There is this misconception, especially in America, that turning 18 somehow suddenly transforms you into a grown person who is magically capable of functioning on their own without the assistance of their parent(s) or guardian(s), whoever those may or may not be. But, for those of us who have been on this ride for a few years, we know that that is a bald-faced lie. Here, I am now nearing 27, sitting in a room that still has no curtains covering its windows, and why is that? Partially because when I bought a curtain rod, it was the wrong size and I never took it back to Walmart for a replacement, and partially because, I have absolutely no goddamn clue how to be an adult.
What even does it mean to be an adult? Is it just working like a slave for so many hours that they all blend together and you try immediately to forget the day as soon as it ends? And now that I’m over 21, I can do that with a bottle of red wine, typically a cabernet or merlot. Yes, I mean a bottle. Working is rough out here. Being an adult seems to also mean breaking your back in half for a boss who does not give a fuck about you just so you can pay bills for some shitty house or apartment that can be taken away at any moment or, lord forbid, have a pricing increase that takes you from just barely getting by, to “I need to start selling organs to afford this.”
There was a time when I had curtains on my windows and paid all my bills on time and worked 60 hours a week and spent most of that drinking, partying, and paying down credit card bills. I was fairly happy back then. I was still in college and thought I had an amazing life in front of me. Obviously, I hadn’t quite had my bubble properly popped yet, but it was on the way to being smashed.
Of all the failures that I have known since I reached adulthood, there are some things that are easier to ignore than others, like the mounting school loans that Sallie Mae doesn’t really deserve to be paid for. Because, I mean, if I’m not benefitting from my university degree, why should they? But the things that are in my face daily are the things that remind me that I have not reached this obnoxious ideal of American adulthood: the sketchbooks that I haven’t touched in over a year shoved behind my nightstand, the windows with their obnoxiously bent blinds from where my cat shoves his head to stare out of the window, the bare floors where there are no fur rugs or woolen carpets, the kitchen, devoid of a fancy, French set of Le Creuset cookware, also, no Keurig coffee maker in sight!
There are some things that remind me that though life isn’t going the way I imagined, I am still pushing forward. Mostly, those are the little avocado trees and succulents that sit on the porch, and the three pumpkins I managed to get after attempting to grow pumpkins for the first time ever. I have found ways to thrive even while I struggle to manage the balance of being a so-called adult.
I see myself in all of the plants. In the rosemary bush I rescued from a client who gave up on it. They think it is dead, a lost cause. A gamble that resulted in no herbs for the kitchen they might not even use. Who needs to cook when you can afford a pool and a whole team of gardeners to maintain your lawn and gardens for you? I know I surely wouldn’t. But the rosemary was depending on someone to care for it, full time. Not the few hours a week that I show up to trim and weed and water.
I took that rosemary home and put it in a large planter with a constant source of dripping water. I will fertilize it. I will move it from place to place to help it follow the sunlight. I will trim and stare and pace around it and wait for it to flourish. This is the kind of care and love that every person needs to become whatever it is an adult actually is. Not all of this stress, neglect, and long hours of mindless work. You are as worthy of love as every plant in my garden.
Perhaps, my little rosemary was not ready to thrive. Maybe it didn’t have enough care from its original owners. Maybe it just needed a little more time and its own pot to stretch its roots. Maybe you do too. Maybe buying those curtains is the first step to turning your living space into a place where you can thrive and find peace and joy and really think about all the things you want from your life. A place where you too can feel the sunlight and grow your roots and become everything you were meant to be.
Maybe I am just un-American. I think we all should be free.
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