All growed up

I’m an adult. Like, a legit adult. This continues to occur to me and surprise me every once in a while.

I mean, seriously, I’m done being a student — forever. I have a full-time job. I pay all my bills. I live by myself. … I do what I want.

But this weekend, another aspect of the adult world hit me: I don’t always go home for holidays. It was sad and weird for me to not be with my parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents from both sides of the family (Thursday with one side, Friday with the other) as I have done every Thanksgiving of my life. Instead, I spent a lovely four days with my great-aunt and uncle in Rhode Island. It was wonderful and relaxing and fun, but it was different. And, I realized, that’s part of growing up, too. Adults don’t always go home for holidays. That’s life. Call it adult lesson No. 1.

Here are some other lessons I’ve learned about being a “grown-up”:

1. It’s expensive. There are so many bills, and as soon as you’ve paid them all, the next month’s round start appearing in the mailbox.

2. The evenings are always too short. You don’t have to do homework anymore, but you have to run errands, clean, do laundry, cook … and read your magazines and watch your TV shows and talk to your friends. Having free time at all is an upgrade, but there’s still not enough of it.

3. You can travel. When your weekends aren’t filled with sports games, meetings, performances and homework, you get to go places and visit people.

4. You sleep a lot more. And yet no matter how early you go to sleep, you will not wake up before your alarm goes off. Even if the time you get in bed should qualify you for an AARP card.

5. Weekends are more relaxing, in that you get to chill during the day, but in terms of sleep, they aren’t that different from college: You still stay up too late, and you still don’t catch up on sleep enough to feel wide-awake Monday morning.

6. Free food continues to be an exciting thing that you should always take advantage of.

7. Wine. Wine is good. While you’re cooking, with your dinner, while you’re watching a movie. And you don’t have to feel guilty (read: like an alcoholic) if you drink it alone.

8. You are no longer building a resume with all your extracurriculars. Things you choose to do outside of work don’t have to relate to your career or give you leadership experience. For the first time, extracurriculars truly can be extracurricular.

9. The crowd at bars is very different. VERY different. As in, you can’t assume everyone is under 28. Because many of them, actually, are significantly older than that. As in, old enough to be your dad. Unless you go to a college-y bar, but then everyone is too young and you feel out of place.

10. Age doesn’t matter. You work with people 20+ years older than you, but, for the most part, you’re treated like their equal. As for dating you look for people not necessarily the same age but at the same life phase as you. That means someone 10 years older could be okay, though it might be a bit too much for your parents to handle.

11. Often, you don’t get carded. Even if you have a ridiculously round face and could pass for 15 without makeup. Most bars card at the door, but if you’re out with friends for dinner, you almost never get carded when ordering a drink.

12. It won’t be nearly as hard as you might think to find a 20-something single guy who likes to cook. They have to — they aren’t in college anymore, they don’t live with their mothers and they live alone. And not even the laziest guy can get takeout or eat frozen dinners every night.

13. Much like how you didn’t always want to go to class — even though you loved your major, you don’t always want to go to work — even though you love your job.

14. You won’t feel like an adult, at least not for a while. A “real” adult, after all, has a spouse and kids and house and maybe a dog. And those aren’t happening for you any time soon.

But biggest lesson of all? Being an adult is better than being a kid. High school and college were a blast, for sure, but they were exhausting and stressful and regimented. Even though you have a lot more bills as an adult, you get paid a lot more. You have to go to work, but other than that, there are a lot fewer rules and a lot fewer people telling you want to do. Getting old won’t be fun, but you no longer have to wait for birthdays to be able to do things. You don’t have to work 24/7; when you go home after work and when you wake up on the weekend, you get to do what you want — and you actually have time for hobbies and sleep.

Plus, for most of your life, you’ve been working toward your first job and your life as an adult, and now you’re here, so here’s to enjoying it and thriving in it and discovering what that elusive “future” has been holding for you.

Time and money and freedom? I’ll take it — even if it means I can’t go home until Christmas.

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