Adulting is Hard.
By Peggie Arvidson
Adulting is Hard.
It’s a popular meme theme these days – “Adulting is hard.” Some variation of that shows up in my social feeds every week. And I laugh – usually wryly.
Because I’m not in the business of one-upping pain and suffering (trust me, there is more than enough for us all) I have no desire to dispel the Millennial’s truth that separating colors while doing laundry is a pain the neck. It is, after all, so annoying that I admit that I rarely separate colors from whites. (Yes, that explains why my entire wardrobe is a lovely shade of eggshell blue.)
The older I get the more compassion I have for my ancestors (and yours). Being an adult is a unique opportunity in a human lifespan. Certainly, in nature there are adult animals, adult trees and adults abound among the living, yet human adults find themselves in a position that comes as a surprise to each of us. (If you haven’t been surprised by the occurrence of adulthood, I’d love to know.)
Obviously, I am not surprised by the FACT of being an adult. I knew it was coming all along. In fact, I might say that I’ve been hurtling toward it from an early age. I couldn’t wait to “grow up.” Here are some of my favorite moments that I couldn’t wait to achieve – simply by merit of aging: getting my ears pierced; getting contact lenses instead of glasses; a driver’s license; college; my own apartment; holidays at my house; marriage! That’s a short list, but you see the point. From 3rd grade on, I’ve been willing time to race so I could arrive at the next “thing,” and by merit of that achievement be grown.
Of course, age is just a number. I admit to being befuddled sometimes when I realize how far down I have to scroll to find my birth year when filling out a membership form. That kind of realization of my age doesn’t bring me down, it surprises me.
Humility comes along with adulting. In fact I believe you earn your adult stripes when you cultivate the grace to show up in humility when all the stuff is hitting the fan.
There are plenty of times in the last 10 years when I’ve punched walls, stomped my feet, shouted at innocent bystanders and even my sweet dog, all because I had neither grace nor humility when faced with the depth of adult responsibilities. I suspect we all resort to the methods that got us through confusing times as children when life throws curveballs in our direction. The difference, of course, is that there is no one to absorb the blows, kiss the boo-boos, or smooth our hair, telling us it will all be well.
We must be our own comforter. And we must be in community. This is the kind of conundrum that adulting brings. Until I know what kind of comfort I need and respond positively to, I cannot ever ask for what I need. When I don’t ask for what I need, I am hurt and resentful when others don’t support me. When others don’t support me in the way that I need (although I haven’t asked them) I become defiant and insist that I’m fine and can handle everything myself. And…I’m still resentful.
Adulting in its best possible sense comes when I have the wisdom to recognize what is needed and then ask for it from those who are capable of responding. Asking for help and support from someone in the midst of their own crisis or who simply is not invested in your emotional well-being is an invitation to heartbreak.
With all that said, I believe that adulting allows us the ability to dive in and embrace all of life – including, especially, the painful parts. You might be dealing with a parent’s illness, a sibling’s addiction or a pet’s potty-training relapse, while adjusting to your daughter’s new life as a college freshman 3 hours from home. In the midst of it all you have a bad run of client appointments at work and ding the car next to you in that overcrowded Trader Joe’s parking lot.
When you walk into the store and the clerk asks “how you doing?” you reply, “Great!” Thinking that a positive attitude will keep all the good juju flowing.
We’ve bought into the idea that “staying positive” is required at all times and I’m here to tell you that adulting means accepting that sometimes things aren’t positive and putting a smiley face on a bag of trash still means you’re dealing with a bag of trash. Own it. You can’t heal what you can’t face or name.
Indeed, adulting is hard and it’s not for the faint-hearted. Still, I consider it one of the great gifts of my lifetime – being an adult and learning to accept it in all it’s messy, sometimes painful and always mysterious glory.