I thought that accepting adulthood would be this giant fireworks show. A brilliant, loud conclusion that girlhood is a thing of the past. It’s nothing like that. It feels like…well, an R-rated coming of age film.
The first time I actually felt it was at a party in New York City on Halloween night. It was loud; the liquor was watered down, and I had dressed as an 80s skater boy amid the other model-like partygoers. My friend and I paid a cash-only entry fee to have exactly one square foot of space to stand in. I felt alienated, and not just in the I’m definitely socially awkward way. In the there’s no way I’m old enough to actually be here type of way.
Now, weed, alcohol, and casual sex are nothing new. Hell, I had this giant blueberry vape in my hand (kicked the habit, thank god) and was lightheaded from a friend’s blunt. Yet, none of these things made me feel less kid-ish. Even if I donned the sexy bunny costume the girl across from me wore, I wouldn’t have felt less young. She looked great, by the way. Maybe the issue was that none of these things were taboo anymore. Sex in the bathroom does not have the same giggly, scandalous response like a middle schoolers’ seven minutes in heaven does.
It’s normal. Expected. Substance for the latest finsta story. Quick, easy, and without any names involved. Just skip the foreplay and just ram it in! As a side note: while I don’t enjoy casual sex, I am very sex-positive. Also, foreplay is so incredibly important and it never ceases to disappoint me when it’s left out of the already tiresome Hollywood sex scenes. I digress.
This party, these people – they felt like what you imagine being an adult is. The spectacle of living in a big city, the insta-worthy .5x photos, the “my friend actually knows Bella Hadid’s cousin, and we went out for sushi together” type shit. Big girl fun.
Downstairs, a red-hued rave took place, and I sat on an uncomfortable brown leather couch while my friends went to dance. I thought about these things. I concluded that, yes; I am in fact a wallflower AND I was wrong about my hypothesis. Adulthood did not feel like a fireworks show, rather, a firework exploding your way. You run from it as fast as possible and hope for the best.
Look, there are plenty of moments where I’ve felt out of place, but yikes. You know that scene in Clueless where Tai (Brittany Murphy, RIP queen) stands at the back of a club while the rest of the partygoers dance? Yeah, kinda like that.
In fact, I wish I would’ve joined in. An exclusive party in one of the biggest cities? I used to dream about this. I felt glued to those couch cushions because the profound feeling of entering adulthood was seemingly just steps away. It was as if there was an invisible line between me and those red lights, and crossing it would mean bidding adieu to something I’ve tried so desperately to cling onto for years.
If you think I’m being dramatic, congrats! I am. Back to the story:
I’m not sure as to why I never got up. Maybe I felt incapable of being an actual adult. Or perhaps it was the feeling that I’d been robbed of a couple years of my youth because of COVID. 23 is baby years in terms of adulthood, but I think in that basement, I still felt like a teenager. And a rave, of all things? How in the hell is that symbolic of leaving behind girlhood? Your guess is as good as mine. I think I have a nasty habit of associating feelings with peculiar and honestly, totally trivial things.
The point is: I did not embrace adulthood in that noisy, busy place. Recognized it, sure. Then subsequently high-tailed out of there, relieved to no longer feel like a sore thumb. Again, this isn’t meant to say that I’m different from anybody else, or that anyone else at the marvelous party was any lesser-than or more air-headed than me. Just that, well, they seemed cooler. Older. Like they had the same glamorous ambiance as a cheeky cigarette. The kind of coolness that is pin-worthy. Gone Girl monologue worthy.
But anyhow – I didn’t cross the invisible line, at least, not there. I crossed it (metaphorically of course, because we’re meta like Nolan) in my childhood bedroom. All tucked under a blanket on a rainy night. My cat sat on the edge of my bed, and the light from my laptop screen was the only thing illuminating my tired face. I had a faint realization that, at 15, I started writing in that same exact spot. I’d spent my childhood writing short stories in chicken scratch, but I’d never journaled or blogged until then.
Eight years of sharing my inner thoughts – and they passed by so quickly. I remember never using italics, always talking about boys, and including a bullet-point list at the conclusion of every article and entry. I’ve gotten better at a couple of these things.
