Are You an Accidental Adult?

Colin Sokolowski of on the mysteries of being a "grown up." Job, kids, mate ... how did this happen?
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Are You an Accidental Adult?

Job, kids, mate … how did this happen?

-Colin Sokolowski,

Colin Sokolowski

Some of us never planned on this happening. But it did. Sometime between grad school and our first mortgage, strangely, our youthful mojo was replaced with a newfound maturity. And we didn’t see it coming.

Our two-door coupes morphed into sliding-door minivans. Bar hopping turned into movie nights on the couch. Late-night hookups became early morning baby feedings. For women, standing around kitchen islands sipping wine at Silpada jewelry parties now constitutes a wild Saturday afternoon, while their men are simultaneously discovering it’s no longer funny to suck at golf.

Despite my best intentions to remain forever juvenile, I’ve instead grown reluctantly responsible and marginally mature. My life’s biggest shocker? I’ve become an accidental adult. And I know I’m not alone.

By definition (mine), an accidental adult is an individual whose age indicates maturity but whose approach to life suggests otherwise. What exactly makes someone an accidental adult? It’s largely a matter of resistance. For most well-adjusted people, growing up isn’t an unwelcome surprise. Many accept the inevitability of adulthood and embrace it. They resign themselves to lives of responsibility, serious endeavors and a sensible wardrobe. They check their smoke alarm batteries twice a year. They know what kind of gas mileage their cars get. Some can even name their city councilperson.

But some of us join the world of adults kicking and screaming. Men and women alike. Yes, technically we are adults. But more importantly, we are reluctant grownups who refuse to accept we’re just like every other person with credit card debt and an aching lower back. When we look in the mirror, the character we see staring back is decades younger and way cooler. Didn’t we just stay up past midnight last Saturday night?

Navigating life among the grownups requires some skills. What kind of survival strategies work best? Here’s my favorite and perhaps the most versatile technique I can offer: Embrace your inner smart-ass and fuel your inner monologue. In action, it looks like this: Whenever necessary, try to project an outwardly adult appearance. In other words, act like you care while feigning interest in adultlike topics or issues whenever the need arises. At the same time, tap your inner insincerity, reminding yourself you’re really not one of them and that’s just fine. Does this sound familiar?

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