I Suppose I'd Call Myself an Adult

05/21/2015 06:26 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016

I cut my hand open with a box cutter the other day. I was at work, taking on a job that would have likely been better suited for two people, but there I was. I went and washed the cut off, then returned to breaking down a mammoth pile of newly unpacked boxes. It took all of about 30 seconds to realize the cut was deeper than I thought. The bleeding wasn't going to stop right away, and I probably needed some medical attention.

The whole scenario, while insanely ridiculous in the clumsy context of slicing my own hand open, felt shockingly grown up. I notified my employers, took down our policy number, and drove myself to the urgent care. I've never done anything with workers' compensation before and I almost felt a backward sense of elation that I was there, filling out the paperwork, handling this all on my own.

Later that evening, after a long a shower and a change of bandage, I realized that I was not in a position to successfully comb my own hair. I asked my mother to help me. As she tugged away, saying loving, motherly things like "I haven't even pulled yet" and "you're worse than a toddler," I managed to counter with "aren't you so relieved to have an adult child at this moment?"

So, here's the thing. All joking aside, I'd say that I spend an exceptional amount of time thinking about what it means to be an adult. At 26, I wrestle with this notion constantly, sometimes what feels like every moment of every day.

There are certainly reasons for this. First and foremost, I'd be lying if I said that my life thus far has turned out exactly the way I envisioned it. I am full of passion for what I truly love and the kind of difference I want to make in this world. For that, I count myself incredibly lucky.

Beyond that, I have been blessed with an inherent privilege that has allowed me to explore those passions to the farthest reaches. I am acutely aware of how this privilege extends in my daily life, and I am both grateful and guilty. This is something I grapple with often and I haven't worked out the nuances of these complicated feelings just yet.

At the same turn, there have certainly been struggles. While I have a great love for writing and for life, I haven't quite discovered how to translate this into full-fledged financial stability. This creates a great deal of anxiety and tension, for me and for those who love me. I've also battled chronic illness off and on, and currently suffer from an intractable headache disorder that has had far reaching effects on my quality of life.

These things add up and sometimes I feel like it's a gift just to be able to get out of bed in the morning. And, this is not meant to be diminishing in any way. Truly. What an incredible gift. But at the same time, I see the glossy social media feeds of my peers, and I think "What am I doing?" Everyone else seems to have their shit together, with a capital T, in some way or another.

Now, I know this is not true. There are plenty of people my age, all ages, who struggle with the daily ups and downs of what it means to be living. And, I shouldn't be comparing my life to the people around me anyway. I am acutely aware that we live in a society that saturates us with competitiveness, a need to be better, or at least be comparably successful to everyone we know. What that means exactly is enough material for another time. And, it's not all a negative either. After all, we have to make a living, right? But it can be, at times, incapacitating to wander down the rabbit hole that is self-comparison.

Also, my struggle with this concept of adulthood is bigger even than that. I feel like I've been branded with the scarlet letter of the "millennial" moniker. This, in of itself, is such a loaded topic of conversation. I don't think a day goes by where I don't see a headline on my newsfeed addressing some facet of my generation. And, it always feels heartily existential. "Who are the millennials?" "What do they want?" "Will they find their way?"

And, nine times out of 10, it's funny because it's true. I ask myself those questions every day. Who am I? What do I really want out of life? What will my chosen path be? I ask those questions so many times and in so many ways that I start to wonder what the questions themselves actually mean, and it all becomes very meta, very quickly.

But I'd like to think I'm not just a caricature, or perhaps more accurately, a product of my generation. At the same time, I think I've been raised to believe that I am unique, special somehow. And don't get me wrong, this is a thought process that can be empowering and good. But sometimes I forget that I'm not struggling alone, in my own private millennial bubble. It turns out that growing up is never easy.

In my 20-something naiveté (trust me when I say I know it's there), I constantly approach the notion of adulthood as a destination, some kind of end point. You don't just arrive at adulthood. It's not some pot of gold at the end of a proverbial brick lane. It's the rest of our lives. And I don't know a single person, no matter their age, who would claim that they have mastered what it means to be an adult. I find something very comforting in that.

So at the end of the day, fear not, travelers. We are on this journey together, constantly making and remaking ourselves over and over again.