I never planned on this happening. But it did. Sometime between grad school and my first mortgage, a strange phenomenon began replacing my youthful mojo with a new-found maturity.
Bar-hopping turned into movie nights on the couch. I used to send “Viewer Mail” to David Letterman. Now I write letters to the editor. And golf? It’s not funny to suck anymore.
Despite my best intentions to remain forever juvenile, as I push well into my 30s I’ve realized what I’ve reluctantly become.
I am an accidental adult.
Yet, despite this shocker I have come to firmly believe that life as an accidental adult is far more exciting than life as an intentional adult.
Most well-adjusted people recognize the inevitability of adulthood and embrace it. They check their smoke alarm batteries twice a year. They know what kind of gas mileage their cars get. Some can even name their city councilperson.
But I joined the world of adults kicking, screaming and refusing to accept I’m just like every other chump with credit card debt and an aching lower back. When I look in the mirror, the person I see staring back is decades younger and way more fun.
I often think how sad it must be for the intentional adult who’d want to laugh at an immature joke, or who’d rather order a pint of beer than a glass of merlot, but he doesn’t – for fear of looking un-couth to his buddy. I’m sure he has a better feel for typical adulthood than me, but who’s having more fun?
Friends don’t call me to help them hang Sheetrock. I’m the one they call to answer late-night music trivia questions instead. No heavy lifting there. And when the backyard parties start, no one expects me to build the best bonfire in the cul-de-sac. Guys like me hand a few sticks to the alpha males and then stand back at a safe distance chatting with the cute young wives while their inattentive husbands debate the ideal tinder assembly.
Now I’m willing to bet that a psychiatrist would tell me my perspective on adulthood is really just a coping mechanism to avoid the crushing reality that I’m a married man responsible for a mortgage, three kids and replacing the furnace filter regularly. Could be. And I suppose I’ll get a therapist someday like real adults do and find out for certain.
But in the meantime, I’m comfortable knowing that I’m in good company. Every day I see evidence of other accidental adults like me – people my age who are capable, working professionals who don’t know how to use jumper cables. People who can’t taste the difference between a Cabernet or a Chianti. And the best part is, they really don’t care.
Maybe they’ve discovered what I learned long ago. Acting your age doesn’t have to mean losing your cool.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.