I Think I’m Afraid to Grow Up


I was walking near Washington Square Park around 8:30 a.m. one morning last week and thinking to myself, as students in pajamas and backpacks walked towards the neighboring buildings, that I missed being in college so much. This thought caught me by surprise as it does every year, because when I was in school, I did not like it. Fall always reminds me of my first semester freshman year, when like a real asshole, my boyfriend broke up with during orientation week after I had been locked into a class about the history of tuberculosis. But we’re married now, and I got a B, so I should really get over that.

Still, I don’t recall feeling particularly happy — or maybe it’s satisfied — during the formative years of my college experience. Not as satisfied, at least, as I feel right now. But like clockwork, at the turn of this season every single year, when the air gets crisp and people start to wear jackets, this weird pang hits me right in the jugular that makes me feel like I am drifting further and further from my truest self.

That thought fucks me with me, too: I just told you I’ve never felt more self-satisfied, so how could it be that I’m not my true self? Do I not deserve satisfaction? I get to work with incredible women (and two men!) in an office in Soho and I don’t have to beg my parents for extra money and can afford to buy breakfast every single day if I want to (had to strategically eat a $4 oatmeal after my first class around 11:40 a.m. in college to hold me over for breakfast and lunch before I’d go home around 4). Also, even though I still basically have homework (writing deadlines are essentially the last day of summer vacation with an unread book plus report due every single day), it is, for the most part, homework I am eager to do.

So what gives with the nostalgia — a wistfulness I am reluctant to own and yet feel as though I have to?

You know, for as much as I whine about how urgently I would like to have a child (and I would!), I am also scared shitless of the notion that when I am babying, you know, a real baby, no one will baby me. It makes me feel like an island when I have always preferred big, connected cities because I know myself and I know that emotionally, I’m a wimp. That I probably need more tender love than the average human does and that being so acutely aware of how I feel at every second of every day probably works to my disadvantage because I cannot stand feeling anything that isn’t good.

And even though there were plenty of days that did not feel “good” when I was college age, I knew that overall, I had it good. That every night, I would return to my parents’ apartment, for which I did not pay rent, and eat food that I did not have to make or pay for because someone else (my mom x her Fairway bill) had prepared and paid for. My mom did my laundry and never lost my socks. She even made my bed if I didn’t, of which I took advantage so many times. And during the day, between classes — or even during classes that I just felt like cutting — I knew I wasn’t actually risking my future. I knew that college was important, but that who I decided I wanted to be was completely up to me, regardless of my performance in a tuberculosis class. I didn’t graduate with honors. I still haven’t picked up my diploma.* Yolo.

Growing up means coming to terms with responsibility, which is my least favorite noun, even though in many ways, I am willing to assume this accountability — for my actions, for my words, for the company we are developing. But when I think about the other stuff, the stuff that indicates I have become a “grown-ass woman,” I freeze.

I always forget to make dentist appointments and barely feel bad about it. I will let my bathrobe go unwashed for weeks at a time. There is a half-eaten avocado in my fridge that’s been there longer than I feel comfortable sharing and how many times a week, by the way, do you think I will have to do laundry when there are kids? Can I get away with just making one out of x many beds each morning? I still don’t know the difference between bake and broil on my oven and guess what? I kind of don’t care. Am I supposed to spend more time at the post office? (I feel like my mom was always at the post office.) Will I remember doctor appointments? I have excellent selective memory that even overrides the demands of my Google calendar.

All of these flaws run so spectacularly counter to the picture I have painted for my future — one with many children and white-washed floors in a New York apartment of still undetermined location. I’m still so comfortable living inside the picture my mom painted, for which I got to play best supporting actor. I can’t imagine a reality where I am not coasting through life on the crutches of adults because in my head and in my heart, regardless of how I look, I feel like I will be 22 forever.

I am so screwed, huh?

*My mom picked it up for me about 18 months ago.

Illustration by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Susan

    What does the asterisk mean after you said you didn’t pick up your diploma?!
    Did you recently get it?

    • Leandra Medine

      OH YEAH! hahaha i cant believe i forgot to fill that in
      my mom picked it up for me !!!!!

  • Danielle.

    Best of luck to you on your journey to discovering if, how, and when you’d like children. It’s so personal to each and every person and that should be part of the fun.

