Thoughts On… What It’s Like Being An Adult

 

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.

The To Do List

supervision-chameleon

There are days when the To Do list actually gets longer rather than shorter.

You add to the list quicker than you can check things off, and it grows and grows until you can practically hear the high-pitched whine of pressure building in your head. On the best of days, adulting seems like an endless To Do list, both in  the small sense (go to the shop, send your mail, etc.) and the big sense (get a job, buy a house, etc.). It can be quite demoralising, because no matter how fast you barrel through your list of weekly tasks, there are always other, bigger items on the list. Existential items. Items that require thought and planning and luck and money and, really, items that may never get ticked off.

And how mildly infuriating is that?

I can’t stand leaving boxes unchecked.

There are, of course, plenty of unchecked boxes in my life, both big and small. The smaller ones are the ones really bothering me at the moment, because while one hand is typing, the other is scooping an errant kitten (Maya) off the dining table and I’m nudging the other (Oscar) with my foot in an effort to stop him from chewing my laptop charger cable. No sooner have I turned my back to put on a load of laundry than Maya is abseiling down the backs of the chairs, and I haven’t even made contact with the chair before Oscar is trying to break into the bedroom.

Supervision is aptly named, because I would indeed need super vision – and ideally eyes that could rotate independently on the side of my skull, like a chameleon – to be able to keep track of these two furry kamikazes.

…And so my list grows longer, and the high-pitched whine gets louder, and I start to feel itchy in my own skin, like there aren’t enough hours in the day and everything is difficult and actually, maybe I should just throw out all of my belongings because at least then there would be no laundry to do and no tidying to finish and I mean, do I even need clothes anyway maybe I can just get by with a single pair of jeans and a white t-shirt? After all, you would never need to match another unpaired sock again if you were just prepared to traipse through life barefoot. Shoe storage would be far more manageable. Our TV has recently gone to join the cars from The Brave Little Toaster, so we’re already (unwittingly) on our way to a more minimal lifestyle.

I mean… I’m just saying.

The only redeeming feature of this slow, relentless, drip, drip, drip of tasks, is that it leaves no time to worry about the unchecked boxes on my more general life list. I fall into bed so exhausted that I sleep through the night and wake up like a wind-up toy, my mind ready to move onto the next task. The items on the Adult To Do List don’t even get a look in these days.

And really, those are the ones that tend to keep your eyes open at 3am, searching the ceiling for answers.

Those are the ones to watch out for.

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What about you? Are you getting through your To Do List? Do you have an Adult & General Life To Do List? How’s that going? Do you have any To-Do-List-tackling secrets? Care to share…?