When I was 18, I had the opportunity to work overseas in a private boarding school in England. My job was to be one of three people responsible for a house filled with 25 children under 12. After getting over the initial shock of the added responsibilities, I wondered if this was what being a grown up was all about.
While in University, I learned how to juggle finances, putting off one bill to pay another, or to buy food. I also had the freedom to decide whether or not I would go to class, after all, it was my money. I wondered, am I grown up now?
When I met the person I would soon marry and we moved in together, merging our belongings and adjusting to each other’s quirks, it was hard work. As a kid, I knew that hard work was what grown ups did so I figured I had finally arrived in the grown up world.
In our thirties, we brought a kid into the world. Life got real because it’s a whole lot harder to duck out on the responsibilities a baby comes with. I rechristened myself truly a grown-up; I figured child-rearing earned me an automatic level-up.
Ten years later and I still flip-flop between thinking I am grown-up and thinking I am not there yet. What I have come to realize is that there is a big difference between being an adult and being a grown-up. By the tender age of 18 I was, by law, an adult but I struggle with some of the things that grown-ups are supposed to do now that I am in my forties.
Being an adult means the world thinks you are capable of handling things. As an adult, you can drive a car, you can vote, you can eat ice cream for dinner without asking for permission — though knowing you can do it isn’t the same as doing it. As an adult, you are also expected to do things. Sometimes tough things like discussing bullying with your child’s principal, or making the decision to have the family pet euthanized after the vet diagnosed inoperable cancer.
There are plenty of times when I don’t want to do any of these things but I suck it up and do them. Like The Pursuit of Happiness sang, “I can sleep in til noon any day I want, but there’s not many days that I do.”
As an adult you get to make decisions; as a grown-up you understand the consequences of those decisions.