"When did we get old? When did we go from doing stuff to yelling at
people for doing stuff?" ~Dan Connor
"For me, it was when I discussed the corns on my feet with a total stranger." ~Roseanne
I've always had a hard time considering myself an adult. I find myself frequently saying things like "Why are there adults at this party?" or "You need to find an adult for that." I guess what I really mean is "find an Old Person." I just had my 46th birthday last week. By even the loosest standards, I'm an adult.
Though, even at my "advanced age," this is a recent phenomenon. In 2012, we bought a house. When The Wife and I were signing approximately 256 pieces of paper that committed us to paying back large sums of money over the next 30 years, suddenly the Bullet Train of Adulthood hit me like a ton of bricks. I have a mortgage now. Holy shit, I'm an adult!
Since that time, I've found myself noticing the "adult moments" in my life.
You know you're an adult when you no longer look forward to the mail arriving at your house. It's just gonna be bills, property tax notices, catalogues containing a bunch of shit you can't afford anyway, and flyers for landscaping services that the Mexican yardmen leave because your yard looks like a crazy person lives there.
You know you're an adult when you're watching a movie that involves teenagers and adults, and you find yourself siding with the adults in any conflict that arises. We recently watched all of Friday Night Lights, and any time an adult and a teenager were screaming at each other, I found myself thinking "Well of course Mrs. Taylor is right! Lila totally shouldn't do those drugs and smoke those cigarettes!" It's a far cry from the first time I saw Breakfast Club in the theater and thought all adults were buffoons.
You know you're an adult when someone suggests meeting for dinner or drinks at 9:00 p.m., and your first thought is "AT NIGHT?! Oh hell no, I'll be in bed by then." Suddenly, the concept of having a packed social calendar sounds daunting and exhausting. But you chide yourself that you're not 80, so if you're too tired to go out now, what will it be like 20 years from now? You'd better get your ass out there while you still can. So you make plans weeks out, then the night arrives and you find yourself making up excuses for why you can't possibly because you'd rather just be in bed watching TV on your laptop.
You know you're an adult when the music that sustained you through your childhood and teen years---the Bowies, the Springsteens, the Madonnas---are now branded as "classic rock" on the radio. "No, no, no," you say, "classic rock is Zeppelin, it's Floyd, it's Moody Blues for fuck's sake. It is NOT Kajagoogoo and Naked Eyes!" You harrumph indignantly.
You know you're just plain old when your wife gets you something called the TheraCane™ for Christmas.
You know you're an adult when you no longer buy the party drugs. And in the rare event that you do, it's so you can have the energy you require to clean your house.
You know you're an adult when you clean your house one day and all your muscles ache the following day.
You know you're an adult when you're cleaning your house in the first place.
You know you're an adult when you find yourself uttering the words "Yeah, but we really needed the rain" out loud when people are talking about the weather. You know you're an adult because you and the people around you are talking about the weather.
You know you're an adult when you start doubting people's motives when they are, in fact, being sincere. It's because two extra decades of life has made you cynical and jaded and left you with the oppressive notion that the world and its denizens are cruel beyond measure. Possibly you wonder if there are any genuine and empathetic people left.
Speaking of empathy, you know you're an adult when you start having it. You stop walking through the world with swagger and absolute confidence in your world views. You gain the ability---whether you use it or not (and many people surely choose not to)---to see the world through others' eyes.
You know you're getting older when you see those inspirational phrases in your Facebook feed and don't automatically roll your eyes at every single one of them. Possibly you recognize that this means you're getting a little soft in your later years and you're wishing your didn't see the world with such cynical eyes. You know you're a true adult when you really want to believe that people are good and there is kindness in this universe instead of wearing those flippant, sarcastic glasses that make every knee-jerk reaction a caustic, crass one.
You know you're an adult when you finally buy a house and spend time and money acquiring things with which to fill it, then one day you look around and say "Why did I buy all this crap? I don't need any of this."
You know you're an adult when you suddenly start paying attention to politics and getting very angry at the hypocrisy in the system. You also know you're an adult when you can stop and see the hypocrisies you're carrying around within yourself and own up to them.
You know you're an adult when you're paying a mental-health professional to help you manage the vast catalogue of fuck-ups from your past, and you start genuinely working at not letting that past dominate your future.
As a woman, you know you're getting older when you have to start closely monitoring your chin for those inexplicable thick, black hairs that suddenly burst forth---seemingly growing inches overnight---from your chin. Perhaps you even start keeping tweezers in your car's console since you understand that sunlight is the best light for finding those fuckers.
