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This is 25: Contemplations on Adulthood

Well, I think I’m officially an adult. I know I've been talking about being on the verge of adulthood for a while now, but this time it's real. I'm in the thick of it. This is made possible by my pretending not to live with my parents by spending most of my days at my boyfriend’s place. This, my friends, is 25. I wake up weekday mornings somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30, chug the glass of water I responsibly set out for myself the night before, get out of bed and feel all the aches and pains of being an old woman in a worn-out body, meditate, get all too excited about my morning coffee (especially when one of my three favourite mugs is available), and sit down at my desk to begin my work day as a grownup with a 9-to-5. I didn’t intend to give a detailed summary of my morning routine, but I suppose it’s critical to the narrative -- only true adults have such structured lives! Let's continue, shall we? I spend my day working, getting up for a meal or a snack or a pee break as necessary, and once I’ve ticked off most of the items on my to-do list, I close my laptop, change into some stretchy clothes, roll out my mat, and do Pilates. I take a hot shower and spend as much time as possible contemplating my day's thoughts in the peaceful and private environment only a shower can provide, and then Jared and I make dinner. We watch a couple episodes of whatever show we’re invested in at the moment (currently: Community) before going back to our separate work stations to work some more. Him, on whatever coding project is demanding his attention; me, on my Pilates coursework. When it’s time for bed, I remember that in the morning I’ll get to enjoy a heavenly cup of coffee, and this remembering spurs a spark of excitement for what's waiting on the other side of my 8-hour sleep. I'm excited to wake up the next day, because waking up means coffee. And coffee brings me joy. And my God, I am such an adult -- isn't it obvious by now?! So, this is my life now. I used to grumble at the mere thought of finishing a work day only to do even more work — MAKING food, CLEANING up the inevitable mess of making said food, taking care of my basic needs, and making sure I get everything else done in that 5-hour window of freedom after giving 8 hours of my time to capitalism. I’ll admit, there are days that feel harder than others. Days I feel overwhelmed with the weight of adulting, knowing that this will be my life forever. (Until I go home and my mom feeds me and cleans up after me, and I get to do this whenever I please because I am, after all, still living at home, technically. But that's a minor detail.) From this point on, it’s just more adulting. And on the hard days, that thought alone is enough to send me spiralling. “I didn’t sign up for this!" "I didn’t ask to be born!” These are some of the thoughts I angrily shout in my head when every little responsibility starts feeling all too heavy.

