Never Too Old to Learn

Disclaimer: It may seem frivolous at first, but I’m actually going somewhere with this.

I used to wear flip-flops all the time. Literally all the time. Even in the Midwest in winter. Even when it snowed in the Midwest in the winter. In high school, my guidance counselor got a bit bent out of shape when I wore flip-flops to awards banquets and graduation and such.


Starting out in college, I continued to wear flip-flops. A necessity for dorm showers, but I wore them to class as well. Even on the lengthy walk to class from my dorm. Even through construction zones.

But then one day, and I don’t remember what day, only that it occurred sometime in the last 5 to 7 years, I decided that I was not going to wear flip-flops anymore.

My reasoning was that I am an adult, and somehow I decided to mark my adulthood by no longer wearing flip-flops. (I also mark my adulthood by occasionally eating ice cream for breakfast and by eating candy in front of candy-less children in public places…because I can, dammit.)

The thing is, a lot of adults wear flip-flops. In fact, most adults, especially in the South in the summer, wear flip-flops or slightly sturdier flip-flop shaped sandals. And they don’t look childish, and I don’t take them any less seriously than I normally would.

But I just can’t do it. Just like I can’t wear shorts any more. Or my NOFX t-shirt.[1]

The thing is, I don’t really feel like an adult and trying to convince myself of it through my wardrobe isn’t working. When I was younger, I always assumed that at some point I would feel something in me change, not necessarily like a paradigm shift of maturity when I reached some milestone in my life, but that I would at least feel some sort of personal maturing process. But this hasn’t happened, and the older I get, the more I realize that a lot of adults actually never stop acting like children.[2] So it makes me think that perhaps this internal, self-aware maturing never really occurs to anyone.

I pay rent and bills. I cook and clean and perform basic home repairs. I vote. I can walk into any bar or casino in the country and not get turned away. But I still feel the same inside as I did when I was 17, maybe even as I did when I was 13 or 14. I can’t remember back that far. The only real difference is that I have more information in my head now. More “life experiences.” Maybe even a tiny bit more wisdom.

It’s not that I don’t like being considered an adult, and I would never go back to being a teenager, but somehow I feel inauthentic.

So I have to know, is everyone else just going through the motions of adulthood? Or am I just missing something?

Maybe I’d feel better in a pair of flip-flops.

(This personal crisis has been brought to you by my upcoming birthday…which I fully intend on ignoring.)

[1] Speaking of which, they actually have a song for this occasion: He’s got a tie dyed Rancid shirt/He wears his Birkenstocks to work/Is he a jerk? No! Just confused/Jeff don’t wear regular shoes…
[2] I mean, have you ever watched an episode of Big Brother?

4 thoughts on “Never Too Old to Learn

  1. You know what’s sick? I get a feeling of satisfaction when I pay rent, student loans, and phone bills each month. Is that what happens when you’ve actually become an adult on the inside?

    • That IS sick. Though what’s also sick is that I think I know what you mean. Since I have no money to speak of I really dread paying bills every month, but I think there is still a little undeniable twinge of satisfaction (or maybe of accomplishment?) when I hand over my rent check.

      This reminds me of when I was a teenager and put most of my income into savings. I know I always got a sense of satisfaction every time I got a bank statement that showed my earned interest. Hmm… maybe the real reason why I don’t feel like an adult is because I’ve just always been middle-aged on the inside. Frightening.

  2. I know exactly what you mean. For as long as I can remember, I have always imagined my future self as being a different person. While I’m sure I’m different in many ways from my past self, I haven’t become the adult I had imagined that I would be by this time. I guess that makes sense because (a) the future is never what we think it will be (and like you said, apparently the idea of “adult” we had in our heads is a lie – proven, for example, by the actions of politicians and other “deciders”), and (b) I’ve always been me – I’ve had to live through all the time between then and now, so most changes have been so gradual as to be imperceptible. In other words, I’m sure if we could jump from being 10 to being 30 (or even 18 to 30), we’d notice a bigger difference. Or maybe not.

    • I’m not sure why this whole concept of adulthood confuses me so much. I guess maybe it’s because in my scattered memories I can jump back and forth between 10 and 25, but at the same time, all of my memories are kind of third-person. Like, I remember that certain events in my life happened, but I don’t remember them as they happened. So I’m not even really sure of just who is living my life, I just know who is “supposed” to. And I don’t feel like I am that person.

      Man, even I think that sounded crazy.

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