You know you're getting older when you go to the convenience store sporting your pajama bottoms, house slippers, and disheveled hair because you realize that there are more important tragedies in this world than letting total strangers see you without makeup.
You know you're getting older when you're able to start removing the things that aren’t working in your life---friends, jobs, perhaps even spouses---because life is short and only getting shorter, so why put up with that bullshit? In fact, you find there is precious little you'll put up with as an adult. Often people will notice your lack of patience and comment on it. But it matters not because, like your grandma and mother---both of whom you used to mock for being so rigid and set in their ways---you have now found that mostly you give zero fucks about what people think.
You know you're an adult when you're arguably living in what is one of the most desirable areas in the country, but all the nightlife, the glitz, the glamour, the activity, the restaurants that it offers aren't enough to distract you from the grit, the grime, the smells, the shitty parking, the growing number of homeless, the high costs, the piling of people upon people into the small, limited space that is San Francisco, the third time your car window gets smashed. Perhaps you start having fantasies about learning to garden and moving somewhere with a huge backyard and a third bedroom.
You know you're an adult when it finally sinks in, several years after your wedding, that marriage is not, in fact, all smiles and blow jobs. Rather, it's bickering and outright fighting over what is often stupid shit like who took out the trash last. But most importantly, you finally get that this is what marriage is. It's compromise on the largest of scales. It's not being able to tailor your own life exactly as you'd have it because you took a vow with this person you love above all others, and those vows mean that their dreams---like it or not---are your dreams now. You are inextricably intertwined, and if you truly love this person and want them to be happy, sometimes that means you are just not going to get your way. Being an adult is learning which sacrifices to make and which come at too great of a cost.
Being an adult means not being as willing to take public transportation because you did your time on MUNI in your twenties and thirties and you'll be good-goddamned if you're gonna spend one more minute sitting next to someone who has passed out and pissed themselves. The last time that happened to you, you watched with horror as a huge river of urine ran out from under your seatmate and was flowing freely down the aisle of the bus, every passenger warily watching the yellow stream as it pulsed back and forth each time the bus labored up or down San Francisco's famous hills.
Being an adult means having a financial advisor and dishes that match.
Being an adult means finally coming to the conclusion that the party that was your twenties (and even your thirties, if you're lucky) is over. From here on out, your body will begin to fail you, in small ways at first, then something more insidious. It's realizing that the odds of you writing that novel or climbing Everest are getting smaller every year, and then it's finding a way to deal with that---either by gaining the self-discipline to achieve the impossible goal or making peace with the fact that you never did.
Being an adult means all of those vices you meant to give up in your twenties but somehow never got around to are things you'll be forced to abandon soon enough based on the Advice of Your Doctor.
Being an adult means realizing that just because you've done all the things you're "supposed" to do---going to college, getting a good job, working your way up the ladder, buying the house, having the children---you are still unfulfilled because you haven't done much to nurture your inner child during all those years, or you haven't done anything that truly soothes your soul during those decades. You were too busy just living. It's wanting to explore that aspect of life now---the soul-feeding stuff---and wanting to leave a legacy of kindness, empathy, good citizenship, compassion, and giving instead of being remembered as the first guy on your block to own a Tesla.
Being an adult means making a choice between being the type of person who flies into a rage at the smallest slights or being a person who can realize which battles are worth fighting and which are not. It means letting shit slide when you really want to point out the stupidity all around you.
Being an adult means realizing that the things that sustained you up until now might not be the things you need anymore, the things that are good for you anymore. It means understanding that when you're reaching for that drink, game controller, smartphone, cigarettes, weed, or cake, you're really just reaching for distractions because you're trying not to think about something---something you probably should be thinking about instead of burying those nagging thoughts under booze or drugs or the internet or Netflix.
But mostly, being an adult means finally realizing that the universe isn’t out to get you when tragedy befalls you. It means realizing the tragedies aren't some blip in life---they are life. Life is not punishing you; it's simply moving blithely along. It's learning not to take these crises as a personal affront. It's finally letting it sink in that you are not special and life doesn't owe you shit. It's realizing that life isn't the shit that happens to you; life is how you handle that shit. It's taking those hard times of struggle and grit and learning from them. It's being willing to sit with yourself through the hard times and the good and hopefully taking something beneficial away from those times of introspection.
But that's just, like, my opinion, Man. Your mileage may vary.