I always had my life planned out. I would grow up, write for a living, get married at 29, and have 4 kids. The decades after that were one vague cloud until death.

As a teen, I would dream about my 20s, where all the excitement seemed to happen. I imagined living a Sex and the City lifestyle in New York. At the mall, I’d run my hands over button-down shirts and pencil skirts and imagined working in a Manhattan office. Sitting alone on the bleachers of a high school dance, I’d think about falling in love again and again and again. I’d even dream of heartbreak. After another night of driving the same loop around Main Street, I’d imagine having the money and freedom to drive until the end of the road. I’d imagine finishing my novel.

I never gave much thought to my 30s. I’d be married and popping out babies. I just knew that I would be settled, “figured out,” done.

Except nothing happened according to plan. There were choices I had to make and losses I mourned, but it ended up being so much more wonderful and terrible and vivid than I had ever imagined. I never thought that I’d be 34, single, and childless–and okay with it. I never realized that my greatest heartbreak would not be leaving a person, but leaving a place. I did drive to the end of the road, but I also woke up in other countries and made my way through foreign cities alone. I gave up my dream of a career in writing, and I did not write at all for a long time. But I got a graduate degree in a different field and realized I could love that too–in a different, more measured way.

I didn’t expect to be growing and changing so much in my 30s. I didn’t realize I would still ask myself, “What do I want from my life?” I thought I’d be saving for my children’s college fund, not paying off my own student loans. I thought I’d be buying a house by 30, not living in an apartment in Brooklyn with 5 roommates. I still call my dad when a light goes on in my car. 

I learned that no one wakes up one day feeling like they don’t need their parents anymore. That you can be 34 but also feel 25 or 12 or sometimes 60. That growing up isn’t always linear. And sometimes for people in the New York City area, adulthood can be a little weird.

So here we are: adultescence.

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