As we were walking towards the metro station after our community group, the three of us were getting to know each other. You know the usual ordeal- What’s your name, where are you from, etc. Out of nowhere Joshua, a very outspoken and a forward guy asked Jessica ” So how old are you?” We were both a little perplexed at first, and after she answered him he asked me the same question. I told him I was twenty-four, and he laughed, like in disbelief. At first, I was really taken back, thinking in my head, ” do I look like a kid or do I act immature,” and I was on the fence of being offended, so I asked him, ” Do I not look my age?” After he stop laughing, he is like no you look really young like you’re eighteen and you have a very young personality. Initially his laugh really bothered me.
After we all parted ways, I began to wonder what exactly was it that struck a chord in me. Like why was I offended in the seconds he was laughing. Why was his comment seen in such a negative light, and not in a positive light. At the moment, when I was beginning to dig deep inside of my heart, I realized that it’s because lately I feel this intense pressure to be this “adult,” and his laughter was threatening my adulthood. For the first time in my life, I am paying my own bills, managing my own life, and working in a place where I have to set an example to others, all this in a foreign country.
In my mind, an adult should act serious, they should put their responsibilites before any type of fun, they should be proactive, and they should have goals, and they should have boring and mundane routines . These are my general perceptions of being an adult. Being here in Shanghai, I have been trying to be that type of an adult. I always pick the responsibility before fun, I always try to be as proactive as I can, I set too many goals, and I have a list of mundane routines.
Nowadays, when people talk to me, I always feel like I need to say something intelligent. For example, when I was doing training for my work, my boss was asking me questions about qualities of a good teacher. It could have been a casual conversation between two people, but no, I had to gave him textbook answers. I threw some smart words, and theories into my answers. Theories I am not even quite sure that I even understand. When I am at work, a bunch of parents will swarm around me after class is over. They will ask me all these different questions about their children, and have this expectation that I have a special learning plan geared for each one of their children. I feel like I need to find a cookie cutter answer to appease each parent, and assure them that I have a great plan for their child. It is not to say that I don’t try at all because I am intentional about how I plan my classes, but to always have to maintain this serious type of stature in front of the parents is so out of my element. When I am doing my grad work, and I read my peer’s assignments, I feel inferior at times when I have to make an intelligent response to their work so that I can contribute to the academic discussions.
In reality, I am a woman because of my age, but I am not always that adult women inside. I am a KID at heart. I am animated and I like to make baby voices when I am talking to people I am comfortable with. I am clumsy. I am that girl who can never wear white because I will stain the outfit before noontime. (By the way, my work uniform is a white polo) Sense the irony? I am the one who munches and slurps on my food. I am the one who likes to sneak a bag of candy under my pillow and the one who will wake up to a bunch of candy wrappers inside my sheets. I am the one who chews on the side of my blanket in the middle of the night without even knowing it. I am the one who still grapples with my brother, and use my chicken kicks on him, if all eles fails. I am that hyper girl when I get excited about something. I can go from a 5 to a 100 in literally in a matter of seconds. I am the one who makes inappropriate jokes in some of the worst timing situations. Like these are just some of these things that make me, me.
In some ways, in these last few months, I have been trying to suppress these child -like behaviors, in order to be the adult that I envisioned. I have been somewhat successful. I have heard from many people that I need to lighten up a little and learn to have fun. One of those suggestions comes from my mom which is quite sad.
Anyways, tonight as I was reflecting on this guys comment about my age. I realized that he didn’t do anything wrong. It was me. It was my own problem. All he did was unknowingly brought my insecurities out to the surface. See I am insecure about these new roles that I play. I have to be a teacher, I have to be a grad student, I have to be an adult that pays my own bills. I often feel like I don’t have all the skills to play all these roles and do it well. As I think back at his comment, I actually am glad he said that. It meant that for this one night, I was being myself. I was being that woman that did not have to pretend to know it all, and have it all together.
The fact that I was offended by Joshua’s laughing comment reminded me to just chill out. I could embrace this new chapter in my life and humbly accept these new roles that have been entrusted to me in this time. I don’t have to pretend to know everything in order to “act my age,”. I may be almost reaching a quarter of the century soon, but the idea of it should not dictate my life moving forwards. Like they say, “age ain’t nothing but a number.”