A lifetime ago, in my twenties, a friend and I decided that you weren’t really a grown-up until you owned a dining room set. Until you could comfortably seat six, it was okay to stay out until 4 a.m. and drink your weight in beer and smoke enough cigarettes to have a permanent halo of blue Marlboro smoke following you around like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown. The bar was gradually raised: having a mortgage, having kids, forgoing a pair of sumptuous shoes in order to max out your 401K plan. Responsibility with a capital “R”. And up and up it goes, like a run-a-way balloon, until you find yourself sitting with your spouse one night, over a glass of Pinot Noir, uttering words like:
“Honey, we need to talk…..about life insurance”.
Obviously there were a lot of years in between–boozy trots around the globe, the birth of children, a couple of international moves. A parent got ill. A parent died. We had our own version of Annus Horribilis. Good things happened too, things like work promotions, earning a bit more income, being able to afford decent wine and cheese (another self-imposed pre-requisite of being a grown up). But then suddenly one day you find yourself sitting there and talking about the future and life insurance and college costs and retirement funds. And. Whoa, when did that happen??
The thing is, despite all of this, most of the time I feel like I am just playing dress-up at being a grown up. Whether this is by-product of growing up in Gen X, or not having a (paying) job, or just plain old run of the mill denial, I feel like a fraud. Why is it some people seem born wearing pearls and sensible shoes and others struggle through, always playing catch up? And for that matter, what does being an adult even mean? Is it having a dining room set and whole term life insurance? Or is it having kids or the equivalent responsibility? Making sure that someone else’s future is taken care of (as well as one can) surely meets the requirements of being an adult. I do this. Mostly.
So why do I still feel like a fake?
post script: I do have a dining table. But the chairs don’t match.