If you feel uncomfortable, it's a good thing.
Being a grownup is hard. First of all, there's that feeling that you're some sort of grownup imposter, that you have no idea what you're doing, and you're just winging it, hoping the "real" grownups don't notice that you spend your entire weekend in the same pair of pajamas, binge watching 90s sitcoms on Netflix, eating nothing but cereal... and cereal with the same bowl and spoon.
But as weird as it is, you are a grownup. And some of the weird, uncomfortable feelings you get sometimes are a sign you're doing life right. So here's a list of a few of the most important.
1. That feeling when you kind of hate yourself for things you said and did in your early 20s.
Sometimes it's as simple as listening to Nickleback. Or maybe you took a black friend to a rural craft fair and warned them they were probably going to be the only black person there. You might look back on that moment and think to yourself, "Really? Like he didn't know his own black experience, and I was some kind of expert? OMG I am the WORST."
You aren't the worst. In fact, that feeling of being humiliated by your former self? That shows that you're learning and growing, and that is literally the best thing you can ever do for the rest of your life.
If you have that feeling when you look back on sexist jokes you used to make, or how you used to call people "retarded," or that you voted for Nader in your first election, and you kind of want to hide in a closet? That's your brain being better than it used to be. So keep it up.
2. That feeling when you go somewhere new and feel completely out of place, but stick around because leaving might be awkward.
Maybe it was a book club, maybe it was a night club — whatever it was, you tried something new. Trying something new is hard. And sometimes, it mostly makes you feel uncomfortable.
But that uncomfortable feeling is a good feeling, because trying new experiences is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself. Yes, not everything is going to be your thing, but you never know until you give it a shot.
3. That feeling when somebody trusts you to do something and you feel positive you're going to fail before you've even tried — but you say yes anyway.
People don't dole out responsibilities lightly. It might seem like a task is leagues over your head, but the truth is that we're often our own worst critics and judges of our own ability. This is called "imposter syndrome," and it means you know how important something is, and you know all the ways you can screw it up. But you also know you can do it, or you'd never have agreed to try.
Trying is scary, because there's always a chance of failure, and this feeling means you are trying new things, trying better things, and somebody believes in you. So while you might not believe in yourself, go with the other grownup and do your best. And 9 times out of 10, you'll have a very comfortable, very happy feeling about your success soon.
4. That feeling when you do something you know is kind of awful and the guilt of doing it is worse than the thing itself.
Like that night you stayed up until 4 AM looking at every single picture in your ex's Instagram feed, and hated yourself for wanting to know if they got fatter or thinner, or if they're with somebody else now. Or when you made an entire tray of bean dip and hated yourself while you ate it, but you ate it anyway because you wanted to.
We're all human beings, and human beings have dumb impulses. Falling prey to your dumb impulses isn't exactly something to aspire to, but knowing that you're doing a dumb thing and then not doing that thing again? That's also learning. And that's also OK. So long as the next time your dumb impulse strikes, and you remember how icky you felt when you literally ate a pound and half of cheese. Or realized your ex has no personality outside of Crossfit.
If your guilt over doing the thing is worse than the thing itself? Good job! Your conscience is up and running, and you're making yourself a better person. Yes, even by being an idiot once in a while.
5. That feeling when you realize something you thought you had known pretty much forever was wrong.
Maybe you read up on Christopher Columbus and found yourself horrified that we treated him like a saint. Or maybe you realized that the movies only seem to have brown or foreign villains. It could have been when you watched a documentary on private prisons and realized the United States still uses slave labor.
Whatever it was, it crushed you. You felt like the world, your parents, your teachers, and that most beloved figure from your childhood — the television — had lied to you. You could have pretended it didn't happen and moved on to the next thing, but you didn't. You sat down and felt like crap, and felt weird about feeling like crap, and wondered what you could do to not feel like crap anymore.
This is literally the most important feeling you will ever have. And if you're feeling it, it means you're growing as a human being. And, weirdly enough, that feeling gets addictive. If you let yourself accept the parts of it that hurt, pretty soon you get the amazing feeling of making the world a little better by teaching others, or actually working to fix whatever sucks in the first place.
6. That feeling when you completely fail at something you thought you didn't even have to try at.
A strange thing happens when you don't try to be good at something you think you're already an expert in: you get worse at it. You might have stopped singing after high school, or stopped swimming after college, or stopped driving while you spent a few years living in the city. Whatever it was, your skill didn't actually go into suspended animation while you did something else. You got... rusty.
There are things you can do to not fail again, and you know what they are. You can get it all back, using your own experience and a little hard work. You can use your own life as your own set of examples, and that's a kind of amazing feeling.
Even if you decide it's not worth it to get better again, failure is good. Failure means you tried, and now you know where you have room to grow, and you've gained a bit of humility and wisdom. Every day of your life can be better for failure, because the more you fail, the more you're trying. And trying is key to living an amazing life.
7. That feeling when you do something your parents' age might do, and you feel completely weirded out that you would have the impulse to do something so old.
Like when you decide to make a seasonal wreath for your front door. Or start saving take-out containers in case a friend wants to take home leftovers sometime. Or start wearing short-sleeved button-down shirts on the weekend.
There's nothing wrong with growing up. Really. And just because your parents did something you always saw as inscrutable or embarrassing, that doesn't mean it's either of those things.
You're reaching a point in your life where you see the value in your parents' quirks, and you no longer judge them for it. It's uncomfortable to realize that yeah, your parents are actually just like you deep down inside, but it's a good thing, too. It helps you connect with them on a new level, as adults, and it helps you realize that you aren't the only person winging this adulthood thing. Literally everyone is. Including your mom and dad.
It's awkward, yes, but also comforting and good. Like your dad's jokes. Or maybe, now, like yours.
Life is hard, and awkward, but sometimes it's supposed to be. So if you're rocking some awkward vibes, good for you! Keep cringing, keep rocking, and keep doing life right.