Kathleen Murphy column: Adulting when we feel like it

The passage of time displayed neatly, if not a bit dusty, along my bookshelf proves that I am growing up — have grown up.

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Kathleen Murphy
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In August, I will be turning 50. A half-century. Five decades of traveling around the sun. The next day — a mere 17 hours later — my partner will follow suit and together we will be looking ahead at a new decade. Fifty feels like a big deal.

Of course, we have to wonder how we got here. With the big 5-0 looming, our conversations turn to age often as of late. How did our kids get so old? Will we be grandparents soon? Shouldn’t we feel more stable and certain in our careers? And why do our backs always hurt?

Here’s the thing: I still think of myself as a kid. Or at most a young adult. In my head, it’s perfectly acceptable, at 49 years old, to walk into a store and swoon over a stuffed animal from the infamous Dr. Suess book “Put Me in the Zoo," written by Robert Lopshire. I couldn’t not buy that stuffed animal. Because, sometimes, I’m still that little girl that begged my mom to read me that book over and over again as I sat on her lap. I can’t count the sheer amount of items I have in my home that send me spiraling back to childhood.

Though more often than not, they sit on a shelf right next to items that keep me grounded in adulthood. Series of art projects my kids made for me as they grew sit next to photos and mementos from important people in my life who were once kids themselves, held important places in my adult life, and are no longer with us.

The passage of time displayed neatly, if not a bit dusty, along my bookshelf proves that I am growing up — have grown up. So even though I still visualize myself as a youngster, I am becoming more comfortable with the idea that I might just know some adult things.


I often hear people of my age group state that they still, after all of these decades on Earth, often look around for “adultier” adults than themselves. They don’t always feel like they have the adulting gig down yet. It’s all tongue-in-cheek, of course. We all have days we don’t feel we know what we’re doing, but I’d suspect most of us also have plenty of days where we’re on top of things.

I read once that it helps if you imagine the autocorrect function in your phone as a little elf that desperately wants to help and please you, but is in fact quite drunk and therefore can do neither.

For instance, I just recently purchased my ninth house. Ninth house? How am I old enough that I’ve owned nine houses? That fact alone rocks me a bit, but when I look back on this particular home-purchasing project, I realized something: It wasn’t a big deal.

I saw a little three-bedroom house I liked, knew I needed to downsize from my large-family sized home, and put in an offer. There was work involved, for sure, but I’ve purchased eight other homes prior. I knew what I was doing, knew what to ask for and knew how to handle the process. That feels like an adult skill.

On the other hand, the new house is a foreclosure that had a few *ahem* issues that made it not quite so habitable, shall we say. Roofers had to be called. Plumbers. Drywallers. And maybe several other contractor-type people I hadn’t known existed. I needed help. A lot of help. People who knew things I didn’t know and knew who to call to get those things done. Thank the heavens for my dad, whose two primary jobs in my life will always be to love me and to be adultier than me when I need help.

I guess it’s okay to always be on the edge, to wonder what being an adult feels like when in reality you’re right in the thick of it. To wonder if you’re doing it right. I’m not sure if it’s the big birthday coming up or if I’ve just matured enough at this point, but I suddenly feel more comfortable with the fact that I am, indeed, a grown up. My kids are grown-ups, for heaven's sake.

So when the big birthday draws near, my partner and I will throw a party. The big 5-0. We’re adults now. We can organize a party. And we can make it as childish and as fun as we want, then go back to adulting the next day.

And maybe — just maybe — that is the true secret of successfully adulting.

Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth. You can reach her at .


Kathleen Murphy is a freelance writer who lives and works in Duluth.
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