On Being A “Real Adult”

The Pecan Gallery’s Guide To Determining If You Are A “Real Adult”: 

1. Are you at or over the age of majority where you live?

1a. If no, then you are a minor and, thus, not technically an adult, but you still deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and to have your wants and needs valued. Not being an adult doesn’t mean that you’re not a person. You, your opinions, and your aspirations matter.

1b. If yes, proceed to 2.

2. Are you fictional?

2a. If yes, then you wouldn’t qualify as most people’s idea of “real”, but I am sure that you have significant value and meaning within your own universe and in the hearts and minds of those that know and adore you in this one.

2b. If no, then you are “real”, and you an “adult”, so, congratulations, you’re a “real adult”!

 

But “adulting” culture would tell you that it’s not that simple, that adulthood isn’t some threshold that you cross once you reach X number of years but that it’s some title you earn through meeting certain criteria like supporting oneself financially and living away from parents and caretakers and perhaps even being a parent and a spouse oneself. It’s also certain things like getting one’s laundry done or cooking a meal over a stove instead of popping something in the microwave or owning a set number of “formal” pieces of clothing.

What it boils down to is self-sufficiency.

The Real Adult (TM) lives in a dwelling–preferably a house–that they have paid for or are paying for themselves. The Real Adult (TM) pays all of the utilities for that house–the electricity, the water, the WiFi, the garbage disposal, the gas, the air conditioning, the cable, the internet, the phone service, the security system, the car note, the gas note, the car insurance, the house insurance, the house note, and whatever else houses come with these days. The Real Adult (TM) also has to pay utilities for themselves; health insurance, life insurance, regular doctor’s visits, even if just for “wellness checkups”, not to mention gym memberships (or in-home workout equipment). The Real Adult (TM) also keeps their house stocked with fruits and veggies and one’s protein source of choice and the appliances required to prepare and store that food. The Real Adult (TM) has wardrobes full of clothing for all seasons (because apparently certain fabrics and fashions are associated with a certain portion of the year, according to my stepmother who doesn’t let me wear felt-like fabrics during the summer?) and all occasions, from business meeting formal to business casual to “going out” casual and “exercise clothes” and, of course, the pajamas for the rare times when they are home. Because the Real Adult (TM) works, perhaps even more than one job, so that they call pay all of those bills; the Real Adult (TM) also goes on outings to associate with other Real Adults (TM), be it to the department store of choice or the grocery store of choice or the bank or the car lot or any other Designated Adult Area (TM). Yet, the Real Adult (TM) must also be home enough to keep their homes Home Designer-Worthy (TM), with everything in its place and a place for everything. The Real Adult (TM) also has to cook and do meal prep. And we all know that the Real Adult (TM) is a parent, so they also have to keep the little ones clean and fed and entertained and learning and provide them with Experiences and Outings (TM), but not any that would put them in Danger (TM). The Real Adult (TM) is probably married, but the Real Adult (TM) could do all of the above even if they are the only Real Adult (TM) in the vicinity. The Real Adult (TM) does all of this while getting 6-8 hours of sleep. The Real Adult (TM) is calm and collected in times of stress or displeasure; the Real Adult (TM) deals with challenges as they arise and maintains a sense of poise and control.

All of those things above are good things, generally, and I hope to reach a point where I fit into most of those descriptions (still iffy on the “parent” thing, though).

But I don’t think that ANY of that is the metric by which how “seriously” a person should be taken should be metered out.

There are plenty of people over the age of majority that don’t have full-time jobs for a variety of reasons. Some people have disabilities or health conditions that make working 40+ hours a week impossible (or at least unsustainable and highly detrimental to the point where it would imminently become impossible and leave the person worse off than ever). Some people have disabilities or health conditions and probably could work 40+ hours a week but are not given the chance to by employers due to preconceptions about their ability to work and their competence or out of a fear of “liability” (on that note, check out Employable Me, a BBC show about the experiences that people with disabilities have when seeking work). Some people are neurotypical and able-bodied and do not have any significant health or mental health condition and still do not have full-times jobs either due to obligations to children or elderly relatives or due to a lack of jobs available in a particular field (or in general).

There are plenty of people that DO have full-time jobs that can’t or don’t support themselves financially. I make $9.50 an hour and work 40+ hours a week (very often plus). My fiancé makes the same. Even if we pulled our resources together, we probably still couldn’t afford to be homeowners (or renters) and pay all of our bills and utilities and feed and clothe ourselves. We don’t plan to work at this particular job forever, but this is where we’re at for the moment.

