Deliberately unmarried and without children, I’m still footloose and fancy free, at age 43. The latter is a reality that has seemingly snuck up on me. 43. Where did the time go?
I know age doesn’t necessarily have a feeling. But when asked to reveal it, I hesitate because my initial response begins with a 2 or 3. Mentally, I’m just not there. I’m still trying to decide what it is I want to be, and I’m referencing the same list of options I conjured when I was 5. Yet, 43 is supposedly adult.
I know much of it has to do with my personality. I’m a rebel. I don’t subscribe to conformity. Traditional lifestyles never appealed to me. I’m an introvert, and as such I prefer to be alone. Honestly, the more I describe myself, the more I sound like Pee Wee Herman, without the added eccentricities.
I haven’t planned for retirement or ever owned a home. In fact, being a writer and an artist are jobs that typically don’t come with 401Ks, or allot the sort of financial stability banks require when approving a loan. Even in this moment and for the purposes of this piece, I’m struggling to answer the question, “What else is it that grown-ups do?”
Clearly, somewhere along the way, something or someone scared the adult right out of me. The notion of growing up, in the traditional sense, was from that point forward lost on me. I guess, if I had to analyze it, I’d go to the source and look back at my observations, as a child.
I remember watching adults rushing around in forced parades of celebrated misery. Like worker ants, they seemingly had a clear sense of mission, but passion was lacking. They all just seemed so tired and teetering on the brink of insanity. No sense of imagination. No time for silliness or play. No tolerance for nonsense. I got bored just being witness to their day. That must have been when I decided, subconsciously, to stay in my freewheeling, childlike state.
But suddenly I’m 43—seven years away from 50—and I feel like I should take a crash course in adulthood to prepare myself for that day. Like, I need a certificate of accomplishment to prove myself to the world; something to show for all the time I’ve spent alive. It’s half a century, for goodness’ sake!
Maybe that’s why adults do what they do—popping out kids, buying homes, establishing retirement funds, dental plans and really good credit. They’re really nothing more than gold stars on the report card of life.
I’m not discounting all those things, or intending to make a mockery, or by any means saying those traditional life choices are boring. I have enough friends with families to know there’s rarely a dull moment. But those specific aspects of adulthood have never been on my list of priorities. As a result, I find myself over 40, with three degrees and a credit rating that won’t qualify me for a library card. I live in a rental apartment with two dogs, a mountain of student loan debt and a cracked tooth, or possibly a cavity.
Sure. I’ve always found a way to make ends meet. As an artist, I’m not literally starving. But I’ll confess my savings account is in fact a piggy bank on my kitchen counter.
I know what you’re likely thinking. I should be more prepared for all the what-if’s which, like 43, might also sneak up on me. But what can I say? I’m a fan of surprises and spontaneity. I still proudly possess a childlike sense of whimsy, and I have no desire to change.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve grown in the areas that matter. I eat my vegetables, gladly take naps, resolve conflict with words and know how to ask for what I need. I don’t eat candy or drink sodas, and I think the ice cream man is downright creepy. Admittedly, I rarely make my bed, but setting personal boundaries and communicating effectively are skills I’ve mastered. Most importantly, I have no issue with bathing or cleaning. For the most part, I live my life responsibly.
But I don’t want to grow up; not traditionally speaking. I’ll be a child at heart when I’m 60. I’m not the only one. In fact, I’m one of the millions—the artists, writers, musicians, the dreamers who live life creatively, uniquely and free. I think we’re the ones who look forward to every birthday and never refer to ourselves as old. We can’t be, because we chose to be nothing like our parents.
Still, I can’t help but be a bit stunned when I hear myself say it. 43. It all goes by so fast, and I guess the next 10 or 20 years will likely soar.
But if that’s the case, then the best is yet to come. Like they say, time flies when you’re having fun!
By Toshia Humphries