Recently, while driving my newly purchased SUV and commenting to nobody about the multitude of airbags and safety features, I realised I was a grown up. You may wonder how I came to this conclusion so late in life, having been a grown up in the legal sense for over 10 years now. It's because I don't live the way I think real grown ups live.
What's more surprising is the reaction I had to this realisation. I was scared, critical and confused. I haven't ever considered myself a grown up before, but I definitely am one, chronologically speaking, and because I possess certain things restricted only to grown ups.
I have a wife, a kid, a job, and a car designed to ferry around young children whilst also having enough boot space to accommodate pushchairs and huge quantities of food. What I don't have are the feelings and attributes that I associate with adulthood. That's where the confusion and critique began.
My dad is a grown up. I know this because he's older than I am, he has adult kids and he owns his own house. He embodies the thing that I most associate with being an adult and the thing that I don't feel I posses. Security.
I'm not sure if it's a generational issue or a personal quirk, but whenever I'm back in my childhood home with my Dad around -- which admittedly isn't very often these days -- I don't worry about real life anymore. Even though my plethora of real-world issues still exist (I'm in debt, I'm depressed, and I don't own a house) they don't seem that bad. My Dad is the bastion of adulthood. He has it together. He exudes grown-upness in a way that I feel I never will.
I live in a state of prolonged adolescence. I attribute this to the social and economic period in which I was raised. I was fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough depending on your perspective, to grow up in a period and in a country where higher education was being advertised as the way forward for all young people. University was not something you might do, it was something you definitely would do. Because of this, a generation was created that lived at home longer. They didn't need to rush out and get on the career ladder. They cared more about socialising than they did about working. A group of young people sheltered from any real responsibility for an extended period of time.
I entered university later than usual, so I was in education until I was 23. I worked during this time, but never at anything too serious, knowing that if I lost my job it wouldn't really have much of an impact on me, I'd just have to drink cheaper beer.
Even though I was married and living with my wife, we certainly didn't live like my parents did when they were my age. My Dad was married with a baby when he was 23 and had been working full-time for a number of years, already building a career and paying off a mortgage. He would never have dreamed of staying out all night drinking with his friends, spending his money on comic books and DVDs or calling in sick to work because his hangover made it upsetting for him to leave his bed.
That was five years ago. Today, things haven't changed much. I emigrated and I have a child of my very own, with another on the way. I have a job (I'm reluctant to say career) and I'm happily married.
But I'm still living a very different lifestyle than my perception of the adult ideal. I still sometimes stay out all night drinking with my friends, I still spend a lot of money on comic books, I'm heavily invested in pop-culture, I Tweet and Snapchat and Facebook and Instagram. I have very modest savings, I prioritise gadgets and entertainment over sound financial investments and I wear t-shirts with superheroes on them. As far as I'm aware, my Dad has only ever worn seasonal-appropriate clothing, which in England means long-sleeved rugby shirts all year round.
I think my permanent adolescence is a reaction to the way the world has changed since my Dad was a young adult. I don't feel any obligation to be a homeowner or to have hundreds of thousands of dollars saved up. Renting lets me remain flexible, change the size of my home to suit, and leaves me free from the burden of repairs and renovations. I would like more savings, but I value the dinners out with friends more. Yes, there's the possibility that I may lose my job, but I have other income on which to survive and I know I can always adjust my lifestyle to suit my income. Being in higher education for so long forced me to be creative with what little money I had.
My daughters won't grow up with the same perception of adulthood that I did, and that may not be such a bad thing. I get on well with my Dad, but he has always been an authority figure in my life, and whilst he did provide me a sense of security and dependability that I still cherish, we've only recently been able to connect as people rather than as adult and child. This extended adolescence may mean my daughters and I have more in common than I could ever have had with my Dad growing up. They may never experience the security that I did, but at the same time they may be stronger and more independent because of that.
It's sometimes difficult getting these opposing feelings to coalesce. The influence of previous generations is still there, and it does cause me to doubt the way I'm living, which I suppose, in itself, is a grown-up thing to do. But I know that to force myself to change to fit into someone else's interpretation, or my inherited interpretation, of what an adult should be, would be to deny who I really am. I know my daughters will benefit more from having a parent who accepts who they are than one who tries to be something they're not.
So whilst I'm thankful for everything my Dad did for me growing up, I'm happy knowing that I don't have to emulate that. I have the opportunity to experience parenthood in a completely different way. Who knows how it will turn out?
Jordan runs parenting podcast www.unpreparenting.com.Suggest a correction