Going back to the note about disabilities and health conditions (because this is, you know, a disability advocacy blog above all else), there are plenty of people that find certain tasks of #adulting as defined by Twitter challenging or impossible, at least without some assistance. People with physical disabilities and mobility issues are very probably going to need help moving about their environment and attending to their personal self-care. Like Karin Willison of FreeWheelinTravel.org, who is an editor and a travel blogger and who depends on personal care assistant survives to live independently (and who is ardently advocating for Medicaid to remain available and funded so that she can continue to do so). People who are neurodivergent may need external help in reminding them to take care of the cleaning and cooking and paying bills and other such Tasks (which, oh sh*t, I was supposed to vacuum my car today, wasn’t I? Whoops). Sometimes, neurodivergence and bodily divergence mean that even remembering that a Thing needs to be done doesn’t mean that one will have the energy or the motivation to do the Thing. Some of us can make do with a smartphone and parental nagging (fun fact: if how my parents treat my siblings and stepsibilings are any indication, one does not have to live in the same household as one’s parents to be adequately nagged); some of us require substantial support.

But even a thirty-year-old who has very limited mobility and who is labeled as “severally intellectually disabled” by educators and doctors and who requires support for almost all areas of daily living has still had thirty years of lived experience.

Sure, their experience may differ from the life experience of those who write articles and books on what it means to be a “real adult”. But they have still lived and felt and experienced all of that time.

And their wishes and opinions still deserve to be taken into consideration. Disabled adults still want and deserve as much control over their own lives and daily activities as possible.

Adults with disabilities still experience a better quality of life when they are given control over their own lives:

“Choice necessarily involves some risk, but the larger question is this: do people with disabilities have the same right to develop autonomy as the rest of society (Guess, Benson and Siegal-Crusey 1985)?

For people without disabilities, decision making begins in infancy with nonverbal communication. The process should not be more limited for people with disabilities. Choice is an expression of autonomy and dignity. The loss of the opportunity of have choice, to experience loss and gain, is loss of a chance to experience accomplishment and self-actualization.”

“But isn’t that the exact same thing you said about minors in general at the beginning of this post?”

Well, yes.

We as a society can better in how we treat those who are under the age of 18. Ageism is a very real thing. Children who are being abused or mistreated are often not believed; minors who leave from an abusive household that has not been found “abusive” by law enforcement or protective agency can be returned to that household against their will. Children cannot consent to medical procedures. And while there is some good reason that children are treated differently from adults–they are still learning and developing and, thus, require guidance–it is not uncommon for minors to feel that their agency and autonomy isn’t being respected, and while we should keep minors from making permanently harmful decisions insomuch as possible, we can and should do better in helping the young feel valued.

But we as a society can forgive a 17-year-old for being “immature”. “They’re just kids.” “They’re still growing.”

Once you’re 22 and still living with your parents after graduating college, even if you do have a full-time job and a fiancé, you’re seen as failing in some manner (specifically “failing to launch“).

And it’s a bit disheartening when I go on Facebook and see the people that I went to high school with already living in their own homes (or apartments or trailers). I feel like I’m mooching off of my parents, even though I do pay some of my bills and take care of most of my personal needs.

Some days, what I’m presently doing drains me and feels like “more than I can handle” at times, like I am just barely holding my head above the waves enough to breathe air more often than water.

And yet I know that it’s not nearly “enough”, that I should be working more (plenty of people have two or three jobs–why don’t I?), saving more, planning more.

But failing to “launch” right when I am expected to doesn’t mean that I am a failure as a person. 

I have some growing to do. I know that. I accept that. I hope to work towards that.

But there’s a difference between acknowledging that one needs to grow and beating oneself up for not “growing up.”

We ALL, no matter how well we “adult” or not, no matter what our bodies or minds are like, have some growing to do. We could all learn new skills, expand our current skills, reflect on ourselves and the world, and be a better version of ourselves.

But taking time to do that, or doing that in different ways and to a different extent, doesn’t mean that one is “subpar.”

I feel subpar a lot. A lot. A LOT.

I have to keep telling myself that I am not.

And I am telling you that you are not, either.

You are not inadequate. You are not insufficient. Maybe you’re not “there” yet, wherever “there” is for you. Maybe you’re not the person that you want to be, or maybe you know that you’re exactly where you can be, regardless of whether or not it’s where others tell you that you “should” be. You are worthy of being respected. You are worthy of what you feel and what you think being valued. Because effort is worth celebrating and even slow progress is progress. 

 

I think what this post boils down to is what 99% of my writing boils down to; respect people.  Respect people who live in different household arrangements than you do. Respect people who require different levels of support than you do. Respect people who #adult differently than you do. Respect people. Believe in what they can be with those supports, but respect where they are right now. Don’t purposely make others feel inferior or unworthy.

And that includes yourself.

Most of all yourself.

Your existence is valid, whatever that existence may look like.

You are valid as the person–as the adult–you are, no matter what skills you do or don’t have and how self-sufficient you are or aren’t.

I hope that you achieve everything that you want to achieve and become everything that you want to become, but you are a real, valid, worthy person of value even if you haven’t reached those things yet and are struggling to believe you ever will.

I love you. Please love yourself.

Because you are real and you are valid and you are worth it.

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