How to Be an Adult

“Go to college,” they’ll tell you. Live in the dorms for the real college experience. You’ll get high after class with your roommate, Lisa, from California. You like her. She’s funny and has cool clothes she lets you wear sometimes. Get good grades. On Friday nights, get drunk at the fraternity house and have your first one-night stand. Graduate with honors, make your parents proud. Get a job in advertising. Be a slave to the 9 to 5. “She’s a big Ad exec in New York City with a fancy corner office,” your father will say to anyone, any chance he gets. You’ll meet the man of your dreams. Your parents will like him. He’s smart and kind and has a good job. After two years, he’ll ask you to marry him. You’ll buy a three-bedroom house together on a cul-de-sac in the suburbs with a maple tree in the backyard that your future children will climb. You’ll plant tomatoes in your garden and get a dog. You’ll name him Charlie. You’ll have three kids and put your career aside to raise them. You’ll plan to go back to work in a few years. You’ll pay the bills on time and do your taxes. On Sunday’s you bring the kids to your parent's house for a roast dinner. “You’re getting so big!” your dad will say every Sunday as he holds your youngest daughter, Margot, up in the air. This is how to be an adult.

Or maybe you won’t.

Maybe you’ll go to college and change your major three times. Marketing, business, and ultimately, you’ll graduate with a Political Science degree and never use it. You’ll change jobs, boyfriends, apartments regularly. “She changes boyfriends as much as she changes her underwear,” your mother will joke at dinner parties. In your early 20’s you’ll live in four different cities and finally settle on Los Angeles. You like the weather there. And palm trees, you love palm trees.

One summer, you’ll go to Bali for a vacation and never come back, becoming a digital Nomad. Or a yoga Instructor. You still haven’t decided. You’ll spend your mornings meditating and practicing yoga and your afternoons working by the pool, sometimes in the pool. You’ll have a successful e-commerce business. You’ll rescue a dog named Uma and live in a bungalow in the jungle surrounded by your favorite trees. You and Uma. You’ll go on dates with Swedish surfers named Liam. You’re alone but never lonely.

You’ll go home for Thanksgiving and Uncle John will ask you if you’re a lesbian.

Everyone laughs. “What!? She never brings a guy home!” he says.

“Maybe she’s just difficult.” your dad jokes with a mouthful of turkey. “Are you? Why haven’t you met a nice guy to settle down with yet?” he prods.

“Don’t you want kids? You’re 33 now, that clock is ticking sweetheart,” Aunt Joyce chimes in.

“Remember, Julie from school? She’s pregnant with her second child,” your mother declares as she passes you the mashed potatoes.

“Have you thought about freezing your eggs?” someone else asks you.

You remember now why you don’t come home for the holidays. You finish your glass of wine and say nothing, getting up from the table.

You sneak out to the garage to smoke a joint with your cousin, Jenna. She’s two years younger than you and is married, with kids.

“Don’t listen to them. Kids are overrated. I know. I have two,” she’ll say while exhaling, letting out a giggle, or a cough. You’re not sure.

When you come into the kitchen from the garage, your mother is washing dishes. She’ll dry her hands on a towel and shake her head at you. Jenna gives you a grimace, sneaking back into the living room.

“Don’t you think it’s time you grow up and come home, Christina?”

“I am happy, mom,” you’ll say.

“You can’t be a beach bum forever, Chris.”

“I actually have a very successful business, mother. And why is my personal life always up for discussion?”

“We just don’t understand why you don’t have a family yet, honey. You’re still alone. Your father and I worry for you. We worry about your future. Don’t you think it’s time to be an adult?”

“I am an adult, mother.” Aren’t I?

The next morning on the plane you feel angry and confused. You roll your eyes at the thought of Uncle John’s remarks. Then you question your life choices. All of your childhood friends are married and have kids. You wonder if that’s what you should be doing.

But are they happy? Are you happy? You thought you were happy. Your life path looks different than the general consensus, does that make it wrong? Who makes up these rules anyway? Are your parents right? Are you missing out on something? Will you have kids? Do you want kids? Or is it what my parents want me to want? Are you going to die alone?

Your head begins to spin and you go to the airplane toilet to throw up. You’ve been feeling nauseous lately. You count the days. Your period is late.

When you arrive in Bali, you’ll ask the driver to stop at a market on the way home. You’ll buy a pregnancy test and a bottle of water and immediately ask the cashier to use the restroom. You wait the longest three minutes of your life.

Would Liam be a good father? Will you teach her Swedish? Is it a girl? Will you stay in Bali? Would you go back to the States or Sweden? Fuck. You just got high yesterday.

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.

One line. You’re not pregnant. You feel an ache deep in your chest.

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