Hilary Hodge: Being an adult a lot harder than it looks
I recently turned 36 years old and I very rarely, if ever, feel as though I’m any good at being an adult.
There has been more than one night in the past year that I have eaten ice cream for dinner. (OK. There has been more than one night in the past month that I have eaten ice cream for dinner.)
My wife and I still can’t figure out when the new garbage day is and completely missed taking out the garbage last week.
The last time I took the car in for an oil change, the mechanic looked at the sticker in my window and said, “This can’t be right, can it?” I shrugged my shoulders and pretended like I had no idea that my car was more than 2,000 miles overdue for an oil change.
This year was the first year that I’ve ever owed money on my taxes. The bill was unexpected and beyond what I had in my savings. My wife and I had to make some adjustments and cancel a few plans in order to make it work. The process of moving money around and making corrections wasn’t fun. Unplanned bills feel awful and the panicked floundering against finances always makes me feel as though I’m failing at adulthood.
Last week, I read a blog about how to appear to others as though you have your act together and how to seem very “adult” in front of others. The article listed 15 suggestions and recommended things like making use of throw pillows, leaving a hard cover book on your bed side table, and decorating with a bowl of lemons. When I showed the article to my wife, she joked that I could have written it.
I’m really good at seeming as though I have my act together. I can keep house plants alive. I can put together a beautiful cheese plate. I have a vegetable garden that I regularly attend to. I have a seasonally themed table cloth on my kitchen table and have a supply of cloth napkins that I can hand out to guests at a moment’s notice. To someone who doesn’t know me, I probably appear very fancy and quite adult.
I wish I were the type of person who unfalteringly pays the bills on time, who regularly reads the books she checks out from the library, who regularly sees the dentist, and who never forgets a friend’s birthday. I am not that person. I’m the type of person who is four or five days behind on reading the newspaper. I owe the local video store at least $10 in previously accrued late fees. Recently, and for no explainable reason, I have started to leave the new roll of toilet paper on top of the empty roll rather than change it out.
My parents made it look easy when I was growing up. I realize now that they struggled a lot when I was a kid. Looking back, the house was always clean. I always had school supplies. I never went hungry, even if I was occasionally allowed to eat chocolate cake for breakfast. (My mother rationalized that it probably wasn’t much worse than cereal and, given the sugar content in most boxes of cereal, she wasn’t too far off.) My parents never complained about adulthood in front of me and they never let on how hard it is to be a responsible grown-up.
When it comes to managing all the things that are important for succeeding as an adult, I am failing miserably. I mostly pay my bills on time. I usually eat a healthy breakfast. I try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and usually fall asleep sometime between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. I don’t read any of the magazines I subscribe to. Almost all of my furniture is from IKEA. Last week, after work, I fell asleep in a chair because one of my cats crawled onto my lap and I didn’t want to wake him up.
When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to be an adult. It looked like so much fun. I couldn’t wait to get a job, have my own place, pay my bills, etc. It looked so easy.
Being an adult is a lot of hard work. Being an adult and doing all the things required of adulthood is near impossible. I’m glad that sometimes, on the hardest days, I can just eat ice cream for dinner.
Hilary Hodge lives in Grass Valley. Her column is published by The Union on Tuesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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