I think I’ve grown up.

That’s such a terrifying, anxiety-inducing sentence for me to put to paper. It feels like an existential threat.

I’m having a hard time right now. I don’t know why. Well, I know why. But I don’t know why this particular moment is hard.

When I was offered my first full-time job, I remember where I was. I remember what I was doing. I remember rushing home and calling a friend to tell him the news. Shaking. Panicking. I was going to have a real adult job and I just needed to hear the voice of somebody I loved. I needed the affirmation that some part of my life still held. That this wasn’t the end of everything I knew.

I’ve always been a child.

Childhood is a weird thing. It is the antithesis of empathy. It is existing in your own unique, all-encompassing world. Empathy is recognising other people’s worlds and respecting them. But to do that, you have to venture outside your own little comfort zone.

It’s dangerous to go alone.

I’ve been working hard on being more empathetic. I’m privileged. It is only fair that I use my privilege to try and make life better for the less privileged.

I still am really bad at it. But I’m less bad.

I’ve lost that myopia. I’m no longer Peter Pan, forgetting about my companions every so often or when something shiny distracts me. I’m no longer Dorian Gray, staring at myself all day.

Well, I’ve lost a little. As this proves, I’ve still got plenty of it.

But children are also the ones that ask why, if I’m a boy, I have a boyfriend. and I say “because I love him.” and they say “Oh.” and that’s that.

So sometimes children have more empathy than adults.

Or maybe they care so little for the world outside themselves, they’re less invested in what it looks like. The world is simpler, because they aren’t looking closely.

Either way, I almost kind of prefer it.

But children also get more wonder out of the world. They want to share everything with you, beaming. Proud.

I remember, distinctly, the feeling of being so excited about what I had made that I couldn’t wait to share it. It’s like being a balloon that’s about to pop. You have to drag the nearest person over and say “Look! See what I’ve made?” and they don’t care and you don’t care that they don’t care because you’re infected with the pride and joy of doing a thing and now someone else knows, so it’s real.

I can’t tell you the last time I felt that.

And it hurts to admit that because I’m paid to do what I love.

And I’ve lost the art of it.

I center it around the users because that’s important to me. But we’ve made it so hard and everything’s so much work and I’m not sure I’m good enough. But all our effort at making things easier goes towards solutions that come at too high a cost because control and power are what corporations deal in now and this is the golden age.

So I don’t take the easy way because how I do the thing is now as important as the thing being done which means that euphoria hit is not proportionate to my effort and comes after a long delay.

But only children need immediate gratification.

And I’m not a child.

And that’s overwhelming.

I’m shutting down.

My boyfriend gently reminded me today that he’s not my errand boy. Because I keep asking him to go do things for me. Pick something up. Drop something off. Despite the fact that he works on his feet all day and I sit around and push buttons and sleep too much.

I can’t find the words to tell him that walking out the front door puts me in contact with a world too big for me. With a world I can’t engage with on my own terms. With a world that is just… too overwhelming right now.

Well, I guess those are the words. Surprise, Ethan. I love you.

Still not his problem. Still not okay.

As much as I hate to admit it, and as much as I hate to even think it, I have the recurring, distressing thought that I grew up when he followed me to Brooklyn. That’s a big burden to place on him, and that’s unfair. But even if it is the case, it was worth it. I’d do the same thing again tomorrow. I hope to do the same thing again soon. And maybe it will push this existential crisis further. Maybe it won’t. I don’t really care either way.

But children do not have someone and their puppy relying on them. Not in a condescending, heteronormative, gender-roles-reinforcing financial sense. But he is very much my partner. In everything. And you take care of your partner.

But children don’t take care of anyone. They’re taken care of.

I’m still not ready to grow up.

But ready or not, here it comes.