Friday, April 15, 2011

Does This Mean I'm an Adult Now?

Two weeks ago, on April Fool's Day, I woke up hearing the theme song from Jaws in my head, and for a moment I couldn't figure out why. I've included the audio to it below, just to help you understand how ominous the morning suddenly seemed to me.

I thought, "Self, you don't normally wake up hearing the Jaws theme song in your head, unless you just had that nightmare again about how the Kardashian sisters suddenly decided they wanted to be your best friend and you decided the only natural response was to dive into an ocean full of sharks because that would be less scary. Why oh why do you feel like something bad is about to happen?"

And then I realized that nothing was about to happen. It had already happened before I even woke up.


Not yet! I'm not ready! I can't go through with it! Why is this happening to me?

It was my thirtieth birthday. This was my reaction:

Okay. So maybe turning thirty isn't as scary as being ambushed by Norman Bates wielding a knife while I'm in the shower. But the terror was real. I am now three decades old.

Those of you who turned thirty years ago are probably rolling your eyes and shaking your heads. You're probably thinking, "Thirty isn't old. Just wait until you're watching a commercial for arthritis medication and you point at one of the actors and say, 'I went to high school with that guy!'"

I know thirty isn't that old. But I did look in the mirror on my birthday, and to my dismay I saw lines in my face that I'd never noticed before. Maybe that was Mother Nature's "gift" to me, as if she was saying, "Happy Birthday to you, CHUMP! You didn't think you'd look young forever, did you? Hahahahaha!"

But the truth is, I started teaching college students when I was in my early twenties, and that was enough to make me prematurely age by at least ten years. The first time I got to sit on the other side of the desk was when I first started feeling like an adult, because it was if I had stepped into this different phase in my life that my students hadn't yet experienced.

I didn't mention my birthday before because I was kind of reluctant to admit that I wasn't twenty-nine anymore. I liked being twenty-nine. I thought that maybe I could just pretend to be twenty-nine for a few more years. But I do actually feel older. For example, maybe if I was fifteen years younger, I'd think guys like Taylor Lautner and Justin Bieber were cute. But all I can think when I look at them is, "They look so young." I also think, "It'd be nice if I could watch either of them without wondering if they ever feel like throwing up after spouting sickeningly sweet lines that make teenage girls swoon and make adult women like me think that real guys never talk like that unless they're chatting up the girl who looks like a supermodel and also happens to be ten years younger than me."

I have to admit that I thought I'd be in a different place by the time I was thirty. When I was twenty, I thought that I'd be married by the time I was thirty. I thought I'd be done with my Ph.D. I thought I'd have a full-time salary, a house, and a car. I thought I'd be living in some college town teaching literature and writing to students who were enthusiastic about learning or at least could get through a full hour of class without discreetly watching videos on their cell phones.

Instead, I'm thirty years old and I'm still single. I've been on a series of awkward/bad/boring/makes me want to ditch him but I don't want to be rude except he doesn't seem to mind being rude seeing as how he's spent the past hour talking about himself without asking me any questions and didn't even offer to pay for my drink but WHATEVER dates that I've become just a tad cynical.

I'm not done with graduate school, mainly because getting a master's degree and a Ph.D. took a lot longer than I thought. It's also a lot more mind-numbing, soul-sucking, makes you want to cry yourself to sleep but you can't sleep now you have seven more chapters of critical theory to read and fifty more papers to grade so suck it up SLACKER than I thought, but that's another story.

I don't have a full-time salary, because I can't work full-time while I'm in graduate school, which is a full-time job in itself. So instead I (barely) get by with part-time jobs that pay me just enough money to buy ramen noodles for dinner.

I don't have a house or live in a college town. I rent an apartment and live in Chicago, a city I love but that also annoys the hell out of me sometimes, or maybe I've just been living here for too long. I don't have a car; I take the bus and the train, where it is not unusual to sit next to someone who will start yelling at you or hitting on you if you look at him or her for a split second (or even if you don't look).

I am teaching literature and writing, and several of my students inspire me because of their enthusiasm for what I'm teaching them. Sometimes they even teach me something new because of how they respond to the material and how they view the world, which is partly why I keep teaching. Several other students, however, send approximately 10,000 text messages a day and update their Facebook pages every five minutes while claiming that they don't have enough time to complete the homework I assign them. But I digress.

