It feels cliche to begin any letter about adulting with the phrase “growing up.” I’m going to do it anyway, but here’s hoping that I can get a pass for calling myself out. At the very least, you’ll have to acknowledge my self–awareness.
Growing up, my two biggest fears were, in order: bedbugs, and my parents getting divorced. Now I’m 20, and I’ve experienced both. There was the nest I found on the underside of a pillow at a sketchy Days Inn, and the morning I woke up with a line of red bites on my leg and couldn’t rest until the whole house had been doused in flea and tick killer.
In retrospect, I should’ve had my priorities flipped; the bedbugs were small potatoes.
I’ve reiterated the circumstances of my mom and dad’s separation so many times that it’s become more of a bit, a fun story for BYOs whose specifics don’t bear repeating, especially in print. But the breakup itself was far from the hardest part of the metamorphosis my family’s undergone for more than two years now.
What was really hard was sitting in the car with my mom and crying together in the King of Prussia Mall parking lot last December. What was really hard was watching my sister dissociate at my dad’s second wedding—to someone I’m really fond of, by the way—and that was less than a week ago. The ceremony was beautiful though, and, not to brag, but multiple sources said my toast was the highlight of the evening.
A running joke of mine used to be that being a child of divorce wasn’t as difficult as everyone cracked it up to be. After all, things had objectively worked out well, and I was old enough to be out of the house by the time the proverbial shit hit the fan.
All of which would be true, if divorce was a one–time thing—a lightning bolt that decisively cleaved my life into a childhood before and an adult after. Some prefer the term “uncoupling,” and I think that’s because it represents separation more truthfully, as a continuous process for everyone involved. In that way, uncoupling is very much the same as growing up.
We called this issue “34th Street Tries Adulting,” but maybe a more accurate tagline would be “34th Street Tries (and Fails) Adulting,” since there’s little here in the way of decisive success. What we have instead is a glimpse into the life of the mysterious “young adult,” who watches Girls as a cautionary tale and Frances Ha to feel comforted, who’s scared of living under capitalism yet sends out cover letter after cover letter just to be prepared, who is beginning to realize that maybe adulthood is overrated just as they begin to barrel full steam ahead towards becoming their parents.
But is there ever truly a point where we stop “growing up”? It certainly doesn’t happen in the one year after graduating from college, which is why we’re just as qualified as anyone to offer advice to the graduating senior class. This month’s data story shows that, across the four years of college, everyone’s still worried about finding a job—and they don’t get any better at filing taxes. And the questions tackled by our print editor Arielle in her inaugural advice column are relevant pretty much universally.
So I’ve decided that I don’t love calling it “growing up” at all, because it implies that there’s some cap, where you’re not aging, not becoming more “adult” anymore. Maybe we’re just growing, growing, growing, and then gone.