    Honestly, my husband and were a mess when we finally decided to have a baby at 25. Fresh out of grad school, a diet of scrambled eggs and freezer food and still washing everything we owned (darks and lights) in one machine that was as crammed full of clothes as we could get it (hey, machines cost money and we were used to being grad students!). Anything that didn’t fit we just hoped would make it into the wash the next week.

    We still rented a one bedroom (which turns out is a completely fine amount of space for a baby) and I wasn’t even sure where I wanted my own career to go.

    We didn’t have much of anything figured out, but it turns out the only thing that would have prepared us for having a baby was actually having one. Now, I’m shocked that we have 3 different bags for dirty laundry (hot, warm, and cold washes) and I actually enjoy organic fruits and homemade bread (this from the girl who heated up freezer foods incorrectly). I thought one of my favorite parts of parenting would be reading books together, but my daughter hates books at her current age and loves sports (wait, what?). And it turns out watching her antics around the parks here in Manhattan have been funnier and more fulfilling than my pregnant daydreams of quiet, bedtime reading together in a glider chair. The entire journey to parenthood has been hard because of who my husband and I are (self-absorbed millennials), but why is hard such a bad thing? That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. It’s come with the best and funniest experiences of life I’ve experienced thus far.

    If I want personal baby-ing, I def have to ask for it (from both my husband and parents), but that’s also ok. So, every once in a while I just explain that I need some baby-ing (please bring home my favorite take out dinner even though it’s unhealthy, please let me sleep in and do nothing this afternoon except watch reruns, please let me…etc) and the ppl who love me are surprisingly understanding. But, I did have to learn to speak up. And that was hard to learn, but now it’s all good.

  • A few days ago I read an article in a magazine my uni sends me from time to time: a young mother describing her troubles with other mothers because she sends her daughter to the kindergarten, a few days a week, to be able to study faster (You are not working? You send your daughter away to study? At home?) … Reading this made me very angry, even though I know there is no way for young mothers to avoid constant nagging and criticisms. None at all. Well, at least not in too many parts of the world.
    So maybe you won’t escape that depressing shit either, regardless of what you do: clean or not, work or not, learn or not … My suggestion would be to know what you want (both of you) and just do it: you can be a good mother and pay someone to do the cleaning for you, if you can afford it. And so on: this is the 21st century, after all, so everyone gets brownie points for being pragmatic instead of dogmatic.
    And what is most important: being able to keep your household presentable and feeding your family is something one can brag about, but it is not automatically a proof one is grown up. I’ve seen enough “mental babies” cleaning and putting things in order and (most of all) talking about it all the damn time to be sure this is a fact.
    Just do your own version of grown-up, it should suffice 🙂

  • Taste of France

    This is so sweet. You will always be your mother’s baby, even when you’re a grandmother, if you’re lucky to still have her around. I realized that too late–in the weeks between my father dying and then my mother dying. When she saw me or my brothers, she saw her babies, no matter that one brother is a grandfather. That said, having a kid does mean stepping it up a notch, getting shit together, not sleeping in ever again (well, not for about 8 years), chin up and carry on and all that. And it’s OK. It is all worth it, every sacrifice is a joy, for that tiny helpless human. And if it isn’t, one shouldn’t be afraid to say kids aren’t for them. That is OK, too. And people are allowed to change their minds–to have kids, not to unhave them.

  • As a New School student who is pretty much following the same steps as Leandra, I can totally relate to what you are saying. Although I am only 20 years old, I fear growing older and losing my “truest” self and it’s definitely a scary feeling.


  • Ana Tavares

    I relate so much to what you feel even though we have completely different lives. Thank you for this, Leandra! I used to think I was afraid of growing up (Peter Panic syndrome all the way) until one day my therapist said that what I really feared was not growing up and having responsibilities, but in fact getting old and dying. *pause to process* I honestly never thought I was afraid to die, but I guess I really am. As much as it was difficult to accept it, I knew she was right. We hold on to the past like this not just out of nostalgia, but because we fear we won’t do anything worthy with our lives and it will all end before we know it or before we can even grasp the concept of adulthood. Constantly anticipating the future or finding refuge in nostalgia instead of enjoying the present and simply being is still one of my biggest challenges. Thank you for making such “burden” seem lighter <3

  • thank you, thank you. sometimes I think I could truly die from nostalgia. lately, i’ve been craving sitting on the floor of my grandparent’s house, before the redid the kitchen, when the couches weren’t leather, when the TV was against the opposite wall, when my grandma was still alive, and the hardwood floors were covered by some hideous green rug. i want so badly to be back in that exact moment, eating pasta, not being allowed to watch FRIENDS . i’m not sure what it is, but the feeling has been so overwhelming lately and i do feel like i’m insulting my current life wishing so badly to spend a moment in the early 90s, but it just seems so gosh darn comforting!!!