I already made my Things to Do Before I Turn 40 list a few months ago. I didn't make a list like that for my thirtieth birthday, though, because when I was twenty I just kept thinking about how in a year I'd finally be old enough to drink alcohol. (But now I still just order soda when I go to bars, because I stopped pretending to like alcohol years ago. Hey! I'm the nerdy but doesn't-succumb-to-peer-pressure-so-that-makes-me-cool kid in one of those Just Say No videos! Go me!)

It's kind of sad to realize that I'll never be in my twenties ever again. There are things that I feel too old to do now. For example, I can't date a twenty year old, because then I would just keep thinking about how he isn't old enough to buy me alcohol, even though I don't even drink alcohol, but still, it'd nice to have that option. I can't be a member of 20 Something Bloggers anymore (that's why I removed the 20sb badge from my blog), which is too bad because it's a really cool online community where I got to participate in interesting discussions and met some really awesome bloggers.

I can't party all night at clubs with other young people without people looking down their noses at me and saying, "Aren't you a little old to be doing that? You have to work in the morning." But then again, even though I did go clubbing when I was in my twenties, I didn't really like it too much because I just kept thinking about how much I would rather be in a quiet coffeehouse or a bookstore than on a crowded dance floor.

One thing I started doing in the last year of my twenties that I still intend to do in my thirties was blogging. I actually started this blog a little over a year ago (so I guess this is my belated one-year blogiversary, whooo! This is my 119th post!) as a twenty-ninth birthday gift to myself. Before I started blogging, I'd never shown my writing to anyone outside of the fiction writing classes I'd taken. But now that I've started blogging, I've stepped into this fascinating world of bloggers that I had never been in before. It also gave me the courage to finally start entering short story contests and submitting stories to literary magazines, which I've always wanted to do but have never done before. Even if it's years before I get published, the fact that I'm finally sharing my writing with people is something.

I suppose it is kind of cool to be in my thirties now. Somehow it sounds more grownup than being in my twenties, though I still have a lot of growing up to do. I guess I should stop thinking that Froot Loops is part of a balanced diet, and I should stop listening to Britney Spears, but...nah. Maybe when I'm forty.

Oh God. In ten years I'm going to be forty.

I think I can hear the Jaws theme song in my head again.

When was the first time that you felt like an adult?

(Side note: is offering a "freebies" weekend where you can take their personality test and have matches picked for you for free; it lasts until April 18. Just thought I'd send that out in case anyone is interested in checking out the site; out of all the dating sites I've tried, chemistry is actually the one that I like the best.)


  1. Oh my, oh my. My CHILD is nearly 30.

    The first time I felt really grown-up? Er ... I'll let you know when it happens.

  2. Haha. I enjoyed this post a lot -- clicked over to your blog when I read your post on Rachelle's blog -- you sound like a (little) soul sister. I did the grad school and teaching track (albeit in linguistics), online dating, a bit of blogging. And turning 30 totally sucked for me too. But now 40 is less than a year away! Eek. Anyway, Happy Belated Birthday!

  3. I had my mid-life crisis when I turned 26. I sat in my college apartment (because I still hadn't graduated) and sobbed on the phone to my mom. Now I am almost 40 and for some reason I keep forgetting my age. "Am I already 40 or almost 40?"

  4. I had a panicky Damn-I'm-old moment when I turned 25. I just thought, man, Keats was dead by the time he turned 25 and look at me. Loser. I pouted all through my Romanticism seminar (my favorite class on my birthday, I should have been more cheerful).

    Be grateful that you were born in the 80s. It was a power decade that no one can top.

    Also, quit watching so much Dead Poets Society. Nobody lives like that.

  5. I hear ya. I'll be 27 this year, and I'm not quite sure what to do with that. Like you, however, I also finally sat up and decided that I was going to be a writer. It took me years to come to that conclusion, but oh well. As far as feeling like an adult, that feeling slapped my in the face when my twins got here. Nothing like having a baby (or two) to let you know that you aren't one Anywho, enjoying your blog. Stumbled on it the other day and have no idea how I got up the good work though...write on!

