Two months ago, I purchased a Dyson vacuum for my daughter for her 25th birthday. She was thrilled and posted about what great parents we were on Facebook, writing: “It’s a sign of adulting when you’re this excited about receiving an appliance as a birthday gift.” 

This made me think about when I began adulting.

I was 22 years old when I packed one oversized suitcase and a canvas briefcase, and moved across the country. After six years as a student—four in college and two in graduate school—I was completely burnt out from taking tests and writing papers. I wanted to do something with my life besides sit in the library. I wanted to be an adult.

On the advice of a trusted professor, I decided to take a job as a rabbinic intern, working at Stanford Hillel with a rabbi who, after a month of training me, left for a sabbatical year. This was a real-life test: Would serving in a rabbinic role remind me why I wanted to be a rabbi? I focused on my career path for a solid year to see where it would lead me. 

Unexpectedly, it led me back to rabbinical school with a renewed sense of purpose. 

Perhaps even more unexpected—because I was adamant about foregoing romantic relationships during that year—was that I returned to rabbinical school engaged to be married. 

Now, 30 years later, I find myself humming a tune from Avenue Q, as I celebrate my younger daughter’s 22nd birthday with her and watch my youngest complete his college applications. It’s not that I have regrets, or wish I’d taken a different path. I’m nostalgic for my youth, when so many adventures were still in my future, despite my believing these midlife years hold delightful surprises in store as my three children emerge as adults. 

When I began adulting, I wasn’t certain I wanted to have children. I didn’t think balancing professional life and parenthood was practical, and I didn’t know if I would find being a mother as fulfilling as serving the Jewish community was for me. Now I can’t imagine not experiencing the joy of buying my eldest a decent vacuum, the delight of dog-sitting for my granddog while my middle one visits her best friend during a college break, the hilarity of listening to my teenage son explain “Okay, Boomer” or some slang reference he doesn’t want me to look up in the Urban Dictionary.

As our family sits down to Thanksgiving dinner and shares what we are grateful for this year, I’ll express my gratitude at learning a word that perfectly captures what we’re all doing. And I’ll rejoice in the many blessings of adulting. 

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