When I decided to go back to school to seriously pursue a Bachelor’s in Psychology, instead of taking random classes for fun, I didn’t consider that—at the age of thirty—I might have to write about what it means to be an adult. Simply put, I hate labels. Not the kind that are on my white cardboard organizational boxes from IKEA, but the metaphorical kind that we place on human beings. For the record, I feel a bit of contempt for the neatly lettered words above each pull handle on the IKEA boxes as well. Do I put calligraphy pens in the Art box or the Ink box? Does the fact that I have organizational boxes for creative supplies make me an adult?
As recently as this past Christmas, I have uttered the joke that I’ll always be a “Toys’R’Us kid”. You see, one of the white boxes is not labeled; it is my secret box, hidden in plain sight. It is there that I keep my Tamagotchis and Polly Pockets (the original ones that are less than half an inch tall, not those updated ones that are more difficult to swallow). This, plus the fact that I was more than ecstatic to receive a Lego Architecture replica of Farnsworth and the board game Mouse Trap for my thirtieth birthday, would have most anyone questioning the validity of my placement in the social box labeled Adult.
I have dismissed labeling myself almost entirely, because it is but one of many aspects of society that wear me out. Arguably, the label adulthood was created out of social necessity—perhaps, mostly in a legal sense. The label is required to determine at what age an individual is psychologically developed enough to make choices such as: partaking in sexual relations, vacating the domicile of a legal guardian, or purchasing tobacco products. Even Julie Beck agrees that “Adulthood is a social construct.” (par 10)
Personally, I have gone through more periods of maturation and regression than I can count. At twelve years old, I was forced into emotional adulthood. Right around the time that my body was emerging into physical adulthood (e.g., my pubes were coming in and my ovaries were beginning to release eggs) my mom was experiencing mental breakdowns, leaving me to care for myself. After mornings of making sure my mom hadn’t slit her wrists again, I’d make myself a bowl of cereal, grab some lunch money from the stash that my aunt sent me in the mail, and head to the bus stop. School was my escape from reality. Personal breakthrough: perhaps it still is. (Note to self, talk to your psychologist about this next week.) It’s important to continue doing things that brought you happiness as a child. For me, as we have recently discovered together, this is school. I’ll add to the list: playing video games, building with Legos, drawing, writing, creating just about anything. The day I let my creativity die is the day my heart stops beating.
There were too many ideas floating around my brain-space about what major milestones signify the transition to adulthood, so I outsourced the question in order to narrow my thinking. In other words, I asked a few friends. This started as me wondering aloud while my twenty-two year old boyfriend played an online multi-player zombie shooting game (comfortably sucked into his giant bean bag chair), in which he was linked to some former high school buddies via headsets with microphones. His buddies heard me and started chiming in. The first response I received was from Greg, a twenty-one year old who lives with his parents, has never worked a job, and goes to school full time with the goal of being “a doctor of some sort”. Greg immediately responded through a chuckle: “you’re a child until you start paying taxes.” The instant realization overwhelmed me: I needed to survey a different group.
Tiffany, a former coworker (her title Product Engineer was much more admirable than my Receptionist), and a too-level-headed-to-only-be-twenty-six-years young lady, stated that she felt like an adult when she moved into her own apartment after college and was able to keep it consistently clean. To this day, despite owning two cats, who are universally known to be messy assholes, she has been able to maintain the cleanliness of her townhouse condominium so that her real estate agent may conduct random showings. Also, her ability to always find counter space to prepare a meal does have me quite envious.
I find myself going through phases of being able to keep up with chores. Allie Brosh, the author of one of my favorite blogs, Hyperbole and a Half, wrote in her book: “…a few times a year, I spontaneously decide that I’m ready to be a real adult…I sit myself down and tell myself how I’m going to start cleaning the house every day and paying my bills on time…” (219) Just like Allie, it never works out for me. I can’t keep my apartment clean for more than two days. I need to be banned from purchasing tables; if there is a horizontal surface, I will put something on it that doesn’t belong there. However, this even includes the floor, so I might be shit out of luck.
Please excuse me while I put my colored pencils back into their respectively labeled white cardboard Pencil box and dust off Lego Farnsworth, I’m going to go attempt to be a real adult again.
Brosh, Allie. Hyperbole and a Half. New York: Touchstone, 2013. Print.
Beck, Julie. “When Are You Really an Adult”? The Atlantic. The Atlantic., 05 Jan. 2015. Web. 07 Jan. 2016.