  6. Hi Fran,
    I feel more grownup than I did when I was twenty, but on the other hand I don't know if I'll ever completely feel like a full-fledged adult, whatever that means. I think that adulthood is an ongoing process.

    Hi Nicole,
    I'm hoping that by the time I turn 40 I won't keep thinking of scenes from the movies Jaws or Psycho like I did when I turned 30. Maybe I could buy one of those sports cars like some men do when they turn 40, but the problem is that I don't like to drive. Could I get a motorcycle instead? :)

    Hi Plain Jane,
    Being in your mid-twenties can definitely be stressful; I think it's partly because there are so many TV shows and movies where people who are in their mid-twenties or younger seem to have everything figured out already. At the very least their lives seem so glamorous.

    Hi Anna,
    I don't actually remember much about the 80s, partly because I was only about eight when that decade ended. I mainly just remember the big hair (I myself had a really bad perm when I was a kid), the brightly colored clothes, and the music.

    Hi Paige K.,
    Thanks for visiting my blog! I think that motherhood can definitely make you feel like an adult, not that I would know since I don't have children. But the mothers I see with their children always seem so mature and confident; maybe it's because they've accepted responsibility for those kids that they helped create and the fact that their kids rely on them to help them navigate the world.

  7. Happy Birthday to an eternally young Aries! :)

  8. HAPPY BIRTHDAY! YAY! *throws confetti*

    Every day when I go to work, I look at my co-workers and am amazed that I have the same amount of responsibility as all these adults. Because I'm totally not an adult yet and what were they thinking hiring me?

  9. Hi notesfromnadir,
    Thanks! I wonder if the fact that I'm an Aries is one of the reasons I'm so neurotic; I've heard that Aries have fiery personalities. :)

    Hi mmarinaa,
    Thanks! I think that working is part of makes you an adult, because of the fact that you've accepted responsibility for what you do and that you're completing the work on your own and/or with your coworkers.

  10. I am over 30. And I can tell you that from where I stand, I still remember the trauma of turning 30. Being in my 20s seemed young. Being in my 30s did not.

    In fact, I had a trauma at 25. A magazine actually had an article the same year about successful people at 25. I was still figuring out whether or not to attend graduate school. I worked at an insurance company. Yeah, I wasn't featured in the article.

    But on the upside, I found my confidence in that decade. I felt older.

    Hope you have a wonderful decade. Happy belated birthday. Sorry I'm late to the party, but you're celebrating all weekend, right?

  11. Hi Theresa,
    Those articles about successful people in their twenties make me feel self-conscious too; they always feature people who made millions of dollars at the same time I was making minimum wage. Thanks for the birthday wishes! I did celebrate on my birthday; I went out with a good friend that I hadn't seen in a while. The rest of the weekend though, I spent working (of course).

  12. Don't get too down just remember this quote....
    Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. ~Chili Davis

    :) Happy Birthday i hope you had a brilliant day!

  13. I still don't feel like an adult! When I was 30, I moved to London with NOTHING. Woooo! So far, my 30s have been fantastic.

  14. Hi Alice X,
    I like that quote, especially because I think that I'm only about half grown up. :)

    Hi Talli,
    It sounds like you did really well for yourself, not to mention since you succeeded in London and wrote and published some really great books. I wish I could move to London too. I like British accents and I wish I had one. :)

  15. Regardless of the number, age is a state of mind. I know people older and younger than I am, and in some cases the younger person is mentally and emotionally than I will ever be... I'm sure you've heard this before and likely to hear it again and again, but it is true. As a woman older than 30 - I recommend that you age gracefully, which doesn't mean you stop taking care of yourself. As your body changes, take care of, exercise harder, learn how to put on your makeup, and dress sexy, but not foolishly.. The key to youth to to continue learning, to challenge yourself ALL THE TIME. And of course, never stop giving your heart freely.

    Happy Bday (be it a bit late)


  16. Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for the advice! I think it is good to challenge yourself, because it means you'll set goals that you'll feel motivated to achieve. I do have several goals, which I think is partly why I'm a workaholic. :)