The consensus at our 20-year high school reunion seemed to be that none of us really feel like adults. We all feel like we’re adulting, like it’s some kind of game we’re in or role we’ve got.
This from a real estate attorney, a police officer, and two people who own their own companies.
We all have kids.
And we’re all just faking it.
There’s a side of me that blames the grey ceiling for this pretense. Those Baby Boomer bosses who won’t retire so we can advance, those grand-parenting enthusiasts who seem a little possessive over our children, those 5K 10K charity fundraising junkies who assign every activity a cause and promise to pray for us.
They’re omnipresent and we’ve been told we could trust them and so we do. But they don’t trust us. They’d still hang the house key around our necks if they could.
We don’t believe in our own adultness because we’re not treated like responsible parties.
We’re building careers and companies, inventing technology and processes, enacting laws and enforcing them. Quietly running the place like the grown ups we are pretending to be.
There’s a humility to thinking we’re faking it. To forgetting we’re the ones in the room with the most experience, knowledge, and ability.
I catch myself sometimes reminding myself of my own credentials and my classmates admitted they do the same thing. We’re so often pressed between Boomer bragging and Millennial preening that it’s humiliating to attempt distinction. There’s something cheap and insincere about naming ourselves experts.
Even when we are the best at what we do, we’re always dismissed as slackers.
It’s especially hard in a room full of people who knew you when you were 17 to remember that you’re now almost 40. Even looking at these people’s children doesn’t stop me from thinking about them as the kids we were back then.
Probably because I perpetually think of myself that way.
It’s not an obsession with youth or denial over the aging process. It’s an honest-to-goodness belief that I have more to learn.
I may not be ready for Hollie to be a teenager right now, but I will be when it’s time. My classmates with teens told me so.
I may not be prepared to retire right now, but I’m putting together the right portfolio to manage that when it’s time.
In the same way I was ready when I finished my PhD, when I started my company, when I decided to lead in a project where following would have been easier.
After a weekend of looking back, I’m ready to focus on now.
Now is the most interesting part of my story. I’m mid-career and my own boss. I’m mom to a kid learning to read, write, swim, and ride a bike. She doesn’t know everything yet and neither do I.
What’s even better is this sense that I’m living my life my way and that while that may be a little scary and unpredictable, it’s going to turn out okay.
It may turn out we’re pretty good at this adult thing. Maybe the slacker generation is exactly the image we need to hide our super hero antics.