Lately, I've been feeling less like an adult than I did when I was 23. I don't know why.
Maybe it's just circumstantial changes and the pressures of aging that make us freak out a little bit from time to time. As an expected result of said freak out, we shirk responsibilities, skip out on entire nights of sleep, explore chemical dependencies and generally raise hell due to rebellion against the "man." Late-blooming, quarter-life crisis, anyone?
Going through a period of transition like this makes you question your own stability. You're questioning whether you're ever going to be that responsible, contributing member of society that guidance counselors and grandparents told you to be.
So, what are some ways in which we can gage our readiness to be welcomed into the open arms of grown-ass womanhood (besides being in our right minds and feeling like we're on an unwavering path to success)? Get ready for a moment of personal honesty.
There are some signs that can tell you whether or not you're making forward progress as an adult woman. They're intangible, and only you really know if you do, feel or think these things. But it's important to check in with yourself.
After all, just because the calendar says you're getting older, that doesn't mean you're growing up. Here are nine ways you can tell if you're progressing toward grown-ass womanhood:
1. You have an opinion on your own wardrobe.
No, I don't mean you possess a delicately cultivated sense of personal style that you built on Pinterest. I mean you just wear what you like.
As a grown-ass lady, you don't need approval from the judgmental friend or dude who has questionably vested interest in whether your shoes match your belt. (They don't have to, by the way.)
You just need approval from yourself. You recognize this fact and rock what you like: period.
2. You're able to pay your own share for dinner or drinks.
So, even if you anticipate that at the end of the date, your very sweet friend will jump for the check, that doesn't mean you should go into the meeting with the expectation that you'll be powdering your nose while she conducts the transaction.
At this point in your life, you know the best people are self-sufficient and not leeches (financial, emotional or otherwise). So, when the bill comes, grab your wallet and your big girl undies. Step up to the plate and prepare to pay. It's important to expect to cover yourself, even if you don't end up having to at the time.
3. You accept that you have to do laundry regularly.
Unless you want to be the lady with the constant "floordrobe," hitting “go” on the spin cycle from time to time is basically a no-brainer.
Because you remember so clearly the excitement you felt upon purchasing these items, you don't just let those mounds of fresh fabric warm the corners of your room for weeks on end. You f*cking fold them, too. Yes, you also put them away.
Sure, it's tempting to tick the “clothes are clean and now I'm done” box, but when you invariably stumble home pretty decently tossed on a Thursday night, the last thing you want to do is stare down that pile and make a choice: Do you sleep under it, or do you scatter it across the floor to deal with in the morning?
Neither option is very adult. Grown-ass you takes care of that sh*t before the party starts.
4. You are able to prepare a healthy, delicious meal for yourself, even if you hate cooking.
This isn't about being domestic. This is about having the ability to provide for yourself in an ancient and very necessary way. As I was once told while I was rounding the tail-end of a 48-hour bender without sleep or any substantial nutrients beyond glucose and alcohol fumes, "If you don't eat, you'll die."
I didn't eat (probably out of spite), and I did survive. But the point remains. It doesn't matter whether you suck at boiling water or whether you're basically Ina Garten: You're grown up enough to treat yo'self to a home-cooked meal that nourishes that sexy bod of yours.
5. You can identify when you've had too much alcohol to drive safely, and you know how to get a ride.
There really isn't much of an excuse to drive drunk these days. Seriously, as a lady in her late 20s, you need to know your drink limit and rigidly conform to it whenever motor vehicles are involved.
Is that limit three buttery and oaky chardonnays? Is it two mojitos? Maybe it's a single drop of malt liquor.
Whatever your drinking threshold is, for God's sake, hail a cab, call an Uber or beg a friend to get you home safely once you've reached the point of no return. You're not an amateur. You can be responsible and pay a few bucks to arrive alive.
6. You identify when you're crossing a date night boundary, and you stop yourself from f*cking up.
“I am going to go out with this person I am interested in, but I won't make out with him in public.” This was my mantra for a while, and I actually had to say it aloud ahead of time. Otherwise, lines would get blurred. I'd want a face cuddle two hours into the evening.
There's nothing wrong with making out in public on a first date. But it was a boundary I had set for myself, and if I failed to uphold my own standard, I would become angry. If you have date night rules, follow them and make yourself proud.
Hey, if your only goal is to get laid that night, then for f*ck's sake, get laid. Just keep the promises you make to yourself.
7. You've stopped competing with other women.
Can't we all just get along? Yes, we can.
You finally see that supporting your fellow lady friends and sincerely wishing them the best in all things is endlessly better than hoping they'll get fat. You get what you give. If you give a lot of love, it's all coming back to you.
Plus, the struggle of finding genuine people is real. Being that genuine person to someone else and making the world a better place for the entire female population gives you a karmic rush you can't describe.
8. You're not in love with your body, but you're at least cool with it.
It can take a lifetime of practicing self-acceptance to truly love something you've always kind of hated about yourself. So, it's a little unrealistic to ask you to be totally down with your every flaw by the time you hit 30 years old.
At the very least, you've found a way to reduce the amount of anxiety you feel over your imperfections, and you continue to work on being comfortable in your own skin. That's all anyone really wants, isn't it? As we navigate womanhood, this might be one of the most difficult milestones to hit.
9. You've learned to make peace with the things you can't control.
It doesn't matter what you were promised. It doesn't matter what you wanted to happen.
If a situation is out of your control, there comes a time when you need to stop raging against the light. It's going to die with or without your permission, and being resentful about the outcome is going to slowly poison your heart. Sure, you still put all of your positive energy toward it for as long as you can. But when you know you're losing the battle, you see that it's better for you to let it go.
I know how hard this one is. Give me all the piles of laundry until the end of time and make me call an Uber if I even look at a pinot grigio sideways. But please don't make me give up on the things I want.
But grown-ass you knows that making peace with the unattainable or unachievable simply has to be done.
Recently, I've realized that progress — be it personal or professional — occurs at an individual pace. It sounds obvious, but understanding this on an intellectual level is completely different from learning it through life experiences.
It's easy and tempting to make comparisons based on other people's lives when we're in times of crisis. But it isn't fair to us.
You want to compare your successes with their successes and your failures with their failures. But your journey is your own. All you need to worry about is you.
Be honest with yourself. Ask the tough questions to your own spirit, and step up to the plate when a challenge presents itself. As I'm beginning to learn, my friends, this is truly how you adult.