I don’t have a voicemail set up, and haven’t for two years. I am almost entirely incapable of dealing with a bug, and will let burnt-out lightbulbs go for a shockingly long time unchanged, depending on how much I need that particular light. I spend too much, then hoard my money in unsustainable ways, then repeat the cycle. I buy calendars and day planners because they are pretty, and then never use them. I have a 2015 Lilly Pulitzer planner that I paid 34 dollars for while in my hometown last year, with not a single thing written in it, or even a single sticker used. It did feature prominently in a few high-performing Instagrams, though.
If I know you in my personal life, chances are high that I’ve forgotten to call you back at least once.
I feel like a mess often, even when I do things right, even when I meet every deadline on my Google calendar (the only one I am semi-capable of using). This is partly because I have a long-term partner who acts as the mortar to my bricks, and mine to his. He is there to take care of the things which I forget to, and vice versa. This allows you to be greater than the sum of your parts, but it also allows your weaknesses to deepen, because someone else is standing beneath you with a net. And I worry sometimes, being a woman who runs a website about financial and personal independence (primarily for other women) that I am not living up to my own #brand as well as I could be.
I try, I make progress, and then I feel like I slip back. I’m 27 now, which is how old my parents were when they had me, but I couldn’t imagine myself with a child today. I don’t feel capable of being responsible for anyone but myself, and, with the help of another person, my dog.
I keep wondering when I will feel my age, when it will snap into place and suddenly I will be capable of making habits stick out of willpower. I have changed a lot of things over the past year, yes, but it doesn’t feel like nearly enough — I still feel like I’m spinning on the hamster wheel instead of running on it, a victim of my own inertia. And when bad things happen, I still boil over and then cool off, instead of taking a step back to assess the situation. I still react in panic, and then in hurt, and then, finally, in clarity. I can never seem to get past the adolescent cycle of emotion, where things are always felt in a hot, single flush, and then diffused throughout my entire body so it can be dealt with.
I once heard that part of being a CEO is mastering the art of making it up as you go. This is true in business, of course, but it’s also true in the business of being a human being. Our lives are a series of events we are not equipped to deal with, celebrations and life changes and big moves and little ones. Each bridge we must cross on our own, with whatever tools we have, and hope that we don’t do too much damage on the way over. We say the wrong thing, and fall behind on deadlines or promises to catch up over drinks, and then we hate ourselves for a while. We think of whatever mental age we’ve given ourselves, and knock a few years off of it. We can go a good few weeks feeling like we have it together, that everything is clicking along at a steady pace, and then one little thing happens to knock us off our orbit and remind us that we are all just pretending, faking it until we make it.
And we slowly realize, only by hitting the milestones we’d always watched approaching from when they were a dot on the horizon, that we never stop faking it. We never stop closing our eyes and throwing a dart, because no one can tell us how it’s going to be. No one can prepare us for the office politics, the cross-country moves, the falling outs, the unexpected news (good and bad). No one can warn us that, even if we do everything right, the rug is never guaranteed to not be pulled out from underneath us. There will never be the moment you think you will have, the moment where you feel that you’ve truly reached your goal and can take a break. You will get the “big kid job,” and then it will just be a job. You will move into your big new apartment, and then it will be filled with your dust and clutter. You will make incredible friends, and then slowly you will stop reaching out to each other, except on your birthdays.
I don’t think I will ever feel my age, because I don’t think there is such a thing as “a way 27 feels.” I don’t think that I will ever feel truly “accomplished,” because that goalpost will always be magically capable of moving the second I reach it. My forgetfulness, my empty day planners and my cluttered inbox, will always be the static I see around me when I’m looking for my worth. I will always think of the worst first, berate myself with my mistakes, and remind myself how far I have to go. I will always think of “adult” as some gate for which I don’t have the key, and which is moving farther away every time I take a step forward.
But maybe there is something great about never feeling like you’ve made it, about never really being able to savor the “big” moments the way you think you should, or accept that you’ve reached a milestone. Maybe this means that there is more pleasure — and fulfillment — to be found in the everyday, in the little things that happen when you aren’t looking, when you finally remember to put your teabag into the trash can instead of the sink. Maybe there can be something “adult” about the fact that you hit the snooze button one less time this morning, or that you truly listened to a friend when she needed to talk. Maybe there will never be a time when you don’t feel at least a little bit like an impostor, but maybe that will make you all the more grateful for the little things you are able to do.
Even if you are making it all up as you go.