hey, I like you too. When should we do that?”
“How about Tuesday?”
“Sure! I’d love to.”
“Hey, I like you. Let’s hang out.”
“I’m sorry. I’m not really feeling it.”
Of course the conversations won’t be this weirdly blunt, but what I’m trying to show is that Person A and Person B are clearly expressing that they are into each other. And thus one makes a move. And then the other agrees to hang out. And wham-bam, you got yourself a date and maybe the beginning of a relationship. Or Person B isn’t into Person A and that is clearly expressed and both people can move on with their lives. Nowadays, it’s morphed into exchanges of vague texts where no one really says how they feel because neither party wants to sound “too eager.” So movement is halted, usually resulting in one or both people becoming frustrated or apathetic.
Be honest about your feelings with each other, or at the very least, don’t lead people on. The world would be so much simpler and less frustrating. God knows we could all do with less of those drawn out, useless interactions with people who just aren’t really for us.
And for those already in relationships, be an adult when it comes to communication. Even if you know what you need to say will hurt someone, say it. Just word it well and don’t be a jerk about it. Keeping it all locked in will only result in a horrible subsequent explosion of word vomit and emotions, where no one wins. Talk frequently and honestly. This is the glue that will hold a partnership together.
Be an adult about fidelity. In laymen’s terms: Don’t cheat. If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re interested in other people, be brave enough to say so. Either way, the relationship is headed towards an end. So, you can choose to make it an honest, but still painful one, or one filled with deceit and a lot more work and suffering involved. Be real about who you are and what you expect in a relationship. Whether it be an open one, or a strict one-person show, make sure this is clear. If you know monogamy is not your thing, don’t make your partner believe it is. The concept of fidelity and what it means for each person in the relationship should never be blurred.
We’ll end on a lighter note: When to be a kid in a relationship.
Remember me talking about how you act with your best friends? Well, it’s the same concept only you get to be annoyingly affectionate with each other too. Love strongly and don’t be afraid to express it to each other. No one can judge what works or what doesn’t for the two of you, so don’t let outside expectations or judgments dictate how you behave in your relationship. A close friend of mine once called her relationship “her story” and I immediately fell in love with that term. It’s yours to tell and write and create. There’s no pre-written outline you have to go by. Or nothing that can say that whatever your relationship looks like is right or wrong. You create it as you go, and it’s personal and unique to the both of you.
Live together before marriage. Or don’t. Pee while they brush their teeth. Or don’t. Be attracted to them as a sweaty mess. Or don’t be. Who cares what it looks like or what roles you take as long as you’re happy? Love cannot be expected to take any certain form, so your relationship is as unique as they come. It’s the only time these two particular people will live out this particular adventure together. So be silly. Be passionate. Play a lot. Laugh even more. Respect each other, be sweet, and be compassionate. And always keep your hearts open.
Never let go of the kid in you. They are there to remind you that life isn’t as serious as you think. That sometimes you need to get out of your own head and go laugh or explore or cry or watch cartoons or eat an entire sleeve of Oreos. These moments are shining examples of you at your most real. It means you aren’t the boring grown up. But you’re also not the sad kid at recess with no control. You are you, which is a happy little weird in-between. And that is perfectly okay.