    • Exactly! I miss their Muppet blue carpet that hasn’t been there for 15 years, and the wood fire smell at Christmas time. Change is good but also sad.

  • Caroline

    I’ve realized I seek congratulations for anything remotely “adult” I do. Whenever I eat a vegetable or wear a blazer or show the slightest sign of understanding how my insurance works I basically have to call my entire family and demand kudos. I often feel like I’m just trying to be grown-up for other people and not really for myself.

    • I so relate to this!!

  • mariah serrano

    When youre a mom, you just remember. And then sometimes you forget and go “oh fuck your 15 month appointment” to an 18 month old, and then you feel bad and take them. But those mistakes happen less and less frequently. Laundry just happens and you still eat nutella with a spoon and wonder if you will ever grow up. You will be a dope ass mom like you are a dope ass woman.

  • Giorgi Antinori

    you will be a great mom because you love, and I supposed always be babied/cared for in some fashion because you are loved.

  • Abby

    I feel SO YOUNG and like I’m eternally 18, when I am in fact 27 with a full time job, a husband, and a house.

    I think that this feeling comes from the fact that my husband is in grad school full time and doesn’t work, so money is tight in a very college-esque way but instead of the consequences of no money being no beer on a Friday night, the consequences are potentially not being able to pay my mortgage (We actually pay the mortgage just fine, but I’m dramatic and always worried). I think when he graduates and gets a job, I’ll suddenly feel very old and adult. I’m just in this weird limbo where I’m waiting for my adult life to start.

  • Jamie Leland

    I worry about my inability to take care of myself in relation to (eventually) becoming a mother too. I know everything is different for everyone, but I felt some faith that I’ll be able to get my shit together after watching this interview with Regina Spektor, who recently had her first kid. Take it for what it’s worth. 😛 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTc0N9IswN4

  • Tatiana

    I have been feeling the same, and you articulated this really well.

    I think it has to do with the tumultuous change that comes as a result of the college experience. You get to learn so much and get all the tools to become that successful human you want to be (and are!), not to mention all the people you get to meet. I think you could only get to the point of satisfaction after having finished with that stage…but then find yourself there and missing the climb. Not to worry though, I have a feeling you’ll be occupied very soon #baby. And you’re gonna rock that BTW- precisely because you’d rather play twister than make a bed.

    • Tatiana

      Also that dress is rockstar

  • Catie Marie


    you and goldie hawn have this in common

  • Ashley Monaghan

    I’m in college, freshly 21, and relate. It’s awesome to know that feeling unsatisfied and generally not happy about being in college is normal even for those that go on to build literal empires about repelling men. Even though everyone tells me to enjoy this time and soak it all up, I can’t help but feel pressured to save money and act as adult as possible. I feel like I’ve peaked, almost, and that it’s all downhill from here. What even is our “truest” self, and aren’t we always learning and changing into our newest, truest self? Identity is so confusing!

    Growing up is fucking terrifying. Thinking that I’ll perpetually have this inability to “adult” is also terrifying. My mom handled everything when I lived at home, and she still handles my important shit (doctors stuff, reminders about family members birthdays, etc) by memory and a small calendar on a wall. I don’t know how she did it and I don’t know how I ever will, even without kids.

    This piece and the comments, though, are comforting. Glad to know we’re all stumbling through this shit together.

    • Sophie

      agree, agree, agree. I think being is college, for many, is just one of those things that everyone shoves down your throat as being “the best 4 years…” blah blah blah, so you feel ungrateful when it’s not all smiles and sunshine every day. I’m grateful to be in college, but also feeling so angsty and anxious about the future. I think it’s okay, though

  • This is great. I’d miss school, too, if I had graduated.

  • b.e.g.

