Today is my birthday. I have now survived thirty years on Earth. Pop some Chandon, it’s party time.
Like most other children, I used to dream ahead and predict my future. Often it involved me being some manner of space archeologist who was also a champion bowler. Oh, and I was married to someone from “You Can’t Do That on Television.” Probably Alistair.
When I was young, I was considered something of a prodigy. I started reading when I was two, I skipped a year of grade school, I nearly aced my SATs, and I nailed the prom queen in the back seat of my Impala. One of those four statements is false. Guess which one?
When you’re young, you think life gets solved when you become an adult. “Once I’m out of school,” you think, “everything’s fine. I’ll have a job that pays for everything, I’ll have a beautiful wife (but we won’t kiss, because, cooties), Santa will provide the gifts at Christmas so I’ll get pinball machines every year, and science will have perfected jetpacks so, AWESOME!” Your parents got through life just fine, so of course you’ll do fine. Right?
Then, you finish high school, and (perhaps) go to college, and you find out two things:
- Art school girls are crazy.
- Life isn’t that easy.
It’s a shock, that first time you realize food’s not guaranteed. That first time you open your paycheck and find 20-plus percent taken out by the government. That first time you realize that talent and skill alone don’t automatically equal millions of dollars and girls and jetpacks. (Seriously: JETPACKS, science. Get this done.)
When you’re young, you always dream big. You’re not just going to be a doctor, you’re going to be the best doctor that ever wore a stethoscope. You’re not just going to be a football player, you’re going to have five Super Bowl rings. You’re not just going to be a comedian, you’re going to be Carrot Top.
But we can’t all be Carrot Top. Some of us wind up being Jeff Dunham.
Once you reach adulthood, you realize some things about adults aren’t true:
- Adults know everything: As teenagers, we have that phase where we claim everything adults say is bullshit, but we don’t really mean it. We’re just trying to pry the Holy Secret of Making Life Fuckin’ Awesome from adults’ hands, since we grew tired of hanging out with our friends all day and not working. After you get out in the real world, you quickly learn there is no secret knowledge, and your parents were just trying their best to keep you from becoming a stripper or a meth addict the only way they knew how. Results vary widely, as shown by the amount of strippers and meth addicts in the world, but the point is: adults don’t know everything, and sometimes, they don’t know shit.
- Adults stop being weird like kids can be: I used to eat baloney and ketchup sandwiches when I was young. I understand how disgusting that is, and you couldn’t make me eat them today if you were holding my family hostage. (Please don’t take my family hostage to prove this.) Adults don’t eat baloney and ketchup sandwiches, you think back then. They don’t traffic in bizarre activity like that. They work jobs, and own houses, and have insurance, and watch the news. They don’t do weird shit and believe stupid crap that makes no sense, inventing false boogeymen and claiming they’re after your family. Right?Yeah.
- Life is easier as an adult: I touched on it above, but again, as a kid you think everything falls into place once you reach 21 or so. You just get a job, most likely as a space archeologist, and they give you a house. Or at least a giant Publisher’s Clearing House check which you take to the House Store and buy a house. You don’t factor in taxes, and bills, and actually finding that space archeology job, and eventually having children of your own, and explaining to them over the course of 18 years that you don’t get all these things automatically. I’m not even at the children part yet, and I need a nap.
Now, I know this is shaping up to be a bleak picture I’m painting, and I really don’t want it to be. I think the true test of adulthood is to understand what doesn’t come easy and isn’t a given, and work beyond that. You can be cowed by how life didn’t line up with your dreams of space archeology, or realign things and find how to be happy with what you do have, something I’m still working on. You can turn the above misconceptions about adulthood on their head, and go with them:
- Adults don’t know everything: This works in two ways. First, acknowledge that you don’t know everything, and keep learning and trying things. I’m still working on this part of the equation, but I’m currently writing for this blog (along with other occasional gigs), I am working on an ever-more entertaining YouTube series called The Room Responds, I learned to make sushi, and I dabble in art (which I want to take even further with my current abundance of free time). I keep telling myself that I’m not the best at everything (or anything), and that I need to soldier on and improve at all of it. Second, realize that no matter what other people say, they probably don’t know shit either. Hope mixed with misanthropy – a great combination.
- Adults CAN be weird too: My friends and I enjoy watching bad movies, quoting from progressively more esoteric pop culture sources, and making puppet films based on a horrible movie created by an Eastern European enigma. It’s OK to be weird. In fact, it’s more fun this way.
- Life doesn’t get easier as an adult: I have no simple answer for this, other than we’re all in this together. Find those friends and family who can help you out when they can (and that you can likewise help out) and cherish them.
OK, serious discussion out of the way. I’ll return to pointing at things and laughing at them next week. Thanks again to all my friends for their well-wishes.
Except Justin. He’ll probably just call me and mumble “Here comes Mr Meatloaf!” on my voicemail.