But many years later paint a different picture. Today I stand on the precipice of those late 30s, driving a two-door coupe with a sunroof (because nothing says "single and childless" like a two-door coupe with a sunroof), drowning myself in caffeine to meet deadlines, and pondering whether or not I should seriously adopt a low-sugar diet because, y'know, health.
My friends and I are dealing with some scary stuff nowadays. Stuff in the form of IRAs, preschool applications, mortgages, the death of a parent, the end of a relationship, health scares, the reality of Buffy the Vampire Slayer being twenty years old, and an administration that doesn't seem to care about the well-being of any minority group whatsoever.
Pardon my Japanese, but this shit sucks.
TV host and recently married Nerdist founder Chris Hardwick, at 44, has often talked on his podcast about the "extended adolescence" that many of us (GenXers, Millennials, and those in between) have been granted, and this a result of either our upbringing or (mostly) the culture our society has shaped over the past 30 years. The pop culture we enjoyed in our childhoods and adolescences is constantly being rebooted at an unprecedented rate in our adulthoods, forcing us to remember what it was like "back in the day," mentally and emotionally reverting us back to our younger selves.
In other words, there is always a reason to ride the wave of nostalgia nowadays. 2009's short-lived Melrose Place reboot on the CW sent me back to the eighth grade. Last year's stinker, Independence Day: Resurgence, made me look back fondly on the summer of 1996. And the current incarnation of Beauty and the Beast is prompting me to replay Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson's 1991 duet on my Spotify playlist and reminisce about life during a pre-Clinton White House.
There are other explanations for this "extended adolescence" as well, like higher life expectancies and the growing presence of child-free couples. (Look up the demographic that is "Dual Income No Kids," it's a thing.) As for any other explanations, I'll leave that up to the sociologists and behavioral experts. Because I am not one.
But back to reality:
Whoever coined the term "adulting," however long ago, was clearly in need of some validation. Because that's what it's mainly used for. "Here are the keys to my new condo! #homeowner #adulting." We thirtysomethings love to celebrate certain rites of passage with a hashtag that indicates we've arrived. Even more amusing is when it's used ironically: "Prominently displaying my old Power Rangers action figures at the office in honor of the new movie. #adulting." (No, that wasn't me.) But when "we've arrived," does that mean we've come to end of something? Have we stopped ourselves from going any further? Have we finally perfected the art of adulting?
In fact, the "art of adulting" is somewhat of a bullshit phrase. It isn't an art at all. Because to call it an art would imply there is a mastering of skills needed for maneuvering through all of the challenges that come with being a human over the age of 30. And really, has anyone mastered that? Not to be trite, but life is all about learning those proverbial lessons, big or small, that hit us in our everyday lives. It's a constant process, just like aging.
However, if you feel like you have mastered the art of adulting, I congratulate you. I also think you're deluding yourself, but good for you. Keep at it. I wish you the best.
As for me, I prefer to call my "extended adolescence" an "extension of my 20s." I don't feel like what a late-thirtysomething should be like because there is no standard now... and holy crap, I'm now realizing I'm older than the characters on thirtysomething.
Every now and then I might act a little reckless and not-my-age. I might wear a T-shirt with a visual pun or ironic phrase. I might have a third cocktail at the bar. I might shake my ass to that new David Guetta and Nicki Minaj single. Hell, I may even stay up until 3am on a Saturday night -- cleaning my bedroom closet. Does that count?
How about this: to indulge myself, I am going to celebrate my birthday this year in the Capital of Recklessness: Las Vegas. (I leave on a flight later tonight and expect to have a drink in my hand an hour after I arrive.)
Which reminds me: I better pack some antacids and aspirin (and those corn pads for my foot).
Just in case.