The kids table was abolished at my family’s holiday get-togethers, but I still feel like I’m sometimes relegated to the kids table of life.
I’m 27 and still wondering when I’ll be considered an adult. Legally I am one. I can vote. I can drink. I can buy cigarettes and porn (not that I’d ever do either) and I can rent a car. I also have a college degree, a professional position, and my own car that I make payments on.
Still, there are a number of things that seem to challenge the notion of adulthood:
I’m still on my family’s cell plan. While I’m mostly financially independent, I still consult my father when it comes to things like taxes, student loans and most of the important life decisions. When I talk about my family I mean my family and siblings, not one that I started from scratch.
However, something notable did occur this past Thanksgiving. The kids table was abolished. Now, these days the youngest of the kids can drink and the oldest has kids of their own, so the label might be a bit misleading, but finally all the generations were integrated. This was a big step in helping me feel like a bona-fide grownup but I feel like I’m not exactly in the majority there, that I’m still often relegated to the kids table of life.
I give my parents and their close friends some leeway. They’ve watched me grow up, and sometimes it’s hard to disassociate the kid from the adult I’ve become. I have this same issue with some of my younger cousins and my parent’s best friends’ kids. And while I’m giving them leeway, with most of these people it’s not an issue. I mean my parents still require me to call them when I get home from places, but my grandmother still calls to check up on my mother; parents have that gift to realize their child is grown yet still treat them like their child.
I’ll also give some leeway to people who first meet me. I look young, young enough that if I’m clean shaven and dressed a certain way I could probably pass as a teenager. It’s rare for me to go to a bar or pick up some beer without getting carded, and last year an army recruiter doing some work in the school where I teach tried to recruit me when I was on lunch duty.
But like I said, I’m 27, and without sounding full of myself, I consider myself to be a pretty successful and well-adjusted 27.
What does get frustrating is when the people I’ve met as an adult, and the people who’ve seen me grow up but from a distance, still treat me with kid gloves. And I get where it comes from for the most part. I probably don’t fit some people’s perception of what an adult is and how they should behave.
I’m not in a serious relationship. This is especially rare where I work in Lancaster, where guys wife up and pop out kids early. I still “go out” a lot. I enjoy socializing on weekends and spend a considerable amount of time in buildings that could be classified as bars or pubs. I travel pretty frequently, and still have a large disposable income.
Sometimes it’s accidental. The other day we had a teacher in-service at work were a group of people I work with attended a presentation on getting families more involved in the education system. We were asked how involved our families were, and from there the conversation moved onto what was expected from an education. One of my co-workers mentioned that people, or “kids” in their 20s, don’t value education and working as much as her generation does. She said how so many of these “kids” go to school and then, because they aren’t tied down with a family or bills or whatever, are able to switch to careers they feel more passionate about and that passion isn’t always reality, but that they’re kids and they don’t know it yet. The majority of the room seemed to agree with her, and I even heard a guy behind me say something to the effect of “yea, it’s embarrassing when they’re almost 30 and still finding themselves” to his neighbor. Do I think that either was trying to call me out? Not at all. Was it still somewhat uncomfortable? Yes. I was one of the only ones there under 30, and coincidentally I am trying to “find myself” at the moment. I thought of speaking up, but figured it’d fall on deaf ears.
Sometimes it’s less of a coincidence. I’ll be the first to concede that I still have a lot to learn when it comes to my profession yet I’ve been doing it, and well might I add, for coming on five years now. It’s demeaning and disheartening to hear things like “well you’re just so young,” and “you’ll get it eventually,” in a professional setting.
I also saw it last weekend when talking with an acquaintance of my parents. I forget the gist of the conversation, but I was told at some point, “well you’re just a kid.” And I’m not. There are actually plenty of people my age who have kids, and just because I’m not one of them doesn’t mean I should be treated like a child.
So I wonder when I will start to be treated like a card carrying member of the adult portion of the human race. Will it be when I get a long-term girlfriend? Pay a mortgage? Don’t have time to work out because of crying babies?
And why is that? Why can’t my thoughts, ideas, input and professional milestones stand on their own without how I spend my personal time coming into play? I’m not trying to complain, or paint myself as a victim because in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, and in a way I can understand it.
I just wonder when the proverbial kids table of life will go the way of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.