When I was very young there was me and not much else. I was aware of the noisy mystery of other children, but at a distance. Adults were further still, these abstract forces that limited my world but could not perceive or interact. I was happy and cared for, but existed so deeply within my imagination that it was more a fugue state than a developmental stage. I was ten before I saw other humans as real things worth investing in, and while I adapted quickly, the narcissism of a singular being never quite left me.
As an adolescent I began to understand that the ease and freedom that I possesed was the product of the work, worry, and obligation of the adults who cared for me. I loved them for the sacrifice, but I still couldn’t imagine who they were apart from that. The weight seemed to be the whole of them. I assumed the parts I couldn’t see had been amputated by circumstance. I mourned the life I would have lived in their stead, and it never occurred to ask if they were happy. This feeling stayed with me.
By my early twenties this unease with adulthood had metastasized into a full blown phobia. The idea of a proper life was so suffocating that I existed in defiance of it. I was independent and had a stable job, but possessed virtually none of the usual trappings of adulthood. No drivers license, passport, credit card, significant property, or relationship that I couldn’t walk away from on a whim. In pursuit of freedom I rejected personhood. I feared being too heavy and wound up weightless and adrift.
I am now in my late thirties and understand that there is no such thing as an adult. There is no epiphany, no gathering of weight or wisdom, no certificate of completion that begins the next stage The point of separation, should one reach it, is deciding what your life is about and moving in that direction, or continuing to drift. As a child I imagined that an unhappy world awaited me, and I did not understand that it was within me to create otherwise. But I had to try.