When Will You Start to Feel Like an Adult?

The short answer: I just literally don’t feel bothered by anything anymore.

The long answer: This was a question I usually asked myself in high school and even my undergrad years. As a young person, I always felt like everyone else around me was tuned into this giant secret of the universe; everyone else was “normal,” and I was always going to feel like the girl who had no idea what she was doing and could never properly fit in. And then, through the combination of the pandemic, working in a mental hospital, living on my own, paying my own bills, and starting my professional degree, I learned a few new lessons of life. The biggest lesson? Nobody knows what they’re doing, and the day I realized that I could just happily bullshit my way through life and focus on making myself happy is the same day I realized how much I have changed and grown up.

This topic got stuck in my head yesterday while I was working. My patient was looking at my badge ID picture and remarked that I looked so different, and then asked me how long ago that picture was taken. I told him I’d been working at the hospital for a few months, and I assumed he thought I looked different because I had bangs in my old picture. He shook his head and said, “You look older and more serious now. And tired.”

Yeah, I am tired. And I think that’s a combination of a few things: pandemic brain, my emergence into feeling like an adult, and my anti anxiety medication absolutely raw-dogging me with clarity. When I was a teenager, I cared so much about everything all the goddamn time. Now, my friends constantly joke with me because I “don’t have any emotions.”

Which isn’t entirely true. I do have and feel my emotions, I just don’t really show them, dwell on them, or analyze them. For the most part, 99% of the time, I am just vibing with the world around me and not carrying too much weight on my shoulders. It’s nice on one hand to be unbothered, but on the other hand, I do occasionally feel like my brain is a block of wood. It can be hard to hold conversations, empathize with my struggling friends, thinking about long-term consequences because I’m sort of just…okay with myself and the way everything is right now. And truthfully, I do carry some guilt about feeling that way. I definitely do feel MUCH better than I did as a teen, who was constantly so worked up about everything, but oh man, is it so incredibly jarring to try to remember who you used to be and realize that you don’t know that person anymore.

This has particularly been a huge shift for me in dating. It used to be so important for me to have a partner and feeling completely worthy with someone attached to me, but now, especially after how my last relationship ended, I simply do not have the mental power, time, or dedication to take care of someone else and have that commitment hanging over me. I already get paid to quite literally keep 23 people alive and be their main support system. I have started pouring my entire allotted energy into my patients, and that is what gives me fulfillment- not what anyone else thinks about me. I have also found myself to be much more guarded with my emotions; when I am casually dating, I never talk about the things I’ve been through because I don’t resonate with that part of myself anymore. As Megan Thee Stallion once eloquently said, “When I get older, this is the type of strong woman I aspire to be. Even when you’re going through something, I feel like it’s always important to keep it together [and] keep your composure. You can never let nobody see you sweat. You can’t let people know what bothers you, because they will try to use it to continuously bother you. I’m not easily phased by anything. It’s hard to piss me off. Nine times out of ten, I don’t care what you’re talking about. I have no many other things going on in my life.”

That pretty much perfectly encapsulates my feelings about becoming an adult. I am too busy focusing my attention on the things that really matter to me and further me as a woman in my personal and professional life to worry about what other people think. I think the biggest problem in my life right now is that I am feeling more apathetic than ever, but on the other hand, it’s wonderful to be completely unbothered. I’m really curious if there are any other mid-twenty year-olds feeling a similar way. And how are you coping with feeling disconnected?

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