There are some skills I find myself needing that nobody ever taught me. Universal how-tos that many of us find ourselves needing, and poorly equipped to handle. These days, those skills are referred to as “adulting,” verb: the act of being an adult.
Adulting activities run the gamut — from how to get a wine stain off a sofa, to facing a spider infestation, to helping aging parents navigate the legalities and pitfalls of post-retirement and health concerns.
At 45, I’m well into the “adulting” phase of life, along with many of my friends. We commiserate over wine, somewhat shell-shocked that now we’re the ones who have to kill the spiders, meet with the teachers to discuss our kids’ challenges, tour nursing homes, and decide if we should sink more money into repairing our minivans.
We lament that we can’t drink more than a glass or two anymore without feeling terrible — another cruel twist in the aging process.
We’re experiencing a second coming-of-age, but this time isn’t filled with exciting firsts. It’s dull and tedious, it carries consequences, and nobody feels mature enough to handle it.
Adulting is a forced state, one mandated by circumstance — not a level of maturity that somehow makes us so wise that we suddenly find talking to insurance companies a fun way to spend an afternoon. Our revelation: Very few people “adult” by choice.
Usually, when called upon to adult, we are able to cobble together enough skills from our experience that we can fake our way though. But, some skills must be discovered and learned.
For instance, nobody ever taught me the art of not caring. We’re raised to be such eager beavers —full of aspirations and hope, giving it our best, making our mark.
I was recently part of a project. My background, training, interests and talent made me uniquely suited to the role. I was ready to ride that puppy to the top. Produce a masterpiece. And I was excited about it.
But, as it turns out, I was not the only proverbial cook in the kitchen. There were many cooks, in fact.
Some I knew about, some who turned up out of the blue. There were surprise cooks, guest cooks, celebrity cooks and amateur. Our duties were shifted without explanation. One of us would conceive an idea, whip it up, put it in the oven, then before completed, it would be viewed as half-baked, and someone else would be tasked with the course.
My expertise was not recognized — or even acknowledged. I was crushed.
“Just quit,” my husband advised, as I tearfully complained.
I took his advice, but I extended it. I quit caring. I quit trying to make it better. I left my heart out of it, and quit stirring the pot. It was an adult thing to do.
See, I’m a big girl, now. I can find self-value and worth where I want to. I can let those young whippersnappers clamor for glory with their careers, while I quietly nurture my passions on my own time. I can “matter” where I’m needed, create art where my vision leads me, and offer wisdom where there’s an audience.
I can make money as an expert, or as a lackey, but a job’s just a job. It doesn’t define me, and I can find personal satisfaction elsewhere. I don’t have to feel it in every single project I take on.
Distance yourself emotionally and learn what you can, I thought. I needed my energy for other things. My loves. My heart. My soul.
Adulting is not all bad. My friends and I are all realizing we can feel our way through. We don’t have to care about every little thing. And when we shrug away the drama, we open the path for focusing on our passions. And deciding about the minivan repairs.
Reach Overland Park mom Emily Parnell at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@emilyJparnell.