So, a really great person I know requested last night that I blog more. I’m all, what are you talking about? I write this amazing blog every week for Smart Energy Solutions. Critics have called it “What blog?” and “That sounds boring.” It’s the kind of work that makes me think, “See, mom and dad? I did make it! I’m a real writer!”
But then I realized she wasn’t talking about that blog.
And THEN I thought, well, no, I haven’t blogged because I haven’t had anything to really blog about. When you’re fully immersed in Adultland, it’s all you can do sometimes to remember if you actually shampooed your hair when you get out of the shower, so setting aside time to write, and then committing to the writing, is something I’m only good at if I’m super excited about something RIGHT THEN. And while I get super excited about little things RIGHT THEN all the time, they’re not necessarily blog-worthy.
Which made me think about how generally shitty adulthood can be, and how I used to think I couldn’t wait to be a grownup so I could stay up all night and eat dessert first and hang up on my parents without getting grounded. And don’t get me wrong, I totally still do all of those things, but since I’ve been an adult for 23 years or so, it’s not as fun as it was in the beginning. Like the first time I went to the Renaissance Festival as an adult and realized I was the one who was going to have to pay for the people to get in, and buy them food, and make sure my son got the badass knight shield. When the day was through, it hit me that maybe there wasn’t enough money left for groceries for the next two weeks.
Kidding. But only barely.
And then there are the days of adulthood that absolutely knock you flat. The days where you’re like, is this it? Have I already had the best days of my life? Am I ever going to get ahead/make my mark/do something I’m really proud of?
The dark days. The days that you can warn your children about, but they won’t get it because it sounds like something your parents would make up to make you think they’re not having a party every single night after you go to sleep.
When I started to really think about it, that perception-versus-reality thing, I realized that I had always assumed I would be automatically smarter and magically put-together as an adult, because that’s the way the adults in my life seemed. We always had food, and electricity, and a house that felt like a home. Our meals were healthy and prepared from scratch by my mom. She wore slacks and button-downs, and my dad wore suits. Though I wasn’t sure when I would transform, I knew it would probably be pretty soon after my 18th birthday in 1993.
Long story short, it didn’t happen. I remember my 18th birthday, but not on purpose. I remember wearing a pair of stonewashed jeans that had been my brother’s and that I turned into cutoffs myself, with actual scissors. I remember one of my presents was a ladies’-style watch that made my whole arm look like it was trying to eat said timepiece when I put it on. And oh, God, my hair.
But I digress. What I found was that those first couple of years of “adulthood” were the most terrifying period of my life. I had no idea what to do, in general. Choosing a career seemed like the hardest thing ever, especially for someone who struggled with every. single. choice. I’m gonna gloss over all of that, because it truly sucked that much, but I remember 18 as being the year I realized I did not have all the answers.
Because that’s the bliss of childhood, right? You are so sure of things. Not all the things, but a lot of them. You know that your parents are always wrong, or authority figures in general. You’re secure in the knowledge that you pretty much know everything worth knowing.
True adulthood is achieved with the realization that you don’t know anything. One of my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics is “The more I see, the less I know, the more I like to let it go.”
And that, finally, leads me to my point, which is that I’m going to share what little I have picked up in my 23 years of adulthood. Let me preface this by saying that 1) It’s not much and 2) I still forget a lot of this a lot of the time. Because adulthood also means forgetting things a lot. I have two apps procured for the sole purpose of reminding me of stuff, as well as my “notes” app and actual notepads lest I drop my phone in the toilet again.
Adulthood also means a lot of rambling and straying off-topic.
Here we go!
- Make yourself take an extra beat to savor the things that make you happy. *This is not as easy as it sounds.* Once you start doing it, though, and make yourself KEEP doing it, you will blow your own mind with how many great things are sprinkled throughout your days. For example, this morning I was zombie-ing my way to some adult responsibility, probably work, when Buffalo Springfield’s “For what it’s worth” came on the radio and woke me up so fast that I made a little noise of pure joy. And then I made myself stay in that moment, with that feeling, until I felt like I had BECOME a little noise of pure joy. One tiny thing in a big day, sure, but several more tiny things have followed it. Bitch-slapping yourself into recognizing your own happiness can make all the difference in the world of adulting.
- Do the opposite with the things that make you sad. *This is not as bullshit-y as it sounds.* I am not saying to suppress your sadness, because that is actually the worst thing you can do. Rather, though, when you have some tiny setback, don’t turn it into a deal-breaker. Maybe you didn’t hear from someone who was supposed to contact you, maybe you ended up having to take on an extra project at work last-minute, or you got blamed for something that wasn’t your fault. When you dwell on these little things, they become the big things. Plus, nobody wants to be around you if you’re a drag.
- The five-second rule. This is a basic thing that we probably all know, but we’re gonna break it down. A friend referred me to this Ted Talk about why we should act more and think less. The message is that the more we dwell on things, the more we continue to dwell on them. Is there something you don’t want to do? Some mundane project you’re putting off? DO IT NOW. Do it right now. Every additional second you think about it decreases the likelihood you’re going to get it done anytime soon. And THAT means that moment that you finish it and feel like the champion of the world is being put off that much longer. Overthinking is horrible.
- And when you’re done applying it to stuff you’re putting off, apply it to everything. I was the most painfully shy kid. At my first piano recital, my mom likes to tell the story about the curtain opening to reveal me hiding under the piano. And now I have a job in which the main requirement is talking to people I don’t know, on purpose and often. I never would have had that job if I didn’t make myself go way outside of my comfort zone. I should mention that I didn’t really do this at all until I was 35. And now I really wish I had before that. I should also add that the same rule was responsible for me meeting my husband and moving out of my hometown after 40 years, so really I’m just grateful I figured it out at all. I’m kind of slow.
- Giving up attachment. To me, this is the most important thing, and also the most difficult one to learn. I still have to remind myself all the time, and I still forget to practice it a lot of the time. A big part of being human is wanting things. That’s totally cool. Goals are important, and a great driving force in growth. The unhealthy part comes when you attach emotional importance to things or to people. When you start to think that you HAVE to get that promotion, or you HAVE to get a text from someone you have a crush on, or you HAVE to look a certain way. By attaching that expectation, you’re setting yourself up for a big fall. Because a lot of times, there will be no promotion or text or amazing physical transformation. Do not wrap your life around any one thing, or any one person. Be open to change. Nothing is permanent.
So, that’s it. Aside from these five things, I’m basically still 13 years old. I still laugh at videos involving people falling down. I still get excited every time I see a donut or ice-cream place. And I still get super-pumped up about what I’m going to dress up as on Halloween, even though as an adult I’ve done that exactly once. I should also say that sometimes I’m the worst at taking my own advice. Or any advice. Ever. But maybe try that five-second rule. Or to simplify it down to one all-encompassing piece of advice by using the words of the late, great Warren Zevon: Enjoy every sandwich.