When I was young, I thought all of the adults in my life had all of the answers.
I thought because my mom knew exactly how long to microwave hot pockets without having to look at the instructions on the box, she knew all the secrets to success. “How do they know what to say all the time?” was a common question I internalized when listening to adults speak to each other. They all seemed to have this superpower to memorize strings of numbers: social security numbers, phone numbers, ID numbers, etc. Having a stack of business cards, in my naivety, was equivalent to having stacks of money. And I fantasized that I would one day acquire their abilities.
I put all of the older people in my life on pedestals because these people seemingly knew … well, everything. Everything from the meaning of life, to exactly the direction they were heading with their personal and career endeavors; from what happens to us after we die, to why people suffer. And I thought I would learn all of these things, too.
Now, though, my definition of adulthood is not the moment when you figure everything out, but the moment when you realize no one else has it figured out either.
We’re all faking it. Adults are just better at hiding it.
Think about all the times you’ve lied in response to the question, “How are you?” Even if you were having the most shit day, you’d still make the same exact small talk: “I’m good, and you?” and continue with your shit day. We fake it because we know no one wants to hear our incessant venting. We put on a mask, pretend to enjoy our jobs, then go home and trick ourselves into thinking doing the dishes “isn’t actually that bad.”
Then after we’ve done the dishes, we play video games, watch silly YouTube videos, dance in our underwear, or eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s while watching TV.
Adults are just grown-up kids after all.
Sure, when facing obstacles, I try to extrapolate from my (or others’) past experiences in search of a solution or a workaround. I’m not confident, but I think I’ve developed sufficient critical thinking skills to enough “what if” scenarios in order to avoid complete calamity. But in all honesty, there are so many times when I just throw my hands up in the air, say “I have no fucking clue,” and just wing it.
And I’m not alone.
I used to be relatively oblivious. I think of my time prior to my cross-country move to New York — before I gave all of my belongings away, took a low-paying job, knew what it was like to be truly hungry, experienced some of my lowest of lows in life — I was much more naive. I didn’t, on a daily basis, wonder why I was here on this earth when, now, I contemplate my existence every other hour or so.
Why is it only when we’re deprived of our most basic assumptions, we face the absurdity of existence, and ask, “what is this all about, anyway?”
It gets easier, though.
I’ve found solace in realizing no one knows what they’re doing.
But, no, there’s not really an “Adulting 101” class or a self-help book or a DIY tutorial on getting your shit together. As cliche as it sounds, simply doing my best is my number one goal. Some days I fail to reach that goal, but some days I succeed.
And that’s all anyone can really ask of you.