I’m 25 years old but I’m not an adult. I don’t pay for my own health insurance or cell phone bill (when I have a phone). I work but I’m horrific at saving what I earn. I’m an idealist; substituting reality for dreams at the first unconscious opportunity. My beard is patchy, and I only shave it every two weeks. I still hold onto a belief in a benevolent world because I was born into a benevolent family, ignoring the light chuckle of the Indonesian convenience store worker as he explains his six day work week and his complete lack of money for buying even a single beer when he gets off. I carry expectations that would have made kings blush. The disparity between words and actions remains significant. I still pick my nose.
There’s plenty more, but I made my point. If there is any agreed upon notion of what it means to be an adult (aside from age) I’m pretty sure I don’t pass the test. And I think I’m finally starting to understand why.
I struggle and squirm toward the uninitiated approval, the stoic head nod that says “yep. Welcome to the club.” I focus externally, aiming for bench marks–and when I miss them all, comparisons with my peers cripple any sense of forward movement. I expand and collapse, the old one forward, two back. It’s a trudge. And it’s all because of one horrific, obvious misunderstanding: I equate Adulthood with adulthood; I believe on some level that responsibility–but one barometer for “adultness”–is synonymous with the rigid and morbidly serious world of stagnated thinking.
I’ve carried a belief, possibly a justification, that being an adult means knowing answers, acting with 100 percent certainty, always being right, never changing your mind. Because that’s how most adults act. It’s in the mythology of enculturation–children must believe that the adults know what’s going on, otherwise no obedience is possible. So when those children themselves become adults, they have to adopt the “look.” Apparently what’s in this season is a complete denunciation of life’s mystery.
I’ve been broken enough to know, at the very least, that I will never have any fucking idea what’s going on. So I remain paralyzed, certain only in my everlasting uncertainty; loathe to put on the face of the common adult while simultaneously being desperate to do exactly that. I’m torn between honesty and conformity. I’ve equated the false claim to impossible knowledge with the importance of self-reliance. I’ve been lazy.
When does a reason become an excuse? Fuck it. I shun the best parts of adulthood, the mandatory parts, because I’m terrified of the optional baggage. I can watch my money and brush my teeth and honor my commitments while simultaneously expanding my mind and playing capture the flag and even having a teddy bear. I can sleep in on Saturday, but only if I got my work done on Friday. And you know what, I can always pick my nose. I’ve got ID for that.
I think what I’m trying to say is that adulthood and Adulthood are two completely different things. The former is an adopted attitude, practiced disinterest, performed long enough to be believed. The latter is a series of rational behaviors–overt action in the physical universe–that belie an internal coherence and self-sufficiency. One is tinsel, the other is the tree trunk.
What is the solution to the snowballing inertia of childhood in a world devoid of true initiation? What are we supposed to do when our storyteller, our bardic guidance counselor, is a flat screen run by megalomaniac billionaires? Who gets to draw the line and set the values to which our growing generations will aspire? When is this magical transition supposed to take place? Surely not at the laughable high school commencements that involve wizard garments and hat throwing.
My expectations are breaking down; my visions of what the world is are being replaced with what I hope is a more accurate picture. Noticing the squeeze of a single day–the knowledge that it’s never coming back, that THIS moment is gone forever and I’m not even paying attention–is Adulthood. It’s awareness of the baseline, the business-as-usual of humanity. Modern existence doesn’t ask for Adults, it begs for and produces perpetual children, entitled consumers devoid of opinion and the possibility that there might be more to the picture. To get to the big A, these days, is quite a feat. We don’t prepare children for the Hero’s Journey–shedding societies expectations and finding authority within–because a population of even 10% Adults would tear the whole thing to pieces in a month.
Blogging can go both ways. Complaining is stuck with a. Honest expression rises like a hot air balloon to hang out with A. Verbosity…well I guess that depends on who you ask. All this for me to tell myself a classic cliche in the hopes of altering my self-destructive behavior: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Being an Adult doesn’t mean rejecting novelty out of fear. It means stepping up to the plate life has served. Nom nom nom, smells like rAmen noodles.