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Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse


March 6th, 2017

Adulting @ 09:12 am


Today, I woke up thinking about "adulting."

Last Wednesday, I had lunch with a friend of mine.  We met at Eli's East, which I had never been to before.  As usual, I had a great time chatting with this particular friend, who is someone I've recently gotten to know after last year's Gaylaxicon.  At one point during our conversation he said that even after marriage and divorce, the thing that made him feel like a real adult was caring for houseplants.

At the time, I mostly let this comment go by, unremarked, because I was far more fascinated to know that he'd been married and divorced already. (He's younger than I am by a decade... or possibly two.)

This morning, a half a week later, I woke up thinking about this idea: what are the sorts of actions, events, etc., that make people feel like an adult?  What constitutes "adulting" for most people?

I was thinking about this because I remember the first time I felt really independent, adult.  It was the first time I took my own laundry down to the basement laundry room of my college freshman dorm building. I was seventeen. It was, in point of fact, the first time I'd ever done my own laundry.  Despite a lot of other independent acts in high school, for some reason, doing this job that my mother traditionally ALWAYS did for me, felt like the true moment of independence.  There were things about it that also felt very... Big City. I had to have quarters, figure out the machines on my own (and all the sorting rules!), and some weirdo tried to convert me to Lutheranism--he was very affronted that I had not accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior.

But, then again, my generation has, I think, less issue with "adulting" as a thing.  We grew up in that mythical era when parents flung open doors to the very young and said, "Come back by dinner time," and we really did roam far from home without any supervision whatsoever.  I regularly had to solve problems like, "Holy heck, how do I get my shoe out of this muck I have wandered into in the local marshlands" without being able to use my nonexistent cellphone to call for help and being miles (often literally) from home.

And I wonder if it's some of this early practicing with independence that made the transition into "adulting" a little less... noticeable?  Or, maybe more accurately, MORE noticeable on a smaller scale.  I mean, for my friend it was the small thing that made him feel grown, too.  But, it came much later for him than for me.  MUCH.

I guess my question is, how about you? No matter how old you are, do you have a singular event where you said to yourself, "Wow, this is IT.  THIS is the moment I am independent. THIS is the transition into adulthood!"?? No shame if it's something "traditional," like, "The day I signed the lease to my first apartment" or "got married" or "got my driver's license." Similar, no judgments, if it's something really odd, like, "The day I bought my first pair of underwear" or something I can't even fathom.

I'm also curious if you find yourself in your late thirties (or forties or fifties or whatever) and you're still not feeling like "adulting" is a thing you do regularly.
 
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From:seawasp
Date:March 6th, 2017 03:50 pm (UTC)
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I'm married with four children and I don't really feel like an adult at all.
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From:lyda222
Date:March 6th, 2017 04:05 pm (UTC)
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I suspect you're in the majority of my friends. I'm Skyping with another friend about this, who, like you doesn't think she's achieved any kind of sustained "adulting" despite marriage, kids, etc. We're postulating that maybe some of this lack of feeling like adulthood has been achieved despite doing all the OFFICIAL THINGS that ought to make us feel as though we've crossed that threshold, is that adults are supposed to be people who have their houses in order. No one I know (including myself) feels that way most days.

For me, it's always been part of my family's story we tell ourselves, that Morehouses (meaning my immediate family) meander through life and never really know what we're going to be when we "grow up," if that's even a thing. (Both my parents had a lot of different careers on their way to being what they are, and encouraged me not to worry about it, so long as I was happy.)

So, I never really had the expectation of "adults know what they're doing/had a moment of clarity about who they are." So, I could find "adultness" in doing laundry, and not really feel like I need a whole lot more to make me "officially" adult.

