Monday, May 4, 2015

Becoming an Adult?

This past year has been chock full of new and significant things.  Life milestone sorts of things.  Things that your Aunt and Uncle understand and that there are Hallmark cards for.  Which, I don't mean to be dismissive.  This is something I've been thinking about constantly, and talking about with anyone who shows interest, and haven't written about.  So it seems time.  Becoming an adult.

I like talking about this because I always hear the word as tongue-in-cheek, said with a smirk.  Adults don't talk about becoming adults, or being adults, right?  It's not something you say to your boss, "I'm becoming an adult."  I like how just using the phrase recognizes the reality of it all and simultaneously holds it at arm's length.

I think the first adult thing we did was buy a new mattress.  It was a whole process.  Figuring out what the words are that you need to know when looking for mattresses.  Learning how to buy things is a lot of work.  Everything has so many established criteria that how would you ever know?  Adults need to know these things, though.  The thread count of sheets, how to launder wool sweaters and not end up with doll clothing, how often to treat leather shoes, what gets wine stains out... and there must be so many more.  It's kind of horrifying to consider all the fussy little things I'll need to learn before I'm old enough to not give a shit anymore.

I remember studying Hinduism and Buddhism in school and the idea of Dharma.  Dharma, as I remember it, was something like righteous action appropriate to a situation.  I remember being struck by the idea that there are different Dharmas that evolve with you throughout your life.  To learn when you are young, to serve society and participate (work, have a family) when you are older, and then, when you are very old, to retreat into meditation and spiritual contemplation.  I think what was interesting was the idea that maybe there is this ultimate goal of a more monastic and transcendental life, but that it isn't appropriate to go straight to it - you have to live life first and work your way there.  Something to look forward to when you get old.

But so, becoming an adult.  Going to grad school, embarking on a career, spending a lot of time thinking about how the economy works, looking at those signs that advertise the price of houses when you're on a walk, getting married (as awesome and playful as it was), becoming more of an ISTJ and less of an INFP, getting lunch with people and talking about work, wearing clothes that don't have holes in them.  It's a new thing.

There's a part of me that gets fed up with the adult stuff and there's a part of me that is fascinated by it and really interested in the process, and then of course there's the part of me that holds it all together and functions in the real world, where people are looking at you.  Being an adult is a lot of logistics, and it can feel detached, fussy, empty, a distraction.  Health insurance, a retirement account, regular dental cleanings, credit scores, voting, changing your address when you move, renewing your driver's license.  These aren't things that make you who you are, but you have to do them, and - taken together - they take up a lot of time and thoughtspace.  I can understand not wanting to deal with that and living for free on somebody's land and not having any savings or health insurance and wanting things to be more immediate and visceral.  But what it really comes down to for me is the process of carrying your values through and evolving with them, and I think this is my angle on the whole thing.

What does it mean to be true to who you are and become an adult?  It's kind of a challenge, isn't it?  Growing up and staying alive has always seemed like something our society is especially bad at to me.  I have always thought (and still believe) that most people simply find coping mechanisms, escapes, things to make their lives work well enough to be acceptable, but far short of what The Alchemist calls your "personal destiny."  Maybe it's drinking, maybe it's getting stoned on the weekend, maybe it's watching TV series', maybe it's playing fantasy football - I don't know.  It's not the activity itself, per se, as your relationship to it.  I think there's a difference between being adequately entertained and being really, truly burning with life.  I think most people probably assume this sort of passion is something that must simply be sacrificed as we grow older and take on adult responsibilities.  It seems like that is the challenge, though.  To hold on to that feeling of expecting more from life.  That feeling you have when you stay up until 2, 3 in the morning talking to a friend for hours about life.  When you connect to someone else, reach an epiphany, feel something deep and stirring, experience a spiritual awakening, create, or do something that is deeply satisfying.

I guess what I want to say is, what I want to find, what I expect from myself as I become an "adult" (finally) is to find a way to acknowledge this challenge, to live with it, to have it be an ever-present part of me that I constantly measure myself against.  This is to accept the fullness of life, the good and the bad, the logistics and the beautiful moments, and to make it all a part of me, rather than losing who I am in it.  Is that too much of a platitude?  Well, I guess it's one of those you know it when you see it deals.  You know, like the famous porn obscenity trial in the 60's, which, yes, ok, this is a good place to end on.  Just had to bring things back down into the muck a little.  Glad to have spent some time mulling it over with you.

1 comment:

Hannah Hoose said...

As always, I love hearing your thoughtful ideas. I like that we're talking about becoming adults in our 30's, when people in other cultures were married as teenagers and have already fought in wars and are practically grandparents. In our culture, we are so obsessed with beauty and being irresponsible and lust and youth that letting go of all of that to become a boring adult seems pretty hard. It seems like now we're supposed to be obsessed with making money and living through children. Anyway, I hope you have an awesome day and thanks for writing.

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