Grownup milestones for the not-yet-grown-up

Zen garden

A friend on facebook turned 40 recently. I found myself thinking about her life: 3 great kids, a marriage, running her own business…when I realized I was only two years away from that milestone, I stopped and floundered for a bit. I mean, really, it’s amazing just how very far from her reality I am. It made me feel – I don’t know if this the right word – immature. Like I haven’t quite grown up yet.

Then, today, I spoke to a financial advisor, which is a decidedly mature thing to do. Still, paying close attention to how the conversation went, I was struck again by how, strictly speaking, I haven’t quite grown up. Here are some of the mind-rattling questions:

Do you own any real estate?

Do you have a will?

Do you have life insurance?

Do you see yourself buying a house in the future?

Do you see a spouse or kids in your future?

What does retirement look like for you? Paint a picture of it for me…how do you want to live?

The guy I spoke to couldn’t have been nicer to me, and was extremely well-schooled at not making me feel like a weirdo who doesn’t have any of the normal things that 38-year olds are supposed to have, life-wise. Yet, I could hear him adjusting his schtick more than once  – just skipping over some questions here, Jodi (you know, the ones about dependents and power of attorney and all that) – and I was struck by how the grownup world of life planning doesn’t know how to handle folks like me.

No, I don’t own real estate because I’m still looking for where my roots are supposed to be.

No, I don’t have a will, because I refuse to be the kind of person who leaves her estate to her dog.

No, I don’t have life insurance because…well, see previous bit about the dog.

Well, I might buy a house if I meet a guy who wants to live in one with me.

I want to see a spouse in my future, but in the brutally honest category, it’s possible I won’t. Kids are probably not in the cards (unless I adopt, which is more likely). And PS: How weird is it to be saying such things to a total stranger?

Retirement? Lawd, sir, how am I supposed to answer that when I haven’t done the grown up things yet? I don’t know if I’ll have a partner to take care of, or grandkids to dote on. I don’t know if I’ll have to fend for myself without Social Security, if I’ll want what I want now in 30 years. I hope I’ll still be able to live in a nice place, eat out on occasion, and travel…but that’s all a guess. If the zombie apocalypse comes, I hope that my cash is easily converted to gold (I didn’t say that last bit, but I wish I had).

Thanks to multiple finance classes and financially savvy family members, I’ve spent many years “saving for retirement,” but today I realized I’ve never really, really considered the realities of it, not in this specific way.

And it leaves me with a riot of emotions. On the one hand, it sends out nicely engraved pity-party invitations as I ponder a partnerless life and how I would care for myself in that situation (for the record, y’all can save the pity for those who really deserve it). On the other hand, it makes me grumpy, as I often am, that our society is built around couples, which by default leaves people like me feeling adrift. And on the third hand, I’m damn proud of myself, because I know that whatever happens, I will stand on my own two feet and live a great life full of richness and meaning, as I’m doing now.

Unless the zombies come, and then I’m just grabbing a rifle and heading back to my friend’s farm in Arkansas…you know…the one with the good porch/line of sight and giant vegetable garden.

This grownup thing is tough, y’all.

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