Thoughts on...

Thoughts On… What It’s Like Being An Adult

Thoughts On... (1)

When I was a child, there were always things I had to do before I could go out to play with my friends; homework, tidying, dishes, extracurriculars… Whatever it was, I had to finish it perfectly before I was let loose to climb trees, or to run around in the undergrowth, or to make up terrible, terrible dance moves, or to collect earthworms and snails to “rescue” them from being stood on by careless pedestrians.

I was a weird kid.

Anyway, I would take care of my tasks, and then I was free to leave the house and find my friends*. My mind would empty of school worries or drama, and I would throw myself into whatever crazy fictional plot we had dreamed up that day.  Elaborate scenarios were created during playtime only to dissolve at sunset, imaginary sandcastle worlds washed away by the tide of bedtime.

Today, if somebody were to ask me what it’s like to be an adult, I would say it’s like never getting to playtime.

As you grow older, the tasks and chores start to stack up on each other like LEGO. Not fun LEGO. Not here’s-a-bin-of-multicoloured-bricks-have-at-it LEGO. No. I’m talking Belville LEGO.**  Once you’re officially An Adult™, this Belville stack of  tasks just grows and grows until it becomes a veritable wall of responsibilities; an insurmountable barrier between you and the blank-slate mindset of playtime. Now, at the age of thirty, I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I had nothing pending. There’s always something hanging over my head.

For example, my immediate To Do List says I have to:

  • Finish this blog post.
  • Work on my course project.
  • Discover the (presumably revolting) reason why my uncarved pumpkin is leaking.
  • Go grocery shopping, because the fridge is empty and I can’t survive without a steady supply of milk.

Then, later, once those are done, I will have to:

  • Feed the kittens, because otherwise they will eat me in my sleep.
  • Make dinner, or I will be eating cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner***.
  • Make a few home decisions.

And, more generally, I have to:

  • Clean the windows (this one’s been on the list a while…)
  • Plan on planning a wedding at some stage.
  • Get my eyes tested.
  • Make life decisions.

….And countless other small, niggling things that have been waiting patiently for my attention.

There is never a moment when I’m just… done. I can be done for the day, sure, but I don’t think I will ever have a moment in my life again where I feel like every single one of my tasks have been checked off the list and I can devote myself wholeheartedly to the kind of mindless playtime I once enjoyed. It’s exhausting to even think about, but it’s true. When you’re young, you’re unaware of the people around you shouldering the burden of life’s responsibilities. Slowly, they sneak up on you, and before you know it the To Do List is several thousands of items long and you’re wondering where your abundant spare time went.

I think this is why people call childhood “carefree.” Of course children have worries and chores and struggles and lessons to learn, but somebody has already reached across the able and carved everything up into bite-size chunks. The worries and lessons are usually workable. Except for in tragic circumstances, children’s lives are carefully managed and engineered to ensure that not too many tasks fall on those tiny shoulders.

And then you grow, and your shoulders start to press against something unfamiliar, and then it starts to press down on you, and before you know it, you’ve become the Atlas of your life, with your world carefully balanced between your shoulderblades.

So here I am, the Atlas of my life, trying to fit things into my calendar like an actual old person. Ticking off boxes like An Adult™. Sighing heavily because I realise the To Do List isn’t just the twenty things I have written down, but the never-ending, scrolling list that whirrs through my brain at 3am, making that KRSSSH SHHH WHRRRR SHHHKSH sound that receipts make when they’re being printed.

Infuriating.

Now I better go feed the kittens before they start chewing on my toes….

*ticks another item off the list*

*I know, I’m as surprised as you that I had any at all with my fists full of earthworms.

**Does anybody remember Belville LEGO sets? They were completely rubbish. They were just like regular LEGO, but everything was larger and lacking any sense of fun or accomplishment.

***Which – although this is something that I can (and do!) do as An Adult™ – is something that should be reserved solely for times of stress. Or lack of groceries. Or high sugar requirements.

15 thoughts on “Thoughts On… What It’s Like Being An Adult

  1. I wonder if it ever circles back around. Like when you reach a certain age, and life has been lived and figured out, if maybe that carefree feeling ever returns… And the pressure of planning a wedding is legit. I don’t know where to begin!

  2. 30 years further down the road and the list is indeed still there. But…it now becomes… a) more manageable; b) less obtrusive; c) mostly forgotten; d) all of the above. Until then (please don’t curse at me when you read these next words), add another item to your list. “Have fun.”
    You’re welcome.

  3. Urgh. I do know this feeling but I still find that being an adult is much easier than being a student.

    As a student I was working at the weekend and on my days without lectures so whenever I had spare time I felt like I needed to be studying. I’d go partying, but then I’d have to work or study the following morning when I had a hangover.

    At least as an adult you don’t HAVE to be doing the list of chores. They’ll get done eventually so you can totally take time out for giggles. The only thing that is non negotiable is feeding those kittens. They will not allow any tardiness for that!

  4. I hate to break this to you, but it gets worse. Wait til y’all have kids, buy a house, have a shitty boss that demands projects be done yesterday, etc. Your list is light, and I believe I’d trade with ya’ for a while. 😃

  5. add the fact that having a “to do list” does not have anything to do with actually knowing what you are doing and then it gets real fun 🙂
    I recently read a Facebook post that said “so turns out being an adult is basically googling how to do stuff” and thought that sounded pretty accurate 😉

  6. This is exactly why I’m not a ‘list maker’ and this is exactly why I run. Running is my playtime and head clearing time. Saving Snails and worms, you are the cutest, I think when I was young I ate them but I have rescued a bird and a squirrel once on my runs 🙂
    I think I have mastered the subtle art of not giving a fuck… as long as you the kittens and any other important people are fed and happy, everything else can wait…. perhaps this is why I have been engaged for almost 4 YEARS and STILL have zero wedding plans! …it can wait… I’m off out for a run… or to play with LEGO, lol!

  7. Here’s the adulting secret: Those things you need to do (feed cats, write posts, clean up pumpkin goo), those are the adult version of play. They are the things we do because we know they enrich our life and that is what we’re now looking for in our play. Other than writing, almost all of my playtime goes to doing stuff with my kids. Yes it feels like a chore sometimes, but it’s a responsibility and a gift. And luckily, they often like to include me in their play, so some of the stuff I do with them seems much like the carefree stuff I did as a kid.

  8. You need to set aside sacred time and train your mind to “switch off”. One of the benefits of making a list is that you can set it aside, forget about it, and get back to it at another time. That way you give yourself permission to relax. I haven’t always been good at this, but I’m getting better!

    There’s also no reason you can’t “play” with the things you need “to do”. It’s all a matter of perspective!

    I guess the question is, what would you rather be doing?

  9. I totally get it, but to make things worse for myself (because I love to be punished, I guess), I moved to China. So now I have all the same responsibilities of adulthood, but with a crippling language and cultural barrier thrown on top of it. Any task that needs to be done outside my home is a huge battle of seeming insurmountable futility.

    Life is fun.

  10. Gahhhh I am relating so hard to this right now.
    I literally just took a break from my chores to read blogs. Because I had “Chores” and “Read blogs” on my to-do list, but the laundry isn’t done yet. I like the blogs, obviously, but it’s also like I have to schedule my relaxation?
    LIFE, WHY?

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