How to Be an Adult

The other day, Stereo* of uncletypewriter wrote a pretty awesome article about the lessons you have to learn as an adult, why they should write a book about it. It really resonated with me, because a big part of my time is spent thinking about how I can be more of a real grown up and less of a twenty-seven year old kid pretending to be an adult.

The truth is, I’m not sure anyone knows what it means to be an adult. I sure as crap don’t, and when I ask my father, bastion of wisdom and knowledge that he is, I don’t get a real answer. He usually just brushes it off and says, “I’ll let you know when I figure it out.”

That isn’t exactly comforting, there, Dad.

I think I’ve narrowed down the number one secret of adulthood though:

Being an Adult Means Wishing That You Were a Kid Again

Like Stereo* points out, kids spend a lot of time wishing they were adults because it seems like adults have everything under their control and can do what they want. At some point we hit this magical switch inside our brains and we spend the rest of our lives wishing we were kids again, so that we can do whatever we want to do. They say the grass is always greener, I suppose.

I think the real lesson we should take from that is to be grateful for what you have now. If you think creatively enough outside the box, you can find pros and cons for any situation. I might be homeless, but there’s nothing tying me down. I might be a billionaire, but no amount of money will buy my father’s approval.

You know, things like that.

We Put Emphasis on What We Can’t Have

There are a lot of things I wish I could have or do, the very top of that list of course being my own personal TARDIS. There are some more realistic goals that I still think of as being unobtainable, like getting paid to write words for the internet so I don’t have to have a real job but can still afford health insurance, or a swank jetpack. Then there are things that seem obtainable but I won’t let myself have because it would be irresponsible, and those are the things that make us resent our situation if we’re kids or adults.

Last night I spent 20 minutes convincing myself not to buy a nerf shotgun. I had the $15, and as I stood there inside Wal-mart I wanted it more desperately than I ever wanted anything in my life, but the back of my brain just kept going, “You don’t need it, even if it does have a metal lever on it, or if it would look so sweet tricked out all steam punk like and painted bronze.”

As a kid, I’m sure there were thousands of things that I wanted like that, and the wisdom of my parents said, “You don’t need it, play with this sharp stick and matches instead.” I can remember when Power Wheels first came out, I wanted one so bad that I actually dreamed about owning one. Of course we couldn’t actually afford one, because lets face it, who can really afford to spend $400 bucks buying their kids an electric car. Besides, why would they spend any money at all when they knew I could spend hours drawing ASCII art on an old Apple II computer with no disks?

The Frustration is the Same. I get whiney, mopey, and just a bit dickish now because I won’t let myself buy a nerf shotgun (even though it was an off brand, clip fed, and did I mention it had a metal lever?), just the same way I did as a kid when I couldn’t get some shiny object (or cookie).

How Do I Get What I Want

I think the difference between being a kid and being an adult should be something a little defining that a number. We all want things, and as a kid we expect our parents to get those things for us but when we become a grown up, it becomes our job to get things for ourselves. After you spend enough time recklessly throwing your money at awesome things like Transformers and Pez, you one day realize that you either buy less transformers or you stop having a place to live. Most of us cut back on buying toys and start paying bills, which leads to the endless cycle of drudgery that we all know and loathe.

Some people have learned the tricks to it all, though, and get what they really want in life. They work jobs they love, they buy the blinkies they could ever want, and they don’t ever think about how much it sucks to pay their mortgages. I’m not talking about the super wealthy either, because those guys are generally douchey. I’m talking about normal people who have the “responsibility” thing down. I think they have some form of super powered life skill that lets them know they’ve got everything covered so they don’t feel guilty when they indulge themselves.

That’s the skill I want to learn. That is the secret hidden meaning of adulthood, and I intend to hunt it down and make it mine.

4 thoughts on “How to Be an Adult

  1. brandeewineb says:

    It’s funny…there are those people out there that seem to have it all. I spent a lot of years envying my cousins. They had a HUGE house, two great cars, always had new stuff as she was always shopping. I know that he had a good job. We, on the other hand, we always living paycheck to paycheck.

    These days, they would happily trade their enormous house, infested with scorpions, two cars that need constant work and creditors stalking them. Add to that the troubles they have had with kids, marriage & her cancer…maybe, my life ain’t so bad after all.

    You’re doing just fine. With a growing readership, friends around the world and a great sense of humor, you’re as much a grown up as the rest of us!

    1. I’m learning to embrace what makes me happy and just accept contentment back into my life. I am very fortunate for the situation I am in, and grateful for the opportunities that let me be here.

      I don’t want to confuse contentment for satisfaction, though. There are things I want in life, and I need to figure out how to get them while still fulfilling my obligations. Especially since most of those obligations are self-imposed.

  2. Stereo.* says:

    Awesome post, Matt. And I think you’re totally right. It basically boils down to wishing that you could hop on a time machine and get back to the days where responsibility was minimal and fun was the opposite. I have it in my mind that if I could go back to being 18, a new university student with a student loan (that £1,500 every three months was more money than I thought was possible for me ever spend) and with about 6 hours worth of class a week, my life would be perfect. I idealise it of course.

    I think that you’re on the right track to being a “real adult”. Part of that is figuring out what you want to do and actually making a real effort to get there, which, if this blog is anything to go by, you’re certainly doing.

    1. Thanks, I announced to my friends and family that I’m on a two-year make it or break it plan now. Still working out the kinks, but I’m not going to be working in the cube farm in two years. Of course I still have to figure out exactly what that means.

      I think, sometimes, about what I would do if I could go back to earlier in my life. I probably wouldn’t have gone to college at all, or at the least taken a year off. I definitely wouldn’t have gotten married when I did.

      Those are all things that I needed to do in order for me to learn to be who I am now, though.

      Honestly, being an adult is pretty cool, even if I do have responsibilities. I like having them. I feel accomplished and awesome when I fulfill them. I get a big smile and dance a little jig every time I make a car payment.

      I have to appreciate the little victories where I can, I suppose.

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