When I was a child, I longed to be an adult. For my 10th birthday, I demanded a cake in the shape of a 10, delighted to be an age that was two digits rather than one. Adults had freedom to do what they wanted; not like me who could barely snaffle a biscuit without someone noticing. I was always being told “be good, do well, make us proud” and not what I wanted (ie to play Tomb Raider, and have crushes on fictional teen characters played by weirdly older actors).
When I started this column, documenting my journey to a happy adulthood, I knew that the traditional trappings (家, kids, pension; freedom achieved by financial security) were slipping out of reach for my generation. I searched for another model. That four-year journey covered driving lessons, pet parenthood, broken friendships, emotional burn-out – and that’s before the pandemic.
So now, for my final Adult Learner, my biggest lesson yet: adulthood is a scam, a lie, a myth. There is no destination called “adult” at which we arrive free from a master; we simply swap them. (I wanted to stay up late as a child, but wasn’t allowed. Now I want to go to bed, preferably after lunch, but same deal.)
There is no model, there is only trying: trying to be good and kind, and trying to be free, to live a little, in spite of an encroaching army called “responsibility”.
It may not be the adulthood I dreamed of, but it is still glorious, a cacophony of experience and self-development, so that even when it feels as if life’s gone wrong and we can’t go on, we’re still victorious because we do.
My journey is far from over, but writing about it is. Thank you to the readers who came along for the ride. I hope you’ll join me in congratulating yourself on another day conquered in adulthood. I’d say it deserves a biscuit.