Being an adult

Growing up, I hated running errands.  My mom would always ask me if I wanted to go to the grocery store or the library or some other mildly interesting place, and then once she got me to acquiesce, we’d make 6.5 other stops along the way to places like the post office (eeek! The line!) or the travel agents (boring wait in uncomfortable chairs!).  I would always be grumpy because I got a) hungry and b) tired.  My mom, however, had the energy of a marathon runner and would effortlessly travel between stops, always humming a happy tune, and ready to accomplish one more task on her list.

Since she was my main errands-running role model, I had always assumed that once I became an adult, I too would happily listen to NPR or a book on tape and dash around town returning books and helping the economy while checking off my to-do list.  This, actually, is one of the many things on my list of “things that will change once I’m an adult” (like not waiting three weeks to do the laundry, or keeping my room organized) However, the unfortunate realization I have had about my list is that I actually have reached adulthood and these things haven’t “magically” happened (even if I responded by accident a few weeks ago that I was 17 when someone asked my age…).

I always heard that you never actually feel like an adult, and when you are a kid, you don’t believe it because the adults around you seem so “adulty”.  Yet, as I keep getting older (which tends to happen), this concept makes much more sense.  Take, for example, this famous line from the 1993 cult-classic movie, Dazed and Confused.  Matthew McConaughey’s creeper character of Wooderson states: “…I get older, they stay the same age”.  Granted, he was referencing picking up girls and other inappropriateness, but idea behind the aging is one I would like to highlight.

I have taught college students since a year after I graduated from college myself until now (roughly the last 7 years).  In that time, I’ve gotten older, but my students have stayed the same age (18-22ish).  I don’t feel that I’ve aged that much in that time, but it’s the change in the way the students perceive me and my age that is remarkable (and makes me feel old).  When I first started teaching, I was “in” on the latest student trends (because I had just been a student): AIM was still big, Facebook was just beginning to become more popular, and hardly anyone had a gmail account.  And now, things have changed.  I still feel knowledgeable of the trends, but it’s not because I’m an active participant, it’s more of an academic interest.  Also, cultural markers have changed (as to be expected).  This includes my love of Save by the Bell (which some of my students have never heard of!) or me quoting Dazed and Confused (as seen above).  I mentioned Wyclef to my class the other day, and no one knew who I was talking about.  I added “the Fugees? Lauryn Hill?” and they stared at me blankly.*

It’s funny to me because, as I said, I don’t feel like an adult, but to my students, for whom the generational gap is so wide, they see me as very “adulty”  (I just got married, after all, that’s a super adult thing to do!).  Someday, they too will experience this feeling and I hope they look back and say “You know, I thought Claire was so old! But really, she wasn’t.  In fact, she was quite young and hip and completely awesome as a teacher, I owe much of my knowledge to her” (ok…so, maybe I’m asking for a bit much).

I’m not trying to complain about getting or feeling old, I’ve always been one to enjoy whatever age I am.  It’s more that I just thought I’d like running errands by now (and also “feel” like an adult).  I guess that “old” and “adult” are perhaps not mutually exclusive, but rather in the Venn diagram of life, that shared middle section isn’t a requirement.  I do feel old sometimes (especially when my knees or some other body part seems to fail me after sport), and at times, I do feel like an adult (like when I put money away for retirement), it’s just not always.

Perhaps I will never be as awesome of an errands runner as my mom, or maybe it takes having kids before the true errands gene kicks in.  Either way, I still dislike going to the post office.  Some things never change.


*I am still hoping for a Fugees reunion, so if anyone knows of a petition that I could sign for that, let me know.  Seeing them in Michel Gondry and Dave Chapelle’s 2005 Block Party, was not enough.


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