“Being a grownup is realizing that you have all the freedom to decide anything you want! You can stay up as late as you want, eat whatever you want, go anywhere you want! And then you have to work through exhaustion, exercise the marshmallow binges off, and pay for all the grand vacation flings. Being a grownup is finally achieving all the freedom you wanted as a child seconds prior to suffocating under the weight of responsibility and consequences for actions.”
I am fond of saying “we’re adults, we can do what we want” but the honest truth of adulthood is not the unimaginable freedom I envisioned in my childhood. It’s not really as easy as just 'have ticket, will travel' some days despite the burning desire to do so. I had this wonderful idea to visit Alan on the September long weekend but boring grownup concerns conspired against me. So, fed up with how much plane tickets cost and how impossible timing can be, I wrote the above quote in an email to him. He said, “That may be one of the best descriptions of adulthood I’ve ever encountered”.
I had a totally different view of adulthood when I was a child. I was completely convinced, like every kid, that after I went to bed all the fun happened. Whatever my parents were doing between seven and ten o’clock at night was probably unparalleled in excitement and adventure and it was so wildly unfair that I had to be in bed during it. Adults could do whatever they wanted, after all. They bought all the food so it was completely mystifying that the cupboards weren’t stocked solely with colored marshmallows and Froot Loops. Why on earth would anyone voluntarily buy broccoli? They could stay up as late as they wanted. In fact, they never had to go to bed. Why did adults even have beds? There was clearly so much I didn’t understand.
I had this belief that everyone received a grownup package at a certain age. I didn’t know what age precisely, but once you were old. Like twenty-five or something. Anyway, the package contained your house, your car, your spouse, and your kids. I assumed those things just came with adulthood, like in the game of Life. And once you had them you sort of drove around paying bills and stuff. It was vague, really, I mean who knew how bills worked? I guessed they were like Chance cards in Monopoly. Anyway, the sort of house you got was the part I was most nervous about. I didn’t want a big backyard unless it had a pool because growing up we had a big backyard full of a bunch of grass that was like the NeverEnding Story of mowing. I also wanted stairs in my house probably because I grew up in a one-level rancher so for whatever reason I was obsessed with indoor stairs. I feared I’d end up in a stair-free, pool-less apartment (sort of like now, in real life) and that I’d be married to the kid from next door. I saw it like a lottery. You didn’t have options, really, you just got what you got and your life unfolded from there. It was important to get a good package so your adult life would be amazing and full of Froot Loop dance parties after seven.
The reality as I understand it now is that my parents most likely nodded off while watching TV after I went to bed. Or just sort of muddled around and finished up paperwork and dishes before going to bed themselves. Adulthood is a baffling thing now that I’m in it. On the one hand I face unlimited possibilities. I’ve taken advantage of those possibilities, too. I went to New Zealand on vacation and then just... stayed. For six years. But finding a spouse isn’t the arbitrary assignment the game version of Life led me to believe. The choices in everything are endless and overwhelming. Kids or not? Work or play? Cook or eat out? Exercise or rest? Car? Friends? Charities? Holidays? Deciding on a career, on schooling, on what hobbies to pursue and how often, balancing healthy activity versus necessary work.... adulthood isn’t a game, it’s a taxing chore. It’s full of opportunity, sure, and delightful potential. But it isn’t just handed out because you passed Go. There is always a hard choice inside an opportunity. Life may be like a box of chocolates, thank you Forrest Gump, but adulthood is like biting into one to find hard nougat. I hate nougat. And it’s a lot of work to chew.
I really truly thought adulthood would be like living in a holodeck: all fantasy all the time and no repercussions. But it isn’t. It’s more like carefully scheduling your hour of CSI playtime for after your shift and then being sure to remind yourself it isn’t real so you don’t get all swept up in romancing Nick. (Or, fine, use your own analogy.) What I’ve learned about adulthood is so cliché it’s almost painful: nothing worth doing is easy. And nothing worth having is free. That’s the secret to being grown up. Kids would just die if they knew Froot Loop dance parties aren’t a thing.
- Corinne Simpson