    I can tell you from experience that being a grown up is overrated. What is being “grown up” anyway? It happens that when you have children somehow, can’t explain it, except to guess that nature takes over, you are giving care and love, and you do remember their doctor’s appointements even if you forget your own, and all without having actually grown up. I am way past the age where I need to feel like a grown up. Put it this way, my son is probably your age. Okay, don’t know your age, he is 28. And still I am childlike. I am still fun without trying to be a 20 something. Sometimes I get chided for being irresponsible. I don’t care. If you can run a succesful company, and your staff is being paid, even if you yourself don’t sign the cheques, You are grown up enough.

  • Billee

    ok, i’m one of your “mature” readers. hate that label but not sure how to phrase that i’m probably older than your average reader. What I’ve learned for myself and watching friends is that you really aren’t a grown up until you’ve lost your parents. When the safety net of total unconditional love has passed away you’re on your own – regardless if you have a life partner or not. That is of course if you were fortunately enough to have that family love. IMHO its the defining moment of being grown up

    • Marta

      I agree with this somewhat. My dad died unexpectedly 8 years ago. My mom could not support herself and has medical issues, so it was up to me and my 2 brothers to become the “parents.” Even though I lost that safety net, I think even now I’m resisting the adult thing. I have a mortgage, but I haven’t gone to the dentist in years. Such is life.

    • Sad

      Yes. I’m still struggling with this.

  • Listen…if it makes you feel better, I have a kid and still refuse to acknowledge that I am an adult. Being responsible is sort of a side effect of spawning, but honestly no one is getting an award for staying on top of the laundry, remembering appointments, or going to the post office. We do the best we can with what we have.

    And I miss college a lot. And high school. And any other time where I didn’t have bills and mortgages and could reliably expect my parents to feed me and wash my clothes. It’s a thing.

  • I don’t miss school or my mom taking care of me but I don’t always feel like a complete adult. I clean my house and do laundry regularly, I run my errands within a short amount of time, I go to necessary appointments, and I eat healthy (people older than me have actually teased me about it). But I hate cooking – I make myself breakfast and lunch but I get too lazy to make proper dinners and snack at night, and a mortgage/kids sound like a nightmare to me.

  • hawap

    Leandra… Get an assistant to take that avocado out the fridge, run the laundry, and schedule and haul your ass to appointments.. Oh and only assistants and grandparents go to the post office now a days.

  • Flavia Lozano

    This is everything I have been trying to say but didn’t know how. Thank you.

  • bclaudy

    I just turned 40, but I am also 21. I am married, I have a job and two pre-teens. I never make their beds. I have neat piles of stuff in every room that I probably should do something about. One of my daughters has had a chipped tooth for weeks. Every day is the day I will call to get it fixed (I should do it now instead of writing this, right?). My 21 year old self feels like she is the worst mom in the world because she has not called to make that appointment yet, and that’s what moms are supposed to do. My adult self comes up with acceptable excuses for not calling. My 40 year old self and my 21 year old self have a lot in common. We’re both lazy and easily distracted. The difference is nowadays I know there are things that just won’t get done if I don’t take care of them. So yes, I try to figure stuff out, I make myself do things I really don’t feel like doing more than I used to, and I accept that there are some things I just can’t or won’t do. Most of my friends feel the same. Nobody knows what they are doing, we just try our best and find ways to cope with responsibility. You don’t know that about your parents when you are young. You think they have it together because they know how to drive a stick shift, do taxes and seem to understand how the electoral college works. Also: the nostalgia will never go away. But it will become sweeter if you let it. I think what I want to say is don’t be afraid to grow up, embrace the fact that you never really will.

