A few years ago I started to realize that every problem I had was my problem, and there was nothing I could do about it. I’d made my choices – college, and the debt that came with it; relocating across country, and the emotional distance between family and childhood friends that built; becoming a teacher, and the beautiful but soul-crushing weight that carries with it. These outcomes are mine to own.
It was around this time in my life (age 23 or 24, maybe) that I started to understand that the most magnificent thing about being an adult is how every single decision that bubbles up and demands to be made is at least partially terrifying because there’s always some risk that, if the wrong choice is made, it will permanently, irreversibly fuck up your life.
Basically, everything you do as an adult is riskier than sending a 2 AM “u up?” text to a particularly toxic ex.
As always, thanks, Obama!
For instance, I took over part of a lease on a room in an apartment last October and, this spring, when the lease was approaching its end, my roommates and I found out there were all sorts of complicated nuances included in our contract that ended up costing us literal thousands of dollars because we didn’t read the fine print.
We found out (too late) that we were supposed to give 60 days notice (instead of 30) if we were moving out, and that we could only renew the lease with an original leaseholder (I wasn’t one, and my roommates were moving to Southern California), and that the rent would increase by $500 a month because we were about to become short-term tenants (since we were contractually obligated to stay beyond our lease now, or we would surrender our security deposit and owe two-months rent), and also there was nowhere to park aside from our assigned spots and people always parked in them and when we asked the office what we were supposed to do about it the asshole who manages that hellhole actually said, “There’s really nothing I can do about it.”
And maybe there wasn’t anything she could do about it, but there definitely wasn’t anything WE could do about any of it because we’d signed the lease that said we were cool with all of it.
Everything about being a grown-up is a mess like this. The older I get, the scarier it is. In the last two years it became brilliantly apparent that I can never buy a home because of the choices I made – choices like getting a couple of college degrees, or moving to an area where the rent is insanely high, or choosing a profession that’s rewarding but financially thankless. And there’s this fear of wasted time that lingers over every interaction, as if a day wasted dating the wrong person or working at the wrong job or not contacting that family member you’re on the outs with is one day closer to the end, and one less day to do things right.
When you’re a kid, there’s not much you can’t take back or correct. 12-year-olds don’t accidentally get themselves tied up in complicated rental agreements. Really, aside from murder, rape, and suicide, I can’t think of much else that a non-adult could never recover from, at least in some way, in his adult life. And with the first two, there could still be hope for rehabilitation.
At some point, within each of us something shifts and then suddenly, around age 17, or 20, or maybe 12 (or 30) everything starts to fall on you. You become the only one responsible for yourself – or at least realize that you are – and it’s horrifying. Little, crappy things like making a doctor’s appointment or cleaning the bathroom become anxiety-ridden nightmares and suddenly you have pneumonia and a yeast infection and there’s mildew everywhere.
Who decided it was fair to take back the “take-backsies” rule once you reach adulthood? Because I’d be down for a handful of do-overs. Although, who’s to say to other choice would land me somewhere half as good as where I am now?
Maybe it’s all worth the risk.