The first time I felt like an adult was the day I got my key to my first sharehouse.
I grew up in a small town where doors weren’t locked or someone was always home, so kids never really needed a key to their own house. When I moved to Sydney and out of my parents’ house, I still didn’t feel like an adult. I felt very small and quiet and unsure – until I was given my own key.
When I slipped it onto my key ring, it was more than just a symbol of acceptance into a new family. It was more than just a symbol of my own independence, in that I could come and go as I pleased. In that moment, I realised I was now fully responsible for my life. I was an adult.
Of course, that filled me with a sense of horror and seemed to leave me standing on a large cliff with no safety rails or smiling assurances from the two people who had kept me safe for the past 18 years. The umbilical cord was severed and I had not, in any way, been prepared for it.
The way I left home wasn’t the way most of my peers did it. They went through their last year of high school mostly aware that when that year finished, they were heading off to university, or a job. I had no idea.
After six months of fruitless job-searching in that too-small, small town, I applied for a job in Sydney and was granted an interview. My parents drove me down, I went to the interview, and awhile later, was asked to come down for a job trial.
It was more like a holiday with all my friends coming together. I aced the job trial and was asked to start on Monday.
With no preparation – emotional, mental or physical – my parents packed my things into cardboard boxes and posted my life to me. A week or so later, they came down with the rest of my things, and we said goodbye to each other in a foreign driveway, in a numb sort of haze.
I was excited about my new life. It wasn’t until a couple of years later, when I envied my friends the ability to call into their parents’ house for coffee on a Tuesday, that I fully appreciated what I had lost in my abrupt and unexpected flight from the nest.
It had broken my mother’s heart. I had robbed her of the chance to guide me into the world, safely. I robbed us of the chance to say important words, words that mothers and daughters share when they know they have to let each other go.
Moving back to my home town has given me many wonderful gifts. I have beautiful friends that make my life that much richer. I have a wonderful job with fantastic people, who feel like family. Most of all, though, it’s given me my mother, and the chance to be a real, proper daughter; present in her life for the first time in almost a decade.
Getting to know my mother from the perspective of an adult has been a privelege. I already knew, as a child, that she was the kindest and most supportive person in my world. As an adult, she’s all that and more and if I could be half the wife, daughter, sister, aunt, mother and colleague that she is, then I would consider myself the world’s greatest success.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much time I spend with her, I don’t pick up any of her OCD neat-freak tendencies.
… and I still don’t feel like much of an adult.