What Does it Mean to be an Adult?

tiffani anderson illustration

I feel like every year as my birthday rolls around I have to reflect. Look back on the last year and think about what I have accomplished. What were my goals? Where was I trying to go? Have I reached what I set out to achieve?

It’s been an interesting year to say this least, with many ups and downs (mostly ups). And this year I find myself attempting to conceptualize what it means to be an adult. Seriously, what does it mean to be an adult? Society puts a lot of pressure on us to do, want, and be. Sometimes it feels like working hard is never enough, you have to ruthlessly crush everyone that’s around you in order to be perceived as successful. I feel like I live in a place where its perceived that being in the “here and now” is like wasting time. It’s as though if I’m not planning for the next move, the next task, the next triumph, I might as well lay the hell down because I’m going nowhere fast.

For most of my life I have been a dreamer. As a kid, I would lay on my bed for hours and imagine what life would be like for my mid twenties: who I would date, where I would go to college, what kind of job I would have, what my house would look like, what my perfect man would be like, whether I’d ever win a singing contest and earn a record deal… I used to wish that time would go faster so I could get my drivers license, graduate, date, or go out with friends without my mother giving me parameters. Time did move on but as time moved on I kept wishing. I couldn’t wait for college to be over so I could get to grad school. I couldn’t wait for grad school to be over so I could get a job. I couldn’t wait, I couldn’t wait.

Somewhere around 23 or 24 I realized what was happening around me. People were having kids, buying homes, paying on their loans, moving out of New York, traveling, and landing salaried employment. Many people I knew were evolving…others were remaining stagnant. Forgive my judgment but this was what I perceived. And that threw me for a serious loop. No matter how much planning you do, you never quite know where the hell you are going. That’s just reality. And I planned…cause all I did was dream… Suddenly I wanted to go backwards. I didn’t want to be 25. I wanted to go back to the days where I was watching Rugrats in my pajamas eating a large salad bowl sized helping of cereal with a serving spoon on my parent’s living room floor. I wanted to go back to playing games where I could pretend and there was no judgement from my peers. It was strange because the same things I was constantly dreaming of were real and I no longer wanted it. I was struggling and I began to disconnect, if you will, from what I knew. Friends I had for ever, I just kinda stopped talking to them. Many new relationships that came my way remained at an arm’s length. My boyfriend tried his hardest to provide advice but I couldn’t (or maybe didn’t want to) accept any of it. And it didn’t help that I landed and extremely stressful job where, no matter how I much I wanted to serve the people, I hated it. As one of my friends often says in our debates, I’m an idealist.. Which is unrealistic and causes me nothing but unnecessary stress.  

This was where all my wishing got me. That year came and went. So did 26. But within this year something changed. I made a promise to challenge myself to do all the things I never thought I would or could do if I was given the opportunity. I took a risk to quit my first full time job for a 4 month temporary job, then landed a salaried job with good benefits (thank you NY). I started my blog…for real this time… And was writing about what I wanted to. I started writing poetry and short stories again for fun and actually shared them with people beyond my boyfriend (still haven’t gotten on stage yet, but I plan to). I made personal goals, not just professional ones, to go on adventures (music festivals, nude beaches, etc). What it comes down to: I started making time for myself to be in the moment. To have fun, express myself, and grow. I didn’t throw responsibilities away, I just rearranged them. Moved my priorities around so I wasn’t doing all the time for everyone else. I was also doing for me. Learning for me. Experiencing for me.

So now back to the question at hand: What does it mean to be an adult? These past few weeks have been essential to this moment of understanding. Although I never imagined to be sitting where I am right now (for some reason as I child I never dreamed what life would be like beyond 25) I am here. I have a car, job and bills like everyone else but those are the stereotypical defining characteristics of being an adult. Adulthood is about acceptance. Of who I am. As an adult:

  • I recognize that I’m still growing and that fact is ok.
  • I have interests and beliefs that differ from other people.
  • My sight is weak and my bottom is wide.
  • I have responsibilities to fulfill, most of which do not lead to a paycheck.
  • I recognize that my actions can  truly influence other people.
  • I am slowly starting to act and talk like my mother.
  • I have the right to speak my mind and I intend to challenge myself to continue to do so without apologizing or censoring myself.
  • I may complete some goals from my life’s checklist while I may alter or completely remove others, and therefore I am successful.
  • I still like cartoons, video games and eating breakfast food, especially cereal, at any time of day.
  • I can give myself praise and internally motivate myself to continue to work hard, there is no need to wait for someone else to encourage me.
  • Life may be hard, but I have the ability to make it fun while striving to achieve greatness every day.

I have a friend who swears by the Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 and she listens to them every morning. She also shares the positive note of the day with us and on August 12th, the Wednesday before my birthday, the positive note of the day was: “if you only do it for the applause, then you put your happiness in the hands of the audience”. I totally agree with that quote!. I completely refuse to let others (relatives, peers, neighbors, co-workers, supervisors, and the like) dictate my happiness. To further make a point, I must quote a few of my favorite soca songs, “Right now I have no apologies…. For my behavior… No apologies… None whatsoever!” You know why?… “I like myself!!!

Yes, I still have wishes, hopes and dreams…. I wish for health and happiness to be a constant in my life. I hope that the friendships I have and I am building remain strong. I have dreams of getting old with my man of six years. I have dreams that I can live in a place that doesn’t teach hate, perpetuate a rape culture or have people or systems that disenfranchise or literally kill whole groups of people based on race, class, identified gender or orientation. But I digress… I did say I was an idealist. And that’s ok. I can still dream but I will no longer wish my life away.

I am a 27 year old, American born, Jamaican raised, cisgendered, straight woman, in a childless (unless you count my dog) committed relationship, who is spiritually exploring, creatively and professionally expanding, always improving and still dreaming. Oh yeah, and I’m an adult.

Talk to me. Hotep.



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