When I was very little, I used to wonder who I would be when I grew up.
I firmly believed that at some point I would change into another person, much like a caterpillar metamorphoses into a butterfly. This person would be an adult person, like those I saw around me, who made decisions and had adult lives. They would be like me, but a grown up with the capacity to make grown up decisions and do things like have a job and buy a house. In my childish mind, you did not become an adult through growth and all the adults around me had gone through this process too. My mind had not yet equated my parents’ childhoods with their current selves.
My thought pattern had emerged as I couldn’t fathom how I would ever be an adult. How would I make big grown-up decisions? I wouldn’t be the one getting married and having babies. It wouldn’t be me fulfilling childhood dreams, it would be the adult reincarnation of me. Ah, the stuff of dystopian fiction.
I can’t pinpoint the moment I realised this wasn’t how life worked. It was more of a gradual dawning understanding that this was it; that I was it. There was no-one more adultier who was coming along to take over, it was actually going to be up to me. I was going to, mature or otherwise, turn into an adult and have to do all those things the mythical me was supposed to do for me.
At the time I separated from my ex-husband, I had never been an adult alone. I’d gone to University but there household decisions were made as a collective. My entire adult life had involved making any big decisions with other people and supported by other people.
But separation throws a curve ball. In what feels like the work of a moment, you’re an adult alone. And in the wake of this, you’ve got to be adultier than you’ve ever been before, when you feel more like a lost child than you ever thought possible.
The simple grown-up decisions like ‘what shall we have for tea?’ still need making (as does the dinner). Other, theoretically lovely, choices such as where to go on holiday feel mountainous and little worth the effort you need to expend (although even if it’s half an hour down the road, it’s worth it – believe me). Then come the life decisions – to change internet provider or to not change internet provider? Which is the best deal on the car insurance? The water bill has been overpaid, underpaid, not paid at all.
And because you’re still that same little person who believed that one day you’d morph into a grown up, you give into the overwhelming tears of having to make an adult decision when really you feel like a child. Again, I realised; I was it. There was no-one more adultier who was coming along to take over. I was the adult. Where the problem has been formerly halved, now it felt doubled.
Adulting is hard.
My solutions were to share the decisions anyway, and to have someone – metaphorically – hold my hand when I made the decision. My parents graciously became my sounding board for decisions and options, easing me, once again, into the world of adult independent decisions. In the end I asked them – how is it they always knew what to do?
They didn’t, they said. Their adulting know-how involved being one step ahead. A single step – no magic knowledge, no secret of adulthood skill, just one step ahead.
So my childhood theory was somewhat awry. I’m still the same person, making adult decisions alone. Adulting does get easier – but don’t be too grown up; find someone to hold your hand in deciding – even if it’s just what to have for tea.
Adulting is just staying one step ahead of the game…plan dinner, pay the bills you get, make the decisions and don’t worry about all the different consequences. One day I hope to feel like an adult, but in the meantime, I’ll make the adult decisions with an appearance of confidence though inside I’m just the same child as before…
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