baby grown-up

(Contemplating the meaning of life and feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all since 1991.)

This piece originally appeared on Bed Crumbs.

I am beginning to become acutely aware of how frequently the words “adult” and “grown-up” litter conversations between my friends and I. Sometimes it’s authoritative or dismissive — we’re adults; why would we do that? — but most of the time it’s said as some sense of accomplishment — I did an adult thing — or a point of confusion, a secret we’re not all in on yet — you always think of the grown-up things.

We’re all in our mid-20s (when did that happen?) and I only recently realized how often we describe ourselves as “baby grown-ups.” We say it in good fun, but the more I think about it, the more painfully fitting and true it is. We’ve almost gotten our bearings, but kids think we’re grown adults and grown adults think we’re still just kids. It’s incredibly exhausting trying to convince them otherwise.

A year ago, I pitched someone with a 15 page presentation on social media. The other day I went to a workshop at Instagram and listened to their head of music partnerships present all of my ideas back to me as their most-recommended and top performing strategies. A year ago, when they were my informed ideas, they were met with a condescending pat on the head in a two sentence email riddled with typos because I was only 24 and the people I sent it to had decades on me, so who really knew better? Now, a year later, I watched other media professionals nod and take notes. I am, theoretically, more mature and old enough to not care so much, but I felt such frustration and inexplicable anger that I wanted to scream.

I am old enough to know better than to get upset about something so inconsequential. I’m too young to let it go. Baby grown-up.

I’ve spent months working on a new project, and I can’t help but feel terrified that the same thing will happen again. So many people — so many real adults — are in my corner. They know I’m good. I know I’m good. But I still find myself holding my breath, almost waiting for someone to call me out — she’s just a kid — to bring it all crashing down. 

“The doing is the thing,” Amy Poehler once wrote. “The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”

I think I’ve spent the better part of the past nine months on the worrying and the thinking, letting it get in the way of the doing. Baby grown-up.

My Facebook feed is crawling with people I went to high school with getting married and buying houses in the same town we grew up in and having babies. Even though I know — I know — that isn’t at all what I want for myself right now, I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing everything wrong. I don’t know my credit score (but I can pay my own taxes!) and I live in a two bedroom apartment with a roommate while they’ve got mortgages on real houses with front porches and backyards. They’re cooking real meals in Crock-Pots and taking care of tiny humans and I’m working until 8 on a Friday, fending off “Where are you?” texts from friends who I had promised to meet for drinks, running on a protein bar for lunch and a green juice for dinner. Baby grown-up.

Are they the real adults? Am I? There’s a part of me that feels like we can’t both belong to the same category. After all those years of adults telling me how old I was for my age, now when that opinion matters the most, I hardly hear it. How long will it take me to feel like I’m a real, whole person? How long will it take for everyone else to think of me like one?

I don’t know. I’m just a baby grown-up.


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