“It’s coming on Christmas;
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer,
And singing songs

of joy and peace…
Oh, I wish I had a river

I could skate away on.

But it don’t snow here;
It stays pretty green.
I’m going to make a lot of money,
Then I’m going to quit

this crazy scene.
Oh, I wish I had a river

I could skate away on…”

— Joni Mitchell

Chicago River

I’m going to state the obvious here, if only because I seem to have been in deep denial of this basic truth for some time now. But here goes:

Adulting is hard, y’all.

This has been the recurring theme of my past few months, as I’ve pulled my head out of the sands of denial and engaged in a series of tasks I’d previously been avoiding, ranging from the minor stress of renegotiating my lease to finding the courage to renegotiate a series of dysfunctional and increasingly damaging relationships, both personal and professional.

Consensus? It has not been clean, and it has definitely not been cute. In fact, it’s been a painful reminder of exactly why I’ve often avoided setting very necessary boundaries, and assuming very necessary adult responsibilities, despite being well into adulthood:

Because “adulting” is HARD.

Yeah, I know: No sh*t, Sherlock. But before you attempt to reach through your screen and strangle me in the final moments of this unseasonably warm Christmas Day (well, it was Christmas when I began writing this, so let’s go with that), this is not going to be one of those self-congratulatory posts about how I’ve pulled up my big girl panties and handled everything, because I’m suddenly a W-O-M-A-N. I am not that person (now, or possibly ever), and this is not that post. (But for more on that, see here: http://jezebel.com/youre-not-adulting-youre-acting-your-fucking-age-1746878718)

No. This cannot possibly be that post, since as it turns out, I’m unfortunately not that adult (despite my decades in the paint). In fact, lately I’ve been questioning if I’m even qualified to be an adult. Surely, no legit adult spends as much time as I have in the past few months (years?) vacillating between teenage-level angst and abject terror, coupled with bouts of evasive and occasionally delusional behavior better befitting a 20-something, right?

Right?

Growing up, a moralistic refrain was imprinted on my psyche. Even now, I can hear my mother declare:

“There is nothing worse than a nasty woman…”

Of course, these days, postmodern, feminist/womanist me would no doubt challenge that trope, because anyone nasty is just, well, nasty. But it doesn’t stop it from running on repeat through my brain. And while I’ve never been a nasty woman (even if I were so inclined, my mother would never permit it), I must admit that at times—and certainly, as of late—I have felt profoundly…messy.

Now, when I say “messy,” I mean it in more of the figurative than the literal sense, but the two do occasionally overlap (crowded mind = crowded house, and vice versa). And even when they don’t—hell, maybe especially when they don’t, and I’m keeping up appearances quite well—the result is that I feel like, well, a fraud when it comes to this whole “adulting” thing.

There, I said it. And as humiliating as it might be to admit, I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone in this. I’ve had too many recent and covert conversations on the subject to cling to the conviction that I’m the only one sitting here in limbo, waiting for the dice to roll (shout-out to Jimmy Cliff)…while simultaneously being too paralyzed by fear to turn the tables on the whole game.

Which is why I’m discussing it here, instead of regaling you with tales my latest suitor or prospects.

Because what does this actually have to do with my dating life—or seeming lack thereof—in the last month or two? (For the record, it hasn’t actually been lacking; I’ve simply been far more focused on trying to figure out why I might be failing so miserably at adulthood—though whether or not I actually am is clearly still up for debate).

Well, I suppose it all goes back to that whole “fraud” thing. After all, I’m someone who prides herself on her honesty, often much to the chagrin of loved ones—and prospective lovers—who would no doubt prefer that I not figure it out quite so…openly.

And yet, in this continued search for someone “special”, with my heart on my sleeve and my business on the interwebs, what do I really have to offer, should I meet him? With many of my ducks still not in a row, and the bad habit of being an adult in word but not always deed: Who am I offering?

Am I that proverbial woman, too mired in mess to even be worthy of consideration?

