Adultescence: A second wave of teenage angst


Is it possible to feel growing pains when you're about to turn 40? 

Is it maybe like a second adolescence, another awkward transitional phase where your body doesn't look or feel like your own, your hate all your clothes and have nothing to wear, and your hair is just, like, all wrong?

You're filled with crushing angst and raw emotion. No one understands you. You're trying every outlet to plug in and connect to the world, to have your voice be heard and reach someone. You want to do everything, but you don't know what you want to be.

Like, all of that, but your knees hurt sometimes and you're happy to be in bed by 10pm. Maybe if I just go listen to The Cure and Nirvana and write a zine, it'll sort itself out. Oh wait. That's what I'm doing right now...

In a certain way, without the you-gotta-get-your-shit-together-starting-right-now milestone of having a child, it's harder to feel like there's a definitive moment of realizing you're a grown-up. The fundamental self-centeredness of being responsible for nobody's business but your own gives you a lot of time for looking inward and wondering how it is you got here, and where it is you're going. Having a family answers- even dictates some sense of direction.

It used to be that your work laid a similarly defined path before you. I've been doing more or less the same thing professionally for the past twenty years, climbing, I suppose, a sort of ladder. Well, maybe more like one of Escher's staircases. And despite a few bouts of dubious behavior and questionable decision-making along the way, I have arrived. I guess this must be the place.

Except it's not, really. It's a place, but doesn't feel like the place. Like a teenager, I'm still trying things on for size and seeing what fits. Which is not a lot these days, literally and figuratively. And somehow it seems irresponsible, and not at all very adult to still be in a state of flux. When does my life start? How do I get out of this phase? Shouldn't I have things figured out by now?

Of course I know that the answer is no, that figuring things out is entirely beside the point. As soon as we stop growing, we're dead.

And so we resume the struggle.*

*Because like any properly angsty teen, I am totally quoting Waiting for Godot.