It happened. I wasn’t paying attention, I guess. I became … an adult. It wasn’t the years adding up, the gray hairs multiplying or the occasional painful toe stiffening. But 2014 brought those sneaky mileposts and tasks that brand one into adulthood. It’s the drinking a bit less, the dedicating time to run a lot, the satisfying Friday nights at home. They’re things that give me anxiety, too—things my life choices have made even more challenging. Shipping my belongings across the sea. Buying a new car. Navigating health insurance. Getting married. Arguing with HR about Karl’s right to insurance. Hiring a lawyer to fight with immigration. Working tirelessly.
Are these accurate markers of adulthood? Or is this readjusting to life in America? I’m not entirely sure.
When I took my state-provided intensive Swedish courses, we spent an entire lesson about quality of life. We discussed and wrote about our view of a ‘good life.’ Taking vacations? Having possessions? Good weather? Successful career? World peace? Democracy? Health? I may have my blinders on, but I can’t recall ever being asked about quality of life by an American. Maybe it’s that Sweden takes care of so many hassles that there’s time and energy to worry about the big picture. It’s so easy to feel like Americans are primed to run on autopilot, chasing that deep-seeded, long-established American dream. We work hard without question, pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps for those markers of success—family, house, car, stuff, etc.
We brandish our right to pursue happiness without asking what truly makes us happy.
My generation’s doing our best to shirk the American dream. We prioritize work-life balance. We possess fewer things and collect more memories. We pretend this isn’t adulthood—it’s just extended youth with more conscious decisions. We may not pause to question quality of life, but we gravitate to choices based on wants, passions and making the most of our lives.
Like every generation, we blaze our own trails, machete in hand. We fend off snakes in the grass, bugs in our faces and whack after whack of limbs to the head. Now that we’re nearing adulthood and the ultimate deadline of finiteness, we’ll lay down our swords, rest our legs and look up. If youth is a wide open field of opportunity, then adulthood is the overwhelming view from the treetops. I can see how far I’ve come. Just let me pause to take it all in, stare into the distance and figure out which life to follow.