Mirror, Mirror

| 6 Comments

I was talking with someone recently and mentioned that I have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult-- that my self-image is more of a college student, despite being fifteen years out of college. I hadn't really thought about it any more deeply until then, but the reasons make sense to me. A lot of things in life have changed-- location, job, hairline-- but one thing that hasn't is that, as a single guy, I'm still only responsible for myself. My decisions are based on what's best for me, or what I want. Any mistakes I make affect only me. I see that as a key hallmark of one's college years.

I think the true passage into adulthood comes when you start making decisions based on how they affect others. For most people, that comes first with a committed relationship (which may or may not include marriage), then again with children. I have none of those things and therefore enjoy the luxury of living selfishly, in a non-pejorative sense.

It was suggested to me that I'm not unusual-- that few of us really think of ourselves as adults. I have no doubt that's true physically-- that many of us imagine ourselves to be as attractive, slim, athletic, and fit as we were in our primes-- I'm less convinced that the pool of Peter-Pan-complexed adults isn't kiddie-sized.

And so, in the interest of science, I turn to you. How do you view yourself-- as an adult, a college student, a teenager, a child? Do you feel older than your years, or younger? What reflection does your psychic mirror show you?

6 Comments

Your para two is spot on; my 18 months in a relationship with Meg have saw me knuckle down, get a job, change my spectacles, learn to drive (well, am learning) and I have an intended date to move out of my parents' home and into a place of my own.

All of these are things which I probably should have done 5-10 years ago, by most people's standards, but many people get a serious significant other 5-10 years before I did.

I don't think that 'being responsible for others' is necessarily the key to feeling like an adult. I've got a job with people who report to me, a wife, house, and 2.9 kids. And yet, while I'm 34, I feel much more like I'm in my mid-20s. This has definately come as a surprise to me, and in fairness I can feel it changing. My oldest son is now 3 and he is clearly starting to relate to me as a person, not just as Daddy, which is causing me to want to be a better role model. But, on the other hand, I think I am a good role model already, so I don't expect to change too much. Hell, I was proud that he could name the Justice League before counting to seven!

The other note that might shed some light on the sitaution is that I was recently describing my perceived lack of maturity to my Dad. When he was 34 I was 7, so I have some clear memories of him, and he was MUCH more mature at 34 than I am. When I asked him if he agreed he said 'Of course I was!' Before 34 he'd been to Veitnam, broke, jobless, spent 3 years working swing swifts, and overall had had a much more challenging life than I had. That forces you to 'grow up' faster. So now I view not growing up as a luxury.

My "oh my god I'm a grownup" moment came not as a result of getting married, or from having or raising my three kids (now 14, 9, and 7) but rather about 4 years ago as I was shopping for dining room and living room furniture. For the first time it wasn't about what was cheap (or better yet FREE) and convienent - but rather, which pieces and decorations, had the right style, the right color and the right look. I was not just finding something to sit on, but I was decorating my living spaces. It was quite a "ta-da" moment.

I am now firmly an adult, but feel younger than my 41 years :) (Power of positive thinking!)

My mental image used to be of a college student, but now I feel like someone who is recently out of college and starting out in "real life." Thinking back, the transition probable happened right about the time my wife got out of college herself and we got married, so that supports your theory.

I suspect that instead of feeling older when we have kids, all the baby talk and toys will make me feel like a little kid, but there's no way to know until it happens...

My mental self-image is that of a kid who has somehow wound up entrusted with the care of a younger kid.

I felt I started to mature in some ways in my early 30's, but when it comes to wanting to take on more responsibility, I'm barely starting to feel any more mature than a teen, and I'm 39.

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