Finding Adulthood

Nicole Jankowski essays

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Me:  “I have been thinking. I want to be a writer when I grow up.”

Him: “You can be anything you want to be. But never grow up.”


Does it happen all of a sudden? Did you wake up one day and absently look up at the crack on your ceiling and say, “Yes, yes. Now this is it. I think I am an adult now”?

Tell me now, because I haven't done this yet.

Or were you sitting at a bistro table at Starbucks, sipping your Pike's Place. Legs crossed, reading The New York Times when you knew it must be true? Stepping on to a subway train?  Holding your first child?

I'd like to know, how you know.

Does adulthood find you all at once? Or does it creep up slowly, taking over a few more cells each day, deliberately. And then a little more and more. Until childhood is a milk thistle in your field, floating away on an unhurried air. Gone. Sturdy stems of flowers growing in its place. I want you to tell me, how you know.

How to know when adulthood finds you.
How to find adulthood.

Sometimes I don't even think I belong there. The times when I speed my mini-van around the cul-de-sac with the windows down, the kids laughing, hair whipping, as I pump up The Killers and sing. I'm coming out of my cage and I've been doing just fine, gotta gotta be down, cause I want it all. The times when I eat ice cream for dinner and my husband finds my bowl of cereal in the bed. The times when I climb into his lap like a little girl and bury my face in his starched work shirt collar. Tell me everything will be okay.

Sometimes I worry that I might already be there. The times when I snap at my teenager to turn the radio down so I can think. The times when I serve meatloaf and green beans for dinner.  The times when my teenager climbs into my lap like a little girl and buries her face into my hair.  Tell me everything will be okay.

Maybe I'm stuck between the growing up and the growing old.
Maybe I'm liminal.
Maybe just knowing that word makes me a grown-up.

If I wake up tomorrow and I find adulthood clenching at me, I might look up at that familiar ceiling crack and scream a big fat fuck you. Roll on my side. Go right back to sleep.

Or maybe it will sneak up in the parking lot of the Dairy Whip, while I sit eating my cream-sickle twist, alone in my mini-van. The Killers on the radio.

A shoulder tap.

Hello, gotcha! Adulthood, here. Are you ready to go?
Do I have to give up eating ice cream for dinner? I ask.
No, you don't have to give up anything. 
I listen to my music loud. I say, defiantly.
Most grown-ups do.
I'm not sure what I'm doing most of them time, I confess.

Most grown ups don't

Maybe that's how it happens. 

Mostly, I've been thinking that maybe growing up isn't about a feeling. It is possible that it isn't about changing who you are or giving up anything or having the right answers. 

Maybe it's more simple.

I've been thinking that being a grown-up is just being wise enough to whisper “Everything will be okay” to the crying child in your lap.
Even when, deep down, the words sound impossibly brave.
Everything will be okay.
Even when you aren't really sure if you believe it yourself.


About the Author

Nicole Jankowski

Nicole Jankowski is a mom of 4 kids and 2 awesome step-kids, a divorcee, a writer and very good at saying all the wrong things to the right people. Read about her experiences with autism, addiction and awesomeness at .

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