So often, I write about recognizing my growth. I break it down in analytical terms, because quantitative matter is always easier to create objective deductions from. I’ve wrote x amount of words, learned x new things, held x amount of jobs. They’re all numbers that give me a sense of comfort and reassurance that I haven’t remained static.
These things don’t tell me I’ve grown up, though. The qualitative things do. I made a mental list of things I’ve since learned since then, and finally felt okay with accepting adulthood. It’s more than big parties, bills, breakups, and bragging rights. Bigger than a carefully calculated social media post, and the little hearts that tell us how popular we are.
It is: accepting that things are hard, messy, and often fucked up, and continuing along anyway.
Acknowledging that yes, relationships are scary, beautiful and equally loving as they are full of hate.
Individuality means purposefully carving out a space for yourself and being your own heroine, ’cause you deserve it.
Emphasizing what YOU want, identifying and working on those god-forsaken flaws, but also learning to sort of love them.
It’s begrudging at first, and it almost feels like a second job. At least it gets easier; there are benefits to reap. For me, it’s the emotional regulation I’ve gotten a better-ish handle on. My ability to pin down some sort of idea around who I am and who I want to be. Most of all, demanding, not asking, for better.
The best way I can describe this feeling is of course to reference a film. The Edge of Seventeen examines the mentally ill Nadine, who has a strained relationship with her mother and brother following the death of her father. At one point, she even muses, “I had the worst thought. I’ve got to spend the rest of my life with myself.” In a classic melodramatic-teen lens, we see her struggle to navigate her own coming-of-age.
Spoiler alert: her fairy tale love interest turns out to be a major disappointment, and she realizes that the world isn’t out to get her, but that a majority of her turmoil comes from within and is totally manageable. There’s a happy ending, but the biggest point of the film is that yes, Nadine has to spend the rest of her life with herself – and that’s ok. It means embracing her outlandishness for what it is, and not resenting herself for it.
I’ve spent a lot of time disliking myself for struggling with mental illness, but that quiet moment in the corner reminded me that for 8 years, I’ve managed beautifully. Reflected in dog-eared book margins, archived blogs and spiral-bound notebooks are the times I’ve felt the most sick, and that’s ok. Anxiety is hard. Learning that despite this, I’m still worthy, talented and capable of so much is the silver lining. I’ve started embracing my ‘ugly’, and recognizing that it’s just as deserving of my love as all the good things. That acceptance is my embrace of adulthood.
Nadine’s failed attempts at mingling at a party felt like sitting on that NYC couch. If she finally felt comfortable opening up at the end of the film, I know I can expect the same for myself. Slowly, I can see and feel it happening, too – being more secure in myself, more outspoken, and a hell of a lot less judgy about myself. Well, that last one is a work in progress.
Tl,dr; Adulthood is this:
The Good Place, S4
Or, at least faking it til you make it.
Ground-breaking revelations aside, this month was mellow. While I wish I could say that July was a lot more eventful than June, it just wasn’t. Besides crying over Vol. 2 of Stranger Things, finishing my first month at BuzzFeed, and watching Studio Ghibli non-stop, all I did was grab lactose-free boba and journal. At least my mindset has shifted to a more positive note, and for that, I’m grateful.
My upcoming goals are relatively simple, and without further ado, here’s a beloved bulleted list:
• Begin a capsule closet! This’ll take some time to shop around for pieces I love, but I’ve already scaled down my wardrobe to things I genuinely like and aren’t just trends. I’m being more mindful of what I decide to consume, and what I believe I’ll appreciate long-term.
• Maybe counter-intuitive to the above, but budget! At least I can be aware of what I’m spending – I made a cute spreadsheet to track everything.
• Continue with screenwriting. I took a two month long break and I’m ready to start creating again.
• Look into MFA programs. whooooot! I miss taking classes so much.
• Plan some upcoming trips for business + pleasure
• Work on mindfulness and adopt some new practices for managing anxiety.
• Perfect my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I’m thinking it has something to do with the baking soda.