Does anybody else suck at adulting?
You know what I mean. The doing of the stuff. Engaging in basic Life Maintenance. Paying the bills on time. Thinking ahead about what my family will have for dinner will be tomorrow. Signing field trip forms on time. Filing things before a deadline. Keeping track of when the oil was last changed in the car. Reminding other people to do things. Reminding myself to do things.
Can I engage in active adulting when I have to? Yes. Yes, I can. But it’s a struggle. I’ve never NOT paid a late fee for my car registration (which ultimately ends up being more expensive than the registration itself). I have never once thought to myself: You know, I should probably take that steak out of the freezer to defrost now, so we can eat it for dinner 10 hours from now.
Ask me how many times I’ve had to reschedule my daughter’s dentist appointments because I lost that little reminder card they gave me.
Please say I’m not the only one.
Assess your suckage
Maybe you’re not sure if you share my problem. It’s probably good to do a quick self-assessment. How do you know when you’re not good at adulting?
- If it’s been more than six months since you had your car washed.
- If paying your bills on time is rarer than Bigfoot sightings.
- If you shop for groceries without a list.
- If you come back from buying groceries, realize you forgot toilet paper/bread/milk/toothpaste/whatever, and say to yourself “Dammit, I have to remember to make a list!” (Yet never actually do.)
- If your reminder for having your car’s transmission fluid checked is the sound of your engine dry heaving on the freeway before the smoke starts billowing out from the hood.
- If you find yourself receiving late payment notices from the cable company and you continually convince yourself that they’re just bluffing with those empty threats to turn off your Wi-Fi.
- If you find yourself saying defensively to your accountant, “No, YOU missed your extension deadline!”
- If your kid is the one reminding you that tomorrow night is Back to School Night.
- If you’re still not completely sure what a 401(k) is.
- If your kid’s typical school lunch consists of string cheese, a bag of Cheetos and whatever loose grapes were rolling around in the crisper drawer.
- If you routinely pay fifty bucks to have Fed Ex overnight Mother’s/Father’s Day cards to your parents. Even though the card itself cost $2.
No? Not you? Just me? Damn.
I’ll clarify a little bit. Clearly, I can function in the world as required. My taxes do get done, my bills do get paid, the house continues to stand, the cable never actually gets turned off. I adult when I truly have to. But for whatever reason, these minuscule tasks remain very difficult for me.
Excuses, excuses … excuse me
If I had five kids, I’d have a great excuse for why the little things slip through the cracks. But I just have ONE kid. One medium-sized human. As much as I’d like to, I can’t blame her for this. I know too many parents who have their shit together, and they have way more kids than I do.
I’m sure there are perfectly good psychological reasons for my problem. And I’m pretty sure I know which reasons are not responsible. For example, I don’t think my ego is so vast that I think I’m too good to do these things, or that someone else should be in charge of maintaining my life for me.
Every January, I make a New Year’s resolution about getting better at all that stuff. Then every February, I discover that the weird smell in the car is actually a ham and cheese sandwich I left under the passenger seat six months ago.
The best part about all this is that the entire time I’m barely scraping by in my adulting, I’m simultaneously criticizing myself for not doing it better, not being a better grown-up, not correcting old patterns, not learning, yaddah yaddah. It’s a truly awesome form of self-sabotage. Which I’d prefer not to pass along to my daughter. The fear of which perpetuates the whole brilliant system! See, it goes like this:
- Fail at adulting.
- Feel bad about failing at adulting.
- Feel bad that modeling poor adulting will teach teenage daughter bad habits.
- Which itself is poor adulting.
- Feel bad about the second circle of bad adulting.
Is this how I thrive?
I don’t know. Maybe I actually feel better when I’m feeling bad about myself.
Like so many humans, maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t feel right to me when my life is not frazzled, when I’m turning in forms on time, or when I have an organized family dinner schedule for the week. Maybe when I’m busy feeling bad about those little things that aren’t getting done, I conveniently don’t have time to worry about some of the bigger looming life challenges. It’s possible that if I have fresh milk in the fridge, and know where my car keys are and have a week’s worth of family dinners planned out and written down, then I’ll find myself with some extra time and brain space to fill with thoughts about the real adulting tasks that I’m not addressing. Crafting the next 10 years of my career. Figuring out a financial plan that will allow me to pay for my daughter’s college in a few years. Paying more attention to my health.
It’s much easier to trash myself for not taking out the trash, than for not figuring out the future. And maybe, just maybe, if I start getting more active with some of those big-picture issues, the little things will fall into place too. I’ll no longer forget to buy toilet paper. Bills will be paid on time. Deadlines will be met.
I’d explore this issue further, and describe all the ways I swear I’m going to be better at adulting in the future, but I really need to send this post to my editor. It’s three weeks late.