Sun streamed through the window, tempting me to forget about Illinois’ chill. Even so, I wrapped a scarf around my neck and pulled my coat on as we prepared to leave the restaurant. She did the same, as her daughters danced around her feet.
I joked about my upcoming birthday and said it would be my Jesus year. We laughed and then I acknowledged while some people take that concept seriously, I did not- but it sure was fun to say. She was putting her daughters’ coats on by this time and I had my purse in hand. We figured out we were the same age.
We began moving toward the door and I can’t remember what else we talked about because my mind was swirling with revelation. This new friend of mine was the same age as me. I’d thought she was older, though not by much. Why was that?
She was married with children, owned a house, and worked full-time in a respectable profession. All very grown-up things.
And then there was me. Single, childless, renting, and unconventionally employed. Age and Master’s Degree aside, I lack the markers of adulthood.
Until that moment, however, I didn’t realize I associated certain states with that of a grown-up.
Sometime in my 20s I accepted the fact that I’d never feel like my age. I am blessed (cursed?) with a youthful appearance so I’ll never look my age either. When you’re growing up, adults seem to have it all together. I never feel how I imagined I’d feel by the time I reached 25, 30 and so on. I now know the adults I idealized in my childhood likely felt the same way. An ideal rarely holds up.
I long assumed I’d go to college, get a job, get married, and then have children. That’s what adulthood looked like to me, though there were a few outliers. As the years have passed and marriage and children haven’t followed, it made sense I wouldn’t feel my age because those things were so intrinsically linked.
This is not to say I am stuck in some stunted juvenile state. I work, I’m responsible, I’m engaged in my community, and I’m an innate caregiver. In many ways, I am very much a grown-up and I’ve been struck by that fact many a time this past decade.
But here was my same-aged friend living out what I equated to be the grown-up life. It was eye-opening to realize she felt the same way as me- not quite how she imagined she’d feel at 32.
It’s funny to say brunch with a friend made me realize I’m a grown-up, too. Now. As I am. I don’t believe singleness makes me less of a person but every once in awhile I’ll find an unformed thought lurking in the corner and have to undo the poor theology that put it there.
Next week I’ll turn 33. I’ve loved my 30s and the way I’ve embraced who I am. I love my life. No apologies. But there’s still that disconnect between where I am and where I thought I’d be. It’s heightened every time I go back to my hometown and see friends living the life I thought I’d have. I feel a step out of sync.
I feel less of a grown-up in those moments. I question God in those moments.
A few hours after brunch, I sat with a friend from college and we traipsed down memory lane. Where had time gone? What had become of the girls who stayed up until the wee hours and never let an adventure pass them by? We’re still those same girls and yet altogether different.
“I’m like a mother,” she said in amazement. I laughed and corrected, “you are a mother.”
I suppose we have all ideas about who we thought we’d be, no matter what life has brought our way. Our identity is ever evolving, for better or worse.
This year will definitely be my “for better.”