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.

Swinging on the Spiral

“I’ve been asking people around me to write about personal positives in their life, the way they make a difference in their own way, as part of their daily experience of living in the world. Now it is my turn to share with you about my life and how I try to make a difference. Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around love.” – Jaunita Landésse, setting the agenda for the 51st Down Under Feminists’ Carnival.

It is interesting that I’ve been invited to write about the way I make a difference in the world in a week where I’ve been struggling to even co-exist with the world. After many hours of begging my brain to think-think-think, I decided that the best way to address the subject was to take the scope above and to fill in the gap in this sentence:

‘Where I spend the most time, energy and effort in making a difference entirely revolves around _____.’

And when I did this, I found my answer.

Curiosity. That’s me.

It is perhaps more evident that curiosity drives my inner world, than it is that it drives the outer. I’m a life-long learner, a researcher, a dilettante who hyperbolically claims she’ll try anything twice, an adventuress, an analyst and a woman who describes herself as ‘interested in everything’. (That’s a lie; I’m not in the least interested in Rugby League.)

If you’ve read my blogs in the past, you’ll have seen that they’re quite the jumble of things. Specific topics (cycling, politics, statistics, happiness, art, love), a repository for my lists of hundreds of interesting Wikipedia articles, and tales of local history that I’ve spent hours and days and weeks researching just for the love of finding things out. If I have one defining characteristic that has not changed in the least over the past three decades, it’s overwhelming, unconquerable, fervent curiosity.

How, then, does this curiosity make a difference beyond my internal world? If you’ve had a conversation with me about something that excites me, you’ve probably noticed that (a) I talk really, really fast, and (b) that I love to share the knowledge grown out of the seed of an initial fascination. While it’s hard to gauge a degree of influence, many people – at work, at home, here on the internet – have mirrored my enthusiasm and have taken the time to tell me they’ve appreciated the sharing of my interests. An even better indicator, I think, is that people often go on to send me links, books, thoughts and pieces of news related to a discussion we’ve had, long after the initial conversation. We go on to listen and learn together.

I am most certain that the infectiousness of curiosity makes a difference in the world, as does the distribution of learning. I’ve learned this not from my experience as a giver of curiosity, so much as being on the receiving side of similar excitement from others who share this passion. Their curiosity feeds mine, plants new seeds and ideas, travels off in random directions, and iteratively feeds back into their wonder and awe as it returns. To learn for the joy of learning, to discover for the joy of discovering, to chase trails, to unwrap stories and to adventure on – these are the ways I write my own story and make meaning in my world, and perhaps too, in the worlds of others.

Now, wonder and awe are magnificent things, but has occurred to me as I write that curiosity also makes a difference in a more intimate way. It brings difference into the world because I’m interested in you.
I truly want to understand what makes you happy, what makes you sad, why you do what you do, what you think, how you feel, how you think, what enchants you, what enamours you, where you come from, your stories, how you’re just like me, how you’re utterly unlike me, and how you occupy and interact with your world. And I think, again from being on the receiving end rather than the giving, that it does make a small, warming difference to meet someone who is curious about you. It is good to, in that moment, know you are an interesting creature. And so, in a tiny, intimate way, I can give you the gift of my curiosity and all that entails, and likewise, if you too are interested, you can give that gift to me.

Curiosity has become more than a personality trait. More than an instinct, a proclivity or a habit, all these though it has been. But beyond them, it has become a guiding philosophy; it is my self-determined raison d’être and my maker of meaning, in a universe where I perceive no other meaning than that I create.

As Jaunita lives to love, I live to discover.

Spiralling out, keeping going. That’s the person I want to be.

Spiral - Sculptures by the Sea

With a loving nod to Cary, comrade in philomathy. Lateralus is your song.

Swooping and Diving

Welcome Swallow

Welcome Swallow

Welcome Swallow

This year, none of my half-drafted text posts have yet come to anything, but I’ll have you know that they’re sitting there in the dusty attic of a hard drive, waiting to be unleashed.

In the meantime, I’ve posted some more birdwatching photos to Flickr, including the Welcome Swallows pictured above.  Wings are exciting; I’m having fun times (and sometimes frustrating times) learning to photograph wings.

My excuse for not having written anything of substance – one of my excuses, anyway – is that I’m buried not only under unpleasant work, but under an avalanche of side projects.

Some of the side projects include doing a triathlon, getting my diving certification, building a barrel garden, harvesting the local laneway/vergeside fruit, looking for a new job, soaking up as much of the summer cricket as possible, and two secret things.  One secret thing is is about tentacles, the other is about maps.

Somehow I think spending time at the beach needs to be on the projects list, but isn’t. It strikes me that this is a terrible oversight.

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.