It dawned on me only last year that I am an adult who has to deal with adult problems — I am thirty three. I am lucky, aren’t I? To have had thirty two years of, well, not absolute unperturbed bliss, but of relatively-unrestrained freedom and of “I-can-do-whatever-I-want” attitude (within legal limits, of course).
Ok, it’s not quite thirty two years. Let’s say my adulting started at seventeen when I left my parents’ house to study at University, so that leaves us with fifteen years to account for. The first five years are probably when I thought of myself as an adult more than ever before or since. And why wouldn’t I?
For the first time in my life I was a hundred kilometers away from my parents and had a whole of five hundred Rubles per week (an equivalent of ten US dollars) to spend as I pleased. The allowance had to cover groceries and bus fair, but if anything was left at all — I could go crazy and buy a cup of coffee.
Besides, my two legs were getting me places just fine. Who needs a bus when you can walk somewhere in under fifty minutes? Skip the bus three times and you got yourself a second cup of coffee that week.
On my first trip to a grocery store, as if to prove to myself that I was truly in charge, I bought salami, a bar of chocolate, and a pre-packed Olivier salad. The glorious walk with a single plastic bag back to the dormitory, where I shared a 16 square meters (170 square feet) room with three other girls, was the highlight of my nascent adult life.
Those five years also contain my first kiss, my first job, my first trip abroad, my first (and last) cigarette, and my first (of many to come) shots of vodka, all of which make a twenty-something impressionable girl feel like the most adulting adult that ever existed.
The five years that followed brought more heartache and life-changing decisions than the half decade before it, but weirdly I felt less of an adult. Kind of like a five-year-old sees himself as a grown up, but a ten-year-old knows he’s still a kid.
I lived in Sri Lanka and fell in love. I left the island and endured a year of long-distance relationship. I spent that year in Brazil, a country that will always have a piece of my heart: the shushing sounds of Portuguese, the coffee and pão de queijo in the morning, the dancing till the wee hours of the morning… but, boy, was I lonely.
I returned to Sri Lanka and was married a year later. At seventeen, I’d consider marriage the ultimate proof and the highest point of adulthood. I often heard people abstain from wedlock because they weren’t willing to give up their freedom.
If anything, my marriage gave me more freedom than I ever had in my life. Starting with financial freedom, to the freedom of being with the person I loved without having to cross borders and go through bureaucratic hell, to the freedom of living together — something that is taken for granted in the West, but can only be achieved through the act of matrimony in Sri Lanka. The freedom to kiss in public, however, was not granted even after the papers were signed.
Thus, at twenty seven, started the next stage of my adult life which was truly the pleasant kind. My husband and I moved to USA and explored our new home together. We rented an unfurnished apartment and spent hours in furniture shops, delighted at the fact that we almost instantly agreed on a deep-purple mid-century couch. We invited friends over for dinner parties and traveled every two weeks on average.
At times, I would think back to the year when I, only twenty two, fresh out of University, worked as an intern at a large corporation. The women in my department — all in their late twenties — early thirties — once talked about the benefits of their age. You finally have enough money to feel comfortable, but the responsibilities of parenting do not dawn over you just yet. You can eat out at fancy restaurants or travel to Europe or go clubbing till sunrise.
Five years after getting fired from that job, I finally hit the sweet spot. It lasted four years. And then Kroshka was born.
It was not all at once that I felt the burden of responsibility, rather it was snowballing over the first year after giving birth. The taking care of a tiny human, the constant worrying whether I am doing it right, the sleepless nights and the days filled with satisfying someone else’s needs.
But apart from the obvious duties that motherhood brings with it, my life has filled with so many taxing chores that I never knew existed.
Cooking, that has always been a passion and joy, has turned into a daunting task to be performed three times a day, every day without a failure. Not to mention all the cleaning that ensues.
The stacks of papers one has to submit when one’s child is born in immigration could fill a ballroom at Peterhof Palace: verified translations, apostiles, verified translations of apostiles, birth certificates in German, English, Russian, and Sinhalese, a few dozen applications and a never-ending stream of letters from the German government in German.
But what makes me feel even more of an adult is my own health. I feel tired, my hair is greying, my lower back and my knee hurt. I have never been to so many doctors or gave so much blood for testing as in the past year. Vitamin D deficiency, Vitamin B12 is on the lower side of normal range, cholesterol is slightly elevated. I go to dentist as if it was my job: all four wisdom teeth out, a replaced crown, half a dozen filled cavities. Sometimes I feel like I am eighty three, not thirty three, and my body is falling apart.
My grandmother would often tell me when I was a kid, that she wished she could have such a worry-free life: all I had to do was go to school — no troubles, no stress, no overthinking. Which I realized then and even more so now is not true. Kids have a lot of worries, possibly not important to adults, but crucial for their age.
I never wanted to become a child again. I am not fond of someone telling me how many candies I can eat, then pack away and hide the rest. I don’t want anyone to tell me that I should switch off Netflix and go to sleep… wait, now that I think of it, maybe, I do. Still, I don’t want to be ten again. But sometimes I wish I could be twenty seven, when evenings were for meeting friends, not filling out forms; when I didn’t notice my parents were aging, and when my second chin was not as pronounced yet.