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Grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Richmond, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oakland. My time now is mostly spent getting better at being a person, refining my time management skills, trying to read normal people books and articles, and learning how to be a force for good.

T1D Life in full effect. 

I will never stop learning, nor will I stop working to make a difference for someone.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The 'adulting' movement

Something I've been thinking about for awhile now is the idea that as we grow older, we mature and become 'adults'. I'm not certain what this means, as many folks would explain being an 'adult' as sustaining a family, living in one place, having one job, and growing older. Some folks would say that being an 'adult' is more about attitude; this in and of itself is not necessarily wrong, just obscure and unspecific. Others might say that being an 'adult' is about handling the relationships you have in a 'mature manner'. However, most people who say this aren't mature or adulty, at least as far as I can tell. Then we come the idea that being an 'adult' is a very obscure thing. It is quite an eye-of-the-beholder type of concept, but we can say a number of things about what being an 'adult' means for certain, and this is what I will talk about today.

I know, that being an adult means that I am not supposed to be silly. What I mean by silly is...well, I'll give you an example. My friend Will and I seem to find ourselves 'sillying-out' on occasion, or going so silly we actually become the definition of the term. Instead of going from one specific topic of 'adult' conversation to another with high levels of regularity and subtle seriousness, we sometimes will be speaking of very important topics such as wealth and race and gendered sexuality, and will suddenly start discussing how to best apply sunscreen to a walrus. It isn't that walruses have an ever-pressing need for sunscreen, but if one were to investigate the best way of applying sunscreen to a walrus, I am certain the data would be useful for any number of social science projects, and possibly the military.

I believe silliness to be a necessary skill for coping with life, but I know some folks would disagree. Mostly, when we talk about being an adult, we talk about having a sense of humor balanced with the concept of maturity, but again the definition of such is obscure to the point of ridiculous. Do we really believe that a sense of humor is only about being able to entertain someone else in a way they find enjoyable? Why is a sense of humor not a reciprocal engagement of figuring out how two people's definitions of fun and funny can mesh or coincide? This is the primary question I find myself asking. Why is you thinking I have a good sense of humor predicated on my being able to ENTERTAIN YOU? That seems a little fishy, definitely self-centered, and not at all fun for anyone but you. I also will give, that most folks don't think about this issue this deeply, although if you've only been reading for a couple minutes and are already thinking I've gone off the deep end, you need Jesus.

So here's the dilemma: do we really believe that in order to be considered an enjoyable 'adult' we must be able to entertain people, assuming we really enjoy that ourselves? And in conjunction with this, are we to also believe that sustaining a cartoony definition of the American Dream is the only way to be seen, or perceived, as a responsible 'adult'? If one were to choose to never 'settle down' and start what we collectively believe to be a 'normal adult life' most folks at least in the United States would try to find a way to say they were fucked up. If they happen to like said person, they would try to find words and concepts to explain away the person's seeming lack of maturity. Now, sometimes we glorify this lack of maturity, in the cases of high-level male executives who just never find the right person; they were busy building their career and 'sowing their wild oats' whatever the fuck that means. But when the high-level executive is female, this romantic idea disappears and we wonder, "Why wouldn't she want to have a family and kids? Is she lesbian? Is she too fucked up emotionally?" Beautiful double-standard to say the least. Misogyny to be precise. But that idea of what it means to be an 'adult' is fixed within a temporally fluid conceptual maze of everyday assumptions about what our lives are 'supposed' to look like, and gender is a highly flammable concept to address head on, especially when people think they know what's best for everyone else.

In any case, I'll give a simpler example. I know a number of young adults who work jobs, go to school, and sustain relationships and friendships that mean a lot to everyone involved. Why wouldn't these people be considered adults? Because they like to laugh out loud in public? Whenever we see folks laughing in public, everyone seems to get all insecure and weirded out. "What are they laughing about? Is it me? Is it that other dude with bad hair?" Instead of catching the fun bug, we get all paranoid about people HAVING FUN TOGETHER. My friends and I constantly bring absurdity into our conversations. It's funny. It makes us feel good. We deal with a lot of emotional weight by getting absurd about ourselves, each other, and everything else. See his post about the historical genealogies of dinosaurs if you'd like a more concrete example...we have conversations like that all the time.

I firmly believe that as we get 'adulted' we start to lose touch with the absurdities of our world. We start to think that the absurdities aren't absurd and funny; that they are normal, natural, and unavoidable. We think that if we aren't serious enough, we won't find success, happiness, or immortality. I would argue that success is again a fluid, and contentious and ultimately unnecessary concept wholly absorbed within the capitalistic ideologies of the 'First World'. Happiness too is a place littered with assumptions about what we are taught 'should' make us happy. And immortality is nothing other than those who outlive us remembering us for how we treated them, ourselves, and our communities. If we don't take time to talk about the subtle differences between gray and green aliens, or how we have trained ourselves to answer the call of the commercial, we'll lose our minds. Collectively, and eternally. And is that what being an 'adult' is really about?

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