“I’ll have all the answers when I’m older …,” sings the famous Olaf in “Frozen 2.” I’ve often wondered when I’ll have all the answers — but I’d settle for just feeling like an adult. It happens, if only occasionally.
Listening to my 6-year-old’s latest “Frozen” karaoke, I was reminded of playing cards at my grandmother’s house years ago. I mentioned how little I felt like an adult, even though I was a mother. My aunt surprised me when she confessed, “I’m 62 and still don’t feel like a grown-up most days.” Even more shocking was my grandmother’s same admission that followed.
Why do so many of us feel a sense of imposter syndrome when it comes to adulthood? My friend Jenn, newly 40, thinks it’s a sense of not meeting the expectations of others. “It’s not filling the ‘adult’ role like the role models or adults in our lives,” she said, “and choosing different paths that some might say are immature or frivolous.”
So what might counter that? Dr. Ashley Wellman, a victimologist specializing in grief and trauma, said big events can help shape our feelings. For instance a divorce, becoming a parent, or suffering a miscarriage, death, job loss, etc. can age us significantly, both physically and mentally.
I remember that the death of two of my grandmothers — only six days apart — forced me to feel a new level of grown, but not in a way I appreciated.
But Wellman also notes that the little things like social media can knock us right back down.
“Comparison makes you feel like maybe you aren’t mature or ‘good enough.’ You might feel as though you haven’t achieved or performed to a high standard like those around you.” she said. “Seeing the perfect Pinterest mom, for example, can make you think, ‘Wow, I’m not doing this whole mom thing right’ … maybe I’m not ‘grown up’ enough … one day I’ll have it together.”
Although Vicki has felt “adult” at a number of stages throughout her life, it was when she was truly autonomous — retired, with grown children and financial independence — that she felt true liberation and like “a full-fledged adult.”
One friend said the biggest change came when she started to seek out the advice of her parents. Another said it was when she stopped seeking advice from hers.
I think the biggest transition for me happened in just the past year, when I realized so many of my brattiest teenage moments occurred when my mother was (gasp!) my age now. I had naively assumed my mom had all the answers because she was “the adult,” but realizing how few answers I have now has forced me to reexamine — and feel deep regret for — the way I treated her.
So now here I am; weighing the experiences that make me feel like an adult against all the many that make me feel anything but. Then I remember Olaf also sings, “Growing up means adapting, puzzling at your world and your place …”
If that’s the case, then maybe I am all grown up.