Anyway, sorry for the long response. I'm just finding myself really fascinated by this at the moment.
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From:seawasp
Date:March 6th, 2017 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I guess that's close for me. My father and mother never seemed to have to do that "keep seven balls in the air and always afraid one will drop" that I've been doing for years. They went to work, they paid their bills, they owned their house after X years, I never got the feeling that there was much strain in KEEPING everything going.
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From:offcntr
Date:March 6th, 2017 08:51 pm (UTC)
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I was already in grad school, had moved across the country and everything, but I was back in the midwest for a late summer visit. My dad and youngest brother had driven to Minneapolis to pick me up, brother driving, and they got in an accident. I remember calling the garage where they'd towed the car, calling the insurance company, thinking, "Isn't this something dad's are supposed to do?" Dad was too shook up by the experience, and, in retrospect, may never have been in an accident before. Having to parent a parent is kind of a defining adult moment.

A more fun one happened around the same time, when my former college professor asked my advice about what clay mixer he should get for Viterbo and I realized that somehow I'd transitioned without noticing from student to colleague.
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From:lyda222
Date:March 6th, 2017 11:16 pm (UTC)
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Both of those make a lot of sense to me. I mean, having to take care of the grown-up stuff FOR the grown-up? Definitely. I mean, I have one of those moment where I remember feeling like "wait, my parents aren't immutable and infallible??" It was a scary one, and I don't even remember how old I was when my dad slipped taking the garbage to the alley and broke his arm. That was a huge moment of separation for me, you know?

I like the second story a lot, though, because it's more like my laundry story... a sense of sudden, "Whoa, cool, I'm an adult now maybe?" :-) Plus, getting treated like a colleague? AWESOME.
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From:mle292
Date:March 6th, 2017 11:11 pm (UTC)
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Diane was born when I was 20. It was, therefore, time to start acting like an adult, even though I did not believe myself to be one. After a few years of faking it, it just sort of happened.
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From:lyda222
Date:March 6th, 2017 11:19 pm (UTC)
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Fake it until you make it, eh? :-)

Kids will certainly do that, although it's funny that I know a couple of people who still say that wasn't enough for them. I think it may depend on how you define "being adult." When you have kids you kind of just ARE, since you're suddenly in that role as a parent, but I get how, for some, being a parent only exacerbates that sense of "I AM MAKING ALL OF THIS UP PLZ SEND HELP," you know?
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From:mle292
Date:March 6th, 2017 11:37 pm (UTC)
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Oh, definitely yes. If I had parenting advice to give, it would be to realize that there will be times when you must just be honest with your kids and admit to them that you don't really know what you're doing. "Sorry, I see now that I did that parent thing wrong right there. I'm just guessing, like everyone else. I will know next time."
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From:offcntr
Date:March 8th, 2017 07:01 am (UTC)
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Ursula Vernon had some interesting (and funny) thoughts on adulting at her Livejournal, Bark Like a Fish, Damnit! She got a payment from a movie option and was considering investing in some property.
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From:lyda222
Date:March 11th, 2017 01:37 pm (UTC)
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I'll have to check this out. I asked this same question over on Facebook and I got a flood of responses. Another person sent me an essay, one she'd written, about the death of her husband. It was hardcore adulting. But I had to ask the question in a lot shorter way, without much framework, and so I ended up wit a lot of fascinating, wide-raging answers. On of my friends, who is a veteran of the first Gulf War, said for him it was being evac'd in a helicopter and realizing his mom wouldn't be able to see him in the hospital.
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From:bibliofile
Date:March 11th, 2017 06:41 am (UTC)
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I first felt like an adult when I had my own car. It's probably a very American thing. It wasn't owning a car, or buying one, or having insurance, it was having one of my own, to use as need to get where I needed to go.
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From:lyda222
Date:March 11th, 2017 01:41 pm (UTC)
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Driving is definitely a moment when I feel adult. Specifically, I feel really independent when I'm driving on the highway at night through (or past) the cityscape. Oh, also, getting a view like that from a taxi window will do it too. (Although in Minneapolis/St. Paul taxi rides are pretty uncommon, though I have very strong memory of taking a taxi to somewhere when I was still in college. To a show? I don't even remember where, it's completely eclipsed by that one view out of the window.)

Day in the Life of an Idiot

The Journal of Lyda Morehouse