Tales from Urban Dilettantia

Icon

Adulting and Adulthood

I’ve been giving some thought, recently, to why the neologism ‘adulting’ really grates.

I had a look around to see what other people had said on the matter. Most of the dislike for the word seems to centre on criticism of people – particularly Millennials – for whom said ‘adulting’ is optional.
I take this point, although singling out Millennials makes me uncomfortable (they’re the ones who have to live with the planet that we’ve messed up, after all). I too have the privilege of letting things fall apart a bit without major consequences.

Being highly educated, white, a property owner, in a permanent job (with sick leave, no less), a good credit record, and so forth, I too have a safety net. I’m fortunate to have choices that wouldn’t be open to me if I lived in public housing, if I had rent inspections, if I had already defaulted on paying fines, if family services were watching me and I feared they would take my children. I’m fortunate that to ‘adult’ or not to ‘adult’ is frequently a choice.

However, I don’t think this fully captures the reason I loathe the term. My issue – the one I haven’t seen raised elsewhere – is one of ability and disability.

I’ve been open with people about my mental health.  When I’m not well, I frequently struggle with some fairly basic functions. Dealing with the mail, paying bills, doing laundry, running errands, cleaning the house, remembering birthdays, replying to messages, eating properly et cetera. Over the years, I’ve wobbled between keeping vaguely on top of such things, and letting them go altogether. When my capacity to cope has been low, what little I have has been wholly funnelled into my job.

None of this is particularly unusual for someone with longstanding, treatment-resistant mental health issues. And I have many friends (some with similar mental health issues, some with mobility constraints, and some with other chronic health conditions) who share my experience.

I won’t speak for them, but for me, the territory between disability and adulthood is terribly murky. I am accomplished at berating myself, and it is but a small step from saying ‘I am unwell’ to ‘I am a failure, I might as well be a child’.

And herein is the problem. Herein is the murkiness. When I see these things – dealing with the mail, paying bills, doing laundry, running errands, cleaning the house, remembering birthdays, replying to messages, eating properly et cetera – referred to as ‘adulting’, there is a subtle sting. An implication that the failure to do these things is a failure to grow the hell up.

Part of this – much of it, in fact – is my problem, not yours. It is my responsibility to learn not to berate myself, and not to define myself by the things I fail to do. And, I’m well aware that it buys into a logical fallacy – namely, denying the antecedent.

However, I think there is a wider issue here that warrants examination – one that plays into the tendency to infantilise people with disability, and one that challenges what adulthood looks like. When I’m curled up in a ball and can’t leave the house, I’m an adult who happens to be curled up in a ball and can’t leave the house. When I have crippling anxiety about getting a task done, I’m an adult with crippling anxiety about getting a task done. When I’ve eaten condiments out of a jar for dinner because I’ve been steam-rolled by antidepressants that just aren’t working, I’m a goddamn condiment-eating adult.

So, should people stop using the word ‘adulting’? That’s their call. For my part, I’ll work on my own issues – the shaky mental processes that cause it to grate and generate a vague yet needling sense of grief. But I do believe – passionately – that we need to think about how we define adulthood, and how that intersects with disability. We are all adults here, doing our best – clean laundry, or not.

Crashing back into it

Quite a long time ago, four long years ago.  Big, fancy house.  Husband.  Cats.  Three and a half years ago, suddenly looking hard at my tangled, messy, perpetual barely-hanging-on-ness.  Starting to think about ‘happiness’ even though – as many pointed out to me – this wasn’t quite the correct word, and it was prone to be confused with hedonism.  What I was trying to express was ‘rational, loving and sustainable well-being’.  But that’s too long and too difficult to explain.  So I talked about My Happiness Project.

Looking backwards for a moment, there are posts from that time on my old LiveJournal with tags like’my happiness project’ and ‘lifehacking’, arbitrary words for a much bigger thing, and recording fragments of a journey.   On that journey, I got somewhere; some great distance from the place where I had been before. It started to feel like it was somewhere I could stay forever.  And then moving out, immeasurable sadness, innumerable boxes, and constantly fighting everything down on every front.’The thing I regret the most over the last couple of years is not having had the capacity to hang onto tight the gentle, kind love for myself that I’d been carefully cultivating.  Finding that it was possible to actually like myself was – for various historical and then-current reasons – a great, unfolding knowledge and a completely new experience.  It is utterly unacceptable to live in such a manner that when I look hard at myself, I sigh.
Somewhat unexpectedly over the past few weeks, the spark that triggered my first headlong crash into really, truly learning to be okay has been reignited.  I’m thinking about well-being, looking again at my mechanisms of self-sabotage, starting to clear out all the clutter – mental and physical – that has accumulated in every corner of my life.   Looking at being a woman who does something more than just hang on, just cope, just hoard every little bit of energy and sanity to be able to get up, go to work, and do it sufficiently well.

I’m waking the hell up and crashing back into it, in the passionate, enthusiastic way I crash into things when I’m  very excited.  I’m reading, re-reading, thinking, planning and considering two years’ worth of swirling chaos dissolve in the face of one little step after another.

And I’m going to write about it a little, because sometimes the best thing of all is remembering that you’re not the only one on the road.

Flickr

  • LEGO Shinkansen
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • LEGO redback spider
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake
  • Collaborative LEGO snake

Instagram

About

I like animals with too many or too few legs.