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Thoughts on adulthood - The Lyorn's Den

Thu Jul. 1st, 2010

03:51 pm - Thoughts on adulthood

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This is making the rounds on my friends lists, and several people have shared their thoughts on it.

My first thought is that it's scary how good decades of faking it have made me at these things. I used to say, "I can't help growing old, but I refuse to grow up", and then I look at this poll (http://thefourthvine.dreamwidth.org/125819.html) and think, damn, I failed.

My second thought is, "adulthood is overrated". What does "adulthood" mean, anyway? Usually it means approval from people whose approval I neither want nor need. And those people approve because one has accumulated the trappings of "adulthood", even if one doesn't want or doesn't needs them. (Tell me again why I have a car? When I had one for the first time, I felt like my mother when I was driving home from work. I felt old.)

I'm big on responsibility, though. I grew up feeling responsible. I had responsibilites to keep things running smoothly, to not place burdens on anyone, to lie well so that everyone would keep face, to keep my gear in order because no one else would do it, and to feed myself and not get caught (because I was supposed to be on a diet). And the latter point is central to how I would define "adulthood" if I actually had to (and writing this post it seems that I have to): The ability to know what you need, know what to do about it, act on that knowledge and not create dire consequences.

I firmly believe that no one gets a manual. We are all faking it some way or the other. We might not fake our competence most of the time, but we are faking confidence every step of the way. Talking to parents, talking to customers, talking to bosses, talking to kids, talking to salespeople, we put up a brave face and a confident voice and say, "Trust me, I know what I'm doing". We muddle through as well as we can, avoid causing panic in others by howling and crying in front of them when we feel overwhelmed (well, mostly), and deal with things as they happen.

I feel like a competent adult when I make my own decisions and act on them. I feel responsible when my decisions are sustainable (i.e. do not increase the amount of unwelcome chaos in my life) and my actions are effective. I feel immature and generally like a failure when I let other people make my decisions for me, or fail to act. (Do not remind me of the motorbike...)

There is a meta-level to that. Hyperboleandahalf makes it in the orginal text/comic: There are levels of work (=the sum of decision making and acting on it) you can cope with. And there are levels of work that you cannot. Taking on more than you can cope with is never a good idea. Never ever. It's ineffective and self-destructive. (And makes you an easy target for manipulation by crisis.) If your life does overwhelm your capability for decisions, or your decisions demand that you act in a way you cannot, then it's not you-at-the-moment, the you that cannot cope that's at fault, but the you-of-yesterday, which didn't keep all this energy-eating trash from accumulating. (Side note: If your number of spoons fluctates a lot, it's hard to create a sustainable level of work. And if you have Bad Shit Happening right now, your previous level of work will become unsustainable faster than you can say "oh, crap".)

Trash has gravity and wants to accumulate. Stuff gathers and demands to be cleaned. Regular appointments mimic ideal gases and fill every slot in your calendar. Favours done become duties, hobbies become chores. A central part of meta-responsibiliy is taking this trash out of one's life. I don't clean all the things. I order out when I don't feel like cooking. I waste time on the internet. I don't add bass lessons to my schedule. I am an adult, after all. I am allowed to.

ETA: Via cracked.com, The 10 most important things they didn't teach you in school. (Text-wise NSFW)

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