When I picture an “adult” I always picture my parents, or perhaps one of their friends. This has been true since I was a child. It’s another truth that I haven’t yet reached the age my parents were when they had me (strange to think about). So maybe when I am 35 years old I will finally feel like a true “adult.”
Until then, I'm forced to accept that I am still learning what it really means to be an adult. And, there are things from my “non-adult” days that I hold onto.
A few examples: I just bought my very own car (adult); if given the choice, I will most likely pick an animated Disney movie to watch (non-adult); I wake up at 6:15am everyday and have a weekly routine I follow which includes work, errands, exercise, social time, and self-care (adult); my weekends generally consist of activities that involve drinking more than the doctor-recommended amount of alcohol (non-adult).
It would seem that I am somewhere in-between. I am an adult by definition, but I am a new-adult. Sometimes I just think of myself as a person who “adults” from time to time.
There are so many wonderful things about aging. I don’t want to set the clock back to my younger years. I've enjoyed much of what my more “adult” years have taught me. But, this whole "adulting" thing also comes with its fair share of surprises.
Here are the things I find hard about adulting:
That you must grocery shop, yes, but mostly that you have to do it every single week. That grocery shopping is a never-ending cycle. That you must continue to write down your shopping list, and brave the grocery store parking garage, and resist the temptation of Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joes, and then bring it home and unpack it all, just to do it again the next week.
Speaking of never ending cycles, how about laundry? Or, unloading the dishwasher? Brushing your teeth, anyone? Or, perhaps the most mind-boggling one of them all – going into the office. There is no ‘break’ from unloading the dishwasher. It fills, and then you must empty it. Damn.
Taxes, investments, and other money-related strategies that I am apparently supposed to know about, but don’t, make me irrationally angry. I’m confused why they spent so much time in school teaching me about Fibonacci’s Spiral and so little time explaining the stock market to me. Yes, I didn’t choose to study finance in college, but shouldn’t the basics of taxes and investment portfolios be laid out in, like, high school? It baffles me how much time I spend on Google looking up things like: “What’s a Roth IRA” and “What’s a reasonable deductible on an insurance plan?” In all those years of school, they didn’t think to teach us this stuff. So, when you get into the ‘real world’ you’re just left to figure it out, or make mistakes trying. TGFG (Thank God for Google).
I would like to feel more casually about this one, but I am straight-up pissed off that no one told me what exactly would start happening to my body as I aged, and on what timeline. Weight-gain and wrinkles, yes we know that. But what about nipple-hair, huh? Or, why did so many people tell us about how easy it is to get pregnant, and how careful we should be, but no one told us about miscarriages, and infertility? There are so many secrets about the human body that we are just left to “uncover” ourselves, and when it’s already happened to you, and you ask someone, inevitably you get an “oh yes, that happened to me too!” and yet there is no preparation. Come on, people.
I sometimes find it unfathomable that from the ages of 0 - 21, I mostly assumed that the world runs a certain way and all I’d have to do was follow along its course. I wasn’t really prepared for all the tedious conundrums and the spirit-crushing sadness that sometimes arrives as an adult. I wasn’t really ready for the existential crises and questions about my life’s meaning and purpose. I didn’t realize that as you got older, and learned more about the world, it all starts to seem a bit more tragic, and a bit less magical. It isn’t that the magic doesn’t appear, it’s just that along the way there is also so much heartache and hardship.
I didn’t realize how frustrating it could be. Or, how boring it is at times. I know that you experience all these things as a child, but the assumption is that you grow out of all of that. Instead, you now just have all of those frustrations to deal with, plus more.
I guess I wasn’t prepared for just how fully my heart would break in this life. I didn’t realize just how cruel this world could be, how cruel we could be to one another. I didn't realize how much suffering exists.
Depending on the day, it all starts to add up. It feels so heavy. And you can’t help but wonder, is this just me? Or is the whole world suffering behind their smiles and cups of coffee?
The other day, I was driving down the city streets. Traffic was dense. The city was frigid cold that day. And, I was in my brand-new car, so I was feeling pretty okay about being stuck in the city’s gridlocks. As I sat at a traffic light, I glanced over at a curb where a man asking for money. He was ragged and had an old grey blanket wrapped around him to create some slight protection against the cold winter air.
I knew I didn’t have any cash on me, but I pulled out the coin jar I keep in my car, filled mostly with pennies, nickels and dimes. I felt terrible as I reached into the jar, knowing I’d give him maybe only 70 cents. I wasn’t even sure I should give him that, I wondered if it would be offensive. I rolled down my window and tried to smile as I dropped the coins in his jar.
“I only have change.” I said, genuinely apologetic.
He looked at me, smiled a warm smile, and then said in a gravelly voice, “Even that is a blessing.”
There are times when the monotony of “adulting” brings me down. The cycles, the repetition, the silly dramas that seem so important at the time but are ultimately meaningless. There are times when I feel the weight of the world heavily. When I look around at all these “truths” I’ve been faced with as an adult, and I don’t know if my heart can take it. But, those experiences are part of it. They are all important in their own way; lessons in their own right.
The pennies and dimes of life. The things we cast aside as a nuisance. Both the small change and the big challenges we sift through – it’s all a blessing. It just depends on how you look at what life has laid in front of you.
I rolled up my window that day, watching the man walk back to his spot on the curb and I felt warmth, mixed with a tinge of sadness spread through my entire body.
One woman's small change, another man's blessing.