I’m twenty-seven years old. I am married. I have a son. I don’t see any way to add those three facts up that doesn’t result in my classification as an adult. I remember being a kid and thinking that every problem I faced would be eradicated simply because I had transitioned from the trapped helplessness of childhood to the glorious freedom of adulthood. This naive attitude can surely be forgiven. If you think about it, a lot my childhood problems were eradicated by adulthood, it’s just that they were immediately replaced by more pressing concerns. I mean, I can stay up as late as I want and drive to my friends’ houses without begging my mom for a ride, I just have to consider the ramifications to my sleep schedule and the day’s gas prices before I pull the trigger. Needless to say, adulthood isn’t quite like the impression I had of it when I was young. Thankfully, I’ve learned to cope with most of adulthood’s challenges, but there are a few things which I cannot get used to, no matter how many times I have to deal with them. Forget work and taxes, these are the truly terrifying elements of maturity. Brace yourselves.
Home renovations and maintenance are the dirty unspoken secret hiding behind the euphoric illusion of having a house all to yourself. I remember looking toward the future with an aching desire to live in a house where I could control the thermostat and organize the kitchen however I wanted. Now that I have those freedoms, I’d gladly trade them all in for the promise of never, ever having to paint one square inch of my home. I loathe, detest, abhor, and revile painting, all at the same time. No other task combines tedium and anxiety with exactly the horrible perfection of painting around windows, door frames, and along ceilings. No amount of Frogtape eases my rage. The mere prospect of painting – I mean even having a discussion about it – puts me in a bad mood. When I was a kid, painting was something that meant a funny smell and a ban from the living room for a couple of days. Now, it means the steady dissolution of my very last shred of patience and goodwill towards humanity.
2. Buying/Trading In Vehicles
We just sold a car and bought one. The people we sold to and bought from were perfectly kind, reasonable people, yet the process was roughly as complicated as simultaneously adopting three children from three separate foreign countries. Why? First, there’s a lot of paperwork involved, and if you’ve never gone through the process before (i.e. if you’ve never had the guy at the car dealership sitting there telling you where to sign), then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll slip up along the ninety-one step path to car ownership. And even if you choose the dealership route, the time and energy you save in simplified paper work will be more than made up for by the endless gamesmanship that makes up the DNA of every non-Carmax car dealer in the country. You’d like to know the price of this car? That’s cute. How much are you looking to spend? What are you looking to get out of your car? Hold on, I’ll have to talk to my manager. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It’s enough to drive any sane person angry, but a severely introverted, cynical, lazy person? It’s likely to kill me, er… them.
3. The Loss of Video Games
Alright, so you don’t have to lose video games as you grow up, but you probably have to lose something. Maybe you watch fewer sporting events than you used to, or watch fewer movies. Maybe you have trouble keeping up with the latest music or see way less of your friends than you’d like. In the days of youth and fewer responsibilities, I had time for everything, and I still had some left over. Now? I’ve had to trim the tree, and video games (something that at one time I spent as much money and time on as any of my other hobbies including sports and reading, which is saying a whole lot) are the thing that’s suffered the most. Now, outside of the occasional sports game (less need for a huge time devotion; can get in and play for short bursts), I hardly play any at all. I know I’ve missed out on many of the great games of my lifetime, but playing as much (or even close to as much) as I used to would mean cutting into the time I spend writing, reading, doing fatherly and husband-ish things, not to mention the music and movies I want to catch. When I stacked up the priority list, video games fell pretty near the bottom, and that truly bums me out. It’s just that the alternative would bum me out more. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to have a system. I foresee a lot of “quality time” ending with my son yelling for me to share the controller.
4. Buying Things You Need
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to compensating people for the goods and services they provide. What bothers me is that I spend so much of my income on things I need, like insurance, heat, water, and socks. I remember thinking about all the things I could buy with the salary I make now and feeling like it would be insane to ever even worry about making more money than that. I was an idiot. My visions of enormous televisions hooked up to myriad gaming systems, endless parades of snacks, and a cool moped for runs to the store (for more video games and snacks, obviously) have been dashed, and things get a little more bleak every time I buy fabric softener (although having fluffy towels is pretty sweet). It’s a little misleading to give you the impression that I dreamt all this up as a seven year-old, but I’d bet that even once I got to college, I had a really poor idea of how earnings translated to lifestyle (spending every penny you own that isn’t thrown at utilities and pizza rolls on CDs, DVDs, and video games was probably not a stable plan for financial success, admittedly).
5. Maintaining Friendships
Again, don’t get me wrong. I love my friends and I want to maintain our relationships. It just sucks that, as you get older, you have to put so much effort into just keeping in touch. As kids, school gave us a ready-made series of social events, be they classes or sports or even lunch. It never felt like anybody was very far away. Flash forward to today. I have a couple of close friends still in Lexington, and I see none of them as much as I would like. My college roommate lives in New York (this after two-plus years in Senegal). The best man in my wedding lived in Seattle for a couple of years and has returned, although like the friends in Lexington, I don’t see him nearly as much as I should. Another one of my best friends lives in Los Angeles, another in Pennsylvania, yet another in San Antonio. These people have all left to pursue their passions and excellent opportunities, and I don’t begrudge any of them even on iota for not being here, but (and I can’t think of a more elegant way to put this) it sucks not having them around to just watch a game or go to the movies or grab a beer. Now, I know it seems unfair to throw something serious at the end of a list as goofy as this, but no matter how hard I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with anything more terrible about being an adult than this. I spend a lot of time around sixteen year-olds, and I can say with no little certainty that I never miss being sixteen, except when I think about us all spread around a single living room, Nintendo controllers in one hand, Ale-8-Ones in the other, laughing and shouting and taking sarcastic jabs at one another. Then I fall into nostalgia’s trap. I hope one day we’ll all be back in the same room together. That’ll be a good day.