Sunday, June 26, 2016

In defense of "adulting"

I am in my mid thirties. I moved out of my parents' home for good thirteen years ago. I've lived in hostels, with roommates, and alone, though for most of the last ten years I've lived with the Guy.

I followed the approved script for becoming an adult, toeing the line to meet with both liberal and patriarchal approval. I got married two weeks after I turned 25, and it's always been just the Guy and me - though it helps that we live far from our parents.

So, in a way, adulting came easy to me, and I've been guilty in the past of mocking friends who seem to have a harder time figuring it out. But the older I grow, the more I realize that it's not easy, and I have respect and compassion for all of us who are making it, to some extent or the other.

Because at least for urban India right now, we seem to have torn up the script. And that's pretty fucking amazing. We're not living our parents' lives, we're living our own.

We have a generation who's actually living on their own for the first time. My mother left home when she got married - as did most women of her generation. She was probably 21.

I have young cousins - brilliant young women - who chose to move back to Assam to get married and live there. Others who worked for short periods before choosing to give up their careers and get married. I feel awful judging them - maybe this is what they really want? - but I'm mad that society doesn't offer them better choices.

So I find it brave when young women choose to live alone and not get married or move back in with their parents. Adulting is hard. Even now, even though I have an amazingly responsible husband who's done most of my share of adulting in all the time we've been together, even though we earn enough now that we can afford to pay late fees, it's still difficult to remember to pay bills on time each month, to order cooking gas so it'll be delivered before mine runs out (and find a way to get it delivered though no one's home during weekdays), to cook healthy food and not eat out all the time and make our bodies sick and wallets empty, to go to bed on time instead of staying up all night reading or partying...

But most of all, it's okay to not always do these things. It's fun to stay up partying and sometimes a friend is just in town for a couple of days and you have to make time for them. (My parents would have ended that dinner party at 11: we went on till 2.) It's okay to stay up reading half the night because you *had* to finish that book - so you're groggy at work the next day, it's not the end of the world.

It's that recognition that it's not the end of the world that I find liberating. That I can let go, and be the young irresponsible person I never really was. That it's okay to screw up because you know you'll pick yourself up again.

It's also a level of comfort with imperfection and vulnerability that I find endearing, even admirable. I've tried for years to be perfect, and never managed to even like myself. It's only when I decided to let myself be flawed, rough, myself without trying to be liked, have I started liking myself, and even making more friends. My boss doesn't need to believe I'm perfect at everything, including my personality life, to respect my work -- she only needs to see my work.

It's an acknowledgement that no one gets life perfect. Our parents often followed the script... and lost themselves. My parents, for instance, would have been happier having more time and money for fun, instead of spending it on children they barely tolerated and could never really like. Paying bills on time and eating healthy food isn't a recipe for happiness or self fulfilment.

It's good to be able to cook and eat healthy food, but it's also great, some days, to live on alcohol and french fries and cigarettes. Sure, some of my friends seem to live on cigarettes and alcohol all the time, but they have their emotional needs figured out in a way I still haven't. Some still live with their parents, but they do brilliant, worthwhile work (which they may not have afforded to do otherwise). I suspect those of us who have followed the script have lost out in ways we don't even know.

The word "adulting" seems to mock the script. Here, I'm trying out the script, how does it look? Wouldn't it be silly to do this all the time?

No comments: