With the wine bottles breathing, and the cheese on a platter (a platter!), I am ready to receive my friends. I feel pleased with my charade of adulthood. And that’s all I think it is: a charade. Because really, I am inviting them over to my mum’s place and she has run to the movies for a few hours so I can ‘entertain.’ It’s the first Christmas holiday since we graduated from university and I have invited friends I’ve known since high school over ‘for drinks.’

When they arrive, I take their coats and place them on the bed. That’s the first clue. A whiff of my friend Paul’s cologne and five minutes in to the gathering, I am suspicious. Are we adults?

I look around. My friends brought alcohol with them, but not plastic bottles filled with cheap, hard liquor. They’ve brought bottles of wine…for me, their host. I look to the door where five pairs of shoes are neatly lined up on the mat. Struck into a daze from these subtle signs, I make my way to the living room to offer them drinks.

As we munch away on my prepared appetizers, we talk about the usual things: rent prices, annual salaries, finding work, and the latest movies. WAIT. What? When did those become the ‘usual things’? I rack my brain wondering exactly when that shift happened. Was it when we graduated university? Was it when we stopped saying ‘summer’ in front of ‘jobs?’ When did the conversation change?

I begin to doubt everything. Are crushes still a thing? I get new crushes all the time: a new person at work, a handsome fella on the metro, my barista. Is there a new expectation to keep that to myself now? In light of this newfound adulthood, crushes seem somewhat trivial. But I know my friends and I know we will talk about crushes until we are well into our eighties, getting all hot and bothered under our knitted floral jumpers. But I’m still confused.

So, this behavior is normal now? Organizing properly successful potlucks (not just biscuits and chips); planning dinner parties weeks in advance; meeting a professional to talk about ‘next steps’ over coffee; learning to schmooze at ‘industry’ parties: it’s all expected. It’s not pretending as I had thought, is it? If being a grown up means changing your behavior and topics of conversation, then certainly you can fake it. Do grown ups even exist? When do you know how to do life?

If I am honest, I have always considered myself more of a ‘gran’ than a party girl, often preferring a night in with a good movie to a raving dance party. I always assumed that transitioning into adulthood would feel right. It’s not as though I am Charlize Theron in Young Adult, partying in my thirties and accused of being irresponsible. So, why the panic?

The anxiety comes from the fact that when my habits and my age suddenly aligned, I have never felt more immature. Having a wine night with my friends is no longer an anomaly among my peers. It is the norm. It feels like I’m trying on my mum’s shoes 24/7. Nobody questions me for wanting to be home by midnight. Instead of feeling like a gran in the crazy world of university, I feel oddly young compared to my friends. Some of them have full time jobs, I don’t. I live at home, while some of them live downtown in bachelor flats. I feel behind in the adult world I only now realize I am a part of.

Why? It’s taken a little while of feeling confused, but I’ve twigged that there’s no point in rushing into, perhaps former ideals of, adulthood. Why should fancy business people and dinner parties be my ideal of adulthood? My idol is Suzy Menkes and she’s famous for wearing a poof in her hair every day. Maybe it just feels like we’re pretending sometimes because we have to find our own type of adulthood.

We no longer live in a world where you graduate school, move out, find one career and one marriage for forty years, retire and boom that’s life. Adults today, I think, look like anything but men in suits. We are coffee shop owners, librarians, photographers, content editors, and mathematicians. Some of us adults like to gossip about crushes, some of us don’t. Some of us like wine at home, some of us like to party, some of us like tea, and some of us like to do it all. The point is, I don’t think being a grown up is reaching a point in life on a scale that only moves in one direction. Everyone is still figuring it out.

Follow Isabel on twitter: @onedarlingblog