A couple of weeks ago, I decided that I was going to be an adult. A real adult this time, like the kinds you see in crappy romantic comedies and those dramas on AMC like Mad Men or Suits. I was going to start writing in my planner, scheduling things, talking in a deep voice about really serious issues but then also talking really fast and using big words as if my life was suddenly scripted by Aaron Sorkin. I begin by making all these promises to myself, even writing them down in a notebook as if I’ve suddenly drawn up some sort of contract with some outside party. I tell myself that I will start seriously writing my short story, I’ll start adhering to my new gym schedule and work on getting abs. I do things like spend way too much money on iHerb and buy meal supplements, expensive health food, and protein powder so I can begin my new life as some crazed gym junkie or yoga enthusiast. I get hyped.
It always starts out the same. I get up really early one morning and meet the athletics department crew at the gym and workout for an hour and half where I run on the treadmill while watching the news, then I’ll even read an article from The New Yorker while I stretch or do my cool down on the elliptical. Sometimes I’ll look around at all of us and think, wow, look at how together our lives are. When I get back from the gym, a little less hyped, but still refreshed, I’ll end up making something for breakfast that usually consists of egg whites, tofu, and some vegetables – an adult dish for an adult. I trick myself into thinking that I’m suddenly going to turn into one of those Instagram workout foodies. I eat and think about future posts where I’ll be holding something bougie like a smoothie bowl or avocado toast while still in my workout gear with perfect makeup and perfect abs. I sit on the couch and read. I send emails. I actually manage to walk to the bank and make deposits. I go to the store and buy vegetables and fruit. I do it all.
By the time the second or third day comes around on this newfound journey, I think, damn, I really need a break from all this productivity and all this adulting. So I grant myself some slack. I put those emails in draft, I write down something stupid on my calendar like: treat yo’ self, and head to the store where I buy a dark chocolate bar (because, see, at this point, I’m still on my health kick where dark chocolate is okay, but milk chocolate is a no). I plan out a night for myself, normally on my day off where I set out a face mask and something sweet to pair with a movie to watch because I deserve it. And that night, in the middle of whatever trash movie I have picked for myself, I sit there in bed and go over how great being an adult is. I tell myself how responsible I am, how I’m truly capable of being a real person in the real world. I think, wow, if only my parents saw me now, they would think how seamlessly I’m adjusting to my new adult life. They would be proud.
This is the trap of adulthood. I start to feel high and mighty in all my adulting. I sit in the office during dinner, drinking a green smoothie and munching on chicken breast, thinking about how much of an adult I really am. I look at my coworkers in the eye and nod, like, guys I get it. The adulting thing. Just look at me. Just look at me and my green juice. I send texts to the Boy, then to a couple of friends in Memphis and tell them about my new sense of purpose. I talk about my new story and how well the character development is coming along. I send drafts. I send out character sketches. I actually go and look through my bank account and make a budget. I get cocky. I do more than my maximum number of adult things in one day and crash. But the thing is, I don’t know I’m about to crash yet. I’m on one of those freight trains going a million miles per hour not looking to stop unless some giant piece of ice falls from the sky and ends me all in one go.
Day four. I wake up late. I forget to make peppermint tea with lemon and go straight for the caffeine. I draft more emails and forget to click send. I roll around in bed and binge watch Jane The Virgin, wherein an ironic twist I watch a character procrastinate on her writing much like I do. I finally get up to go to the gym as a necessity around noon, dragging my feet and thinking about how I don’t feel like sweating on the treadmill for the next hour. I ignore the news and watch kpop music videos where everyone is so skinny and beautiful and I start to feel envious. Then I dream about how great a cheeseburger would be. I reach my threshold. I try to be productive later in the day, maybe read a bit while drinking coffee and write some because I’ve guilted myself into writing nothing over the past couple of days. Then at some point in the middle of the night I look around and realize that I’ve somehow acquired not one, but three snacks and one of them is definitely ice cream and my new clean healthy eating lifestyle has been thrown out the window.
Adulthood is sectioned off on a scale, where the bare minimum sits on one end with things like waking up at a decent time, brushing my teeth, showering, and on the other end is something like complete novel! My days often feel similar as far as responsibility goes, but my actual adherence to completing those tasks is what shifts. Adulting is doing things like: go to the bank, buy new underwear, pretend you aren’t tired, go get groceries – don’t buy that snack!, go to work, deal with unappreciative coworkers who think you don’t do any work when in fact they aren’t doing any work, space out and remind yourself you love the kids you work with, send some emails, yell at said kids you still love working with, send more emails, don’t let the existential dread of your life set in, ignore it, ignore it, ignore it!, clean your room. That’s the problem with adulthood. There are too many things, and when you finish all the things, more things happen. Whose idea was that? Did we sign off on this?
Then, if you’re lucky like me, you spend your nights both completely exhausted but somehow still unable to sleep while staring at the ceiling and contemplating every choice you’ve ever made ever. Which has led to me to discover the fact that every adult in my life has lied to me about being an adult. I don’t know whether it’s all a big joke everyone is in on where they take turns at dinner parties (because that’s the kind of scenario these adult adults would interact in) laughing over the post-graduate college students they have fooled into thinking being an adult is somehow going to suddenly be super fulfilling and not at all one disaster after another. Then, after each disaster, sitting in a room and telling yourself that everything is all right and in fact it was not actually that much of a disaster. Cue: overeating and crying.
My one savior is the solidarity I feel alongside all the other new adults who have just entered the adult work force. We send each other Snapchats in the middle of the day with captions laced with sarcasm like: haha! I love my job! or anyone else suddenly hate their body??? crash diets?!? Sometimes I’ll get messages from those of my friends who still have the lovely veil of school over them asking how life is as both an adult and then also that little-added fun fact about Korea. I like to send the smiley emoji with the gun pointed at its head back. I’m not here to deliver any false information about what being an adult is like. And as I sit here looking over how filing taxes works abroad, desperately trying to find the balance between when an acceptable time to give up and get ice cream is, I hope maybe one of you out there, you adult adults, has some sympathy.
Or at least a “Been there.”