These are the questions circling my mind now, as I try to tackle a crash-course in adulthood without losing either my mind or my hope. Because tangled up in issues of adulthood are questions of worth: what is my worth? How much do my flaws and failures depreciate my worth to a potential suitor? And what do I deserve, if I may already be bringing an overfull plate to the table? What the hell does it even mean to be adult, anyway? Is there a course? Some specific criteria?

As I write this, I’m struck by the ridiculousness of many of the above questions, and by the fresh insecurities that have clearly inspired them. After all, I know—as both witness and participant—that all types of love occur for all types of reasons, and the truest rarely have much to do with quantifiable criteria.

But this process—of writing, of sharing, of being more open than is sometimes even comfortable for me—has taught me that though I might be single, I am clearly not alone. So many of you have communicated that something in my chaos rings clear as bell for you. So, here I am, offering up yet another uncomfortable truth:

I am an adult who isn’t entirely sure how to “adult”, and I’m not only at a loss; I’m terrified.

As we close this Christmas—and this year—this is what I have to offer, and the issue I’d most like to resolve in the new year. Yes, even more than my singlehood. And yes, there have also been dates, and prospects, and promising conversations—I promise, we’ll get to those. But I’d be, well, un-adult if I entered the next six months of this project without addressing the revelations of the first, so bear with me, and—if this resonates with you—talk to me.

After all, we’re adults, right?

  • Pascalle

    I’m 32. In 2015 I felt I did less adulting than perhaps ever before. Lost my job, had a grueling time finding another, and in the midst of that got married very quickly and it fell apart! So I understand that feeling of being overwhelmed. But 2015 is ending in an upswing! 2 jobs, happily separated, and also online dating. Just getting back to me and my goals and trying to stay above water. My mantra for the past few months has been “be grateful, stay motivated.” Love and light.

  • Rah One Love

    Failing at adulthood? Damn, that’s harsh. It’s hard to even respond to that without sounding all preachy and ‘you-can-do-this’ cheerleadery. Knowing that preachy cheerleadery messages are more about helping the person saying them than the person they are directed to.

    People you like you make excuses for, rationalize their actions and behaviors and/or focus on their strengths and downplay any faults. People you don’t like you give the cold brutal truth to, and let them deal with that. You may even give them an over-harsh version of the truth because, eff them.

    Legit adults do exactly what you’re doing. Legit adults have messy internal lives and decide who to show what messes to. There is nothing fraudulent about that. So many people deal with so many things. I don’t think a society anything like this one could function without everyone withholding some messes from most people. That doesn’t make everyone a fraud, unless it does.

    Who you’re offering for men, I guess is up to men to decide and only partly under your control. There are women who are never going to find a life partner. I don’t think you’re one but if every man thinks he can find a better partner somewhere else, then that’s them, even if they’re right. I don’t think it will happen that all the men who come across you who meet your standards will decide to keep looking. But for the woman that happens to that isn’t you, she’s not doing anything wrong, that’s just how things worked out.

    So you bring a plate that has flaws, failures and issues to the table. You try to find an attractive man who thinks your good qualities that I may not have to repeat can inspire him to make space on his plate for some.

    You’re clearing your plate as fast as you can, but not for him. He’s clearing his but not for you. You can meet before your plates are clear of flaws and clear them with company. There is no level you have to reach before you can have a partner to share your life with as you clean your plate.

    If you really question your adulthood, I’m not going to call any question you seriously raise silly. But you’re a perfectly legit adult. There is really nothing that you could write that would bring doubting that into the realm of possibility for me.

    • L8Comer

      Wow, this moved me

  • Mr_Jay_Lutz

    Admire your transparency. I truly can relate to being up to the task of adulthood then there are those days I wish growing up was optional. As I navigate through this thing called life I find comfort in reading posts like this because it truly exemplifies that I am not alone in questioning my own adulthood. I tend to look at my mess as abstract images to a masterpiece that is not fully complete.

  • L8Comer

    I really admire your ability to be so raw and vulnerable. I identify with much of this, but have never put it into words so clearly

About the author

Who me? I’m just your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow a cup of sugar?

But seriously: I’m a musician, model, writer, all-around creative and devoted auntie. Like you, I’m just out here in the universe, trying to make it happen…whatever that is.