  • Andy

    its that feeling of being in this limbo – studying yet not really knowing where you will go after. that unknown was so freeing, scary and exciting. after high school i knew what the next step was but who knew where i’d end up after? there was a reliance on your parents financially and domestically but you had the freedom of making the decisions that affected your future (not going to lectures, dropping out of subjects, cramming the night before an exam..) those will always be the glory days for me

  • Such a beautiful piece, Leandra! I had a major crisis on my 7th birthday and told my parents I wished I could stay 7 years old forever. And every time I look at old pictures from when I was a baby I start crying. Trying to be(have) “adult” is so scary

  • Lakirk

    It’s amazing how you can put into words my most recondite feelings. <3

  • Leandra, I think you have nothing to worry about ! The fact that you say yourself that you don’t feel bad about forgetting a dentist appointment or letting your bathrobe go unwashed for weeks at a time (!) to me shows that you ARE a grown up and you are taking things in your own hands ! And are white-washed floors in a New York apartment really YOU ?
    Plus : I finally listened (doing backwards yes) to your Oh Boy podcast and I want to say : stop comparing yourself to your parents, you are doing great, they did great too, but you are all different 🙂

    peace out xxx

  • I feel this so hard and I’m only halfway through my first semester at college… I’ve been home for the past week or so because I have a bad case of mono (right in the middle of midterm season!!) and I forgot how much I missed having my mother actually take care of me. As for actually leaving college and doing real ~adult~ things, I’m scared as hell for this day to come. 7.5 more semesters!!

  • Jessica

    This is so relatable. Thanks for sharing, Leandra.

  • jess

    Agree. I’m away from home for university but whenever I come home I set up camp in my mum’s bed, ask her to make The Pasta and basically go all Benjamin Button. I worry that I won’t be able to grow out of all that

  • Hannah Cole

    Holy shit this is so true.

    I cried the other night because I remembered I am turning 25 in a few days, have just tried to take on a new career path (so obviously won’t actually be where I want to be for another 5 years), and I’m still just doggy-paddling around life trying to figure it all out.

    My only comfort is this – we all are shit scared and lost. So at least it isn’t only me!

  • On the subject of dentist appointments, I wanna give a shoutout to my mom who made an appointment for me this past August. I’m 26 freakin’ moons old.

  • cec

    this is the saddest post when reading with Meeting Points at 2AM. man. this hurts.

  • BK

    I went through this phase earlier in the year – I desperately longed to be back at university where my biggest goals were earning $1000+ a week to save for my exchange trip to Berlin whilst remaining in that hazy middle ground between a credit and distinction average, and only dying of a hangover every second weekend instead of every weekend. Only recently did I reach the peak of this nostalgia (which was also the rock bottom of my self-esteem and the worst part of my life, ever tbh) and decide to be honest with myself and aim for something bigger. In the space of a week of finally acknowledging this and working to remedy it, I was offered a new job and a place in a masters program, and finally got the guts to start bothering the NYPL for off-season winter internships to coincide with Australia’s diametrically opposed term dates (update: they haven’t yet said no). My own experience of college nostalgia as a sort of safety blanket has helped me realise that it isn’t some cozy mental state that you can perpetually wrap yourself in as a means of coping with the frightening ‘real world’, but rather a call to arms – it challenges you to realise the perceived inadequacies of your life and to improve them; to question why your contentment is less than hazy, responsibility-free college days and why. Dream big, kids.

    (BTW I only visit the post office to pick up unwieldy parcels or to send care packages to friends homesick working overseas, so don’t feel bad about not visiting it enough. It knows it’s growing steadily more redundant. It’s okay)

  • Fran

    I am now an officially old-ass woman, and I’m not sure we ever really grow up. I know lots of people who seem grown up, but they probably think I seem grown up, too. Which I definitely am not.

    When you have a baby, you’ll just do what you need to do. Believe me, you will, whether you want to or not. You won’t be able to resist. Of course it might turn out that some things that you think have to be done don’t really have to be done. At least not every day. (Like making beds.) But if it makes you feel happier to get it done, then you will. Life is weird like that. Things change. You change, in response.

    I agree with the poster who said you might have to ask for babying when you need it, though, or arrange for some kind of signal or schedule for it with your husband/parents. It is possible for them to forget to think of it while they’re busy babying the baby. Gentle reminders are good.

    You already handle lots more responsibility than many people, having your own company. If you ‘grow up’ too much, you might lose some of the spontaneity that makes that company a success. So please don’t sweat it. This growing up stuff. It will catch up with you someday, when you aren’t looking.

  • Erica

    God I relate to this. I’m 22 and slowly burning through my first year in medschool and there are definitely moments where I want a reward for being a functional human being. (Or barely functional, realistically.) Like, I made it to class today. +2 points. I packed lunch! +10 points. I paid all my bills. +15 points. I kinda wish someone other than me was keeping track just to cheer me on.