Fortunately, those days are less frequent than the ones where I enjoy my mundane little existence. But they come, and I’ve learned to simply lean into it when they do. Resistance is futile. It's best to let yourself feel the feelings as they arise rather than to suppress them in the hopes that they'll never resurge. Because, spoiler alert, they always do. So I just sit in for a moment. Ugh, it sucks being an adult sometimes. Ugh, I don’t want to do the dishes or the laundry, and even my beloved shower time feels more like a chore than a blissful escape from reality. But I do what I need to do and I figure it out and I let myself feel a little bit sad and a little bit scared and a little bit pissed off that my embryo (or whatever) had to be the “lucky” one granted the gift of human life. And this feeling passes, as it always does. Maybe in an hour, maybe in a day, maybe in a few days, but it always passes. And then I go back to appreciating my mundane little existence. Isn’t that what being an adult is? Teetering between the joy of freedom and independence and the suffering of responsibility and, well, independence?! You may recall a blog post from nearly two years ago where I whined about my impending adulthood and the lack of fun that was sure to be found on the other side. Well, I found it. And I'm as surprised to say this as you may be to hear it, but it’s... not so bad. I may even say it's almost... pleasant? I have quickly become accustomed to my new life. I’ve cut out drinking for the most part (which I know from all the adults in my life is not a lifestyle change required of grownups), and I spend my weekend mornings getting my Pilates practice teaching hours. That means I go to bed early on weekend nights and choose not to drink because the thought of waking up hungover is so unappealing that I can’t believe I used to spend so much of my time in the groggy, hazy, anxious slump that follows a night out. See, I’m an ADULT. There's simply no way around it. I make responsible choices for my well-being and would never stay out late when I have an obligation the next morning. I suddenly feel like I’m flaunting my excellent choices to land a nomination for some “World’s Best Adult” award, and I hate myself for it. (But if there is such an award, would someone like to put in a good word for me? Maybe don't mention I technically live at home and have oodles of student debt. Thanks!) I know I sound like a very boring adult. I’m sure adults around the world are reading this thinking, “Whoa whoa whoa! Adults can have fun — you’re making us look bad!” And they're right. Of course adults can have fun! I am, by society’s standard, a boring adult. I'm the one who stays in on a Friday night by choice (I have friends, I promise) and prefers her wine glass filled with kombucha. But part of the joy of being an adult is getting to choose how to spend your days, and this is how I choose to spend mine. I think 25 really is the pivotal age it’s cracked up to be. You’re halfway through your 20s. You’re no closer to 20 than you are to 30. You can have a career. You can have responsibilities. People trust you while still seeing you as a bit of a kid, but a trustworthy one. I’m balancing on the thin line separating my early 20s from my late 20s, and those feel like such distinct eras of adulthood. Early 20s: have fun, explore, experiment, get to know yourself… Late 20s: have something -- literally anything -- figured out, start being smart about your finances, keep having fun but know that your f*ck-ups aren't quite as inconsequential as before... right? So if 25 is me being boring, well, I guess I'm happy about it. I think everything becomes a little more manageable with age, and you just can't see it until you have another year of experience under your belt. At 23, I couldn’t imagine the life I live now, and why should I have?! I was a different person at 23. It feels like every year I shed some old version of myself and get a little bit closer to the person I want to be -- someone I didn’t think I could actually be. Someone I hoped I could be but really, truly didn't believe I could. (Thanks, anxiety.) Like an adult who doesn’t find her 9-to-5 soul-crushing and enjoys the simplicity of her life. It’s exciting, really, and I’m… happy? Oh gosh, that feels like a very serious claim to make. Declaring happiness?! My anxiety-ridden, painfully insecure self could never. I’ve grown so accustomed to feeling unstable, so used to building my identity around my fluctuating emotions that it feels out of character to simply be content. But I can't lie: I really am mostly happy these days. My anxiety has subsided immensely, and I look back on the days when I thought I’d forever be plagued with this gnawing sense of fear and doom and incompetence and can’t believe where I am now. I'm not fully free of anxiety and it certainly creeps in at times, but mostly within reason, like when I’m faced with a new experience or a situation I’m not yet comfortable with. It's no longer a constant. It's no longer my daily reality. It comes when there’s a reason to be nervous and it fades when the moment passes. What I’ve learned so far in my 4-month stint of working full-time and quasi-adulting is this: Responsibility is the antidote to my anxiety. When I have no choice but to show up because people are counting on me, I show up. There’s no room for overthinking every little thing. There’s just something that needs to be done and me who needs to do it. I used to think I hated being busy, and I still don’t like to be on the go all the time, but I can't deny that being preoccupied has saved me from myself. Being busy leaves no space to worry if I’m on the right path, if I’m ever going to be happy, if I’ll ever figure it out. I'm just... figuring it out. I’m not plagued with uncertainty about my path and my purpose and my passion (the 3 Ps of quarter-life anxiety, one could call them). I’m just taking things as they come. Doing what feels good right now and not thinking so much about whether it's what I want to do forever and ever and ever. When you’re actively doing the things you want to do, instead of just thinking about all your options and being so paralyzed with fear that you don’t actually act on any of them, life gets easier. It really does get easier. I almost can’t believe these words rolling off my fingers right now. I can’t believe the person I am today. I can’t believe I wake up most mornings without that pit in my stomach that had become all too familiar, that I get through most days feeling confident-ish in my abilities, that I enjoy my job and seek out responsibility rather than shying away from it. I’m not saying I suddenly have it all figured out and life is just peachy. Not one bit. But I’ve figured it out just enough to keep moving forward. Just enough to not feel entirely directionless. I spent much of my life feeling directionless. If I had a memoir from ages 18-24, "Directionless" would be the title. That, or “What the F*ck Am I Doing with My Life and Why is Everything So Hard?” While I’m not ready to bestow any life-changing wisdom on my younger self, I do wish I could tell her to just chill the f*ck out. But on second thought, I wouldn’t tell her anything. I could tell her not to worry, that it will all work out, but those words never comfort anyone in the midst of excruciating uncertainty about their entire life. When you’re 23 and intensely afraid of ending up in a miserable job and never achieving anything great, those words are empty. Deep down, I think I always knew something would work out, that I’d end up somewhere, but at the time, I couldn’t possibly imagine what that could be. And what a terrifying feeling that is for someone riddled with anxiety and unhealthily obsessed with finding purpose.

So, younger Tal, I’d tell you to relax, but I know you won’t. I’d tell you it’ll get easier, but I know you won’t believe me. One day you’ll see, and I won’t tell you “I told you so.” I’ll just smile, wrap you in an imaginary hug, and feel really proud. I know how badly the people-pleaser in you wants to hear those words from literally anyone else, but at the end of the day, it only matters that you are proud of you. So, keep going. Keep trusting yourself. Because you know what? It’s working. Well, this is 25. Perhaps not what I expected, and certainly not where I thought I’d be a year ago. If you told me this time last year as I was starting my education degree that in one year's time I’d be working my dream job as a copywriter for a mental health app and pursuing a Pilates certification, I genuinely wouldn’t have believed you. Life does have a way of working out, after all. But don’t tell younger Tal that — she’ll just scoff in your face.


Boring, Adulting, Maybe Happy, Still Figuring It Out Tal

P.S. I reviewed this post while listening to the "Hygge Suite" playlist on the Calm app, so if it seems even cheesier and harder to read than usual, it's because I read it to the soundtrack of emotional piano music that set the scene for the end of a sappy rom-com where the sage protagonist (me) writes a letter to their troubled younger self (also me). I'm also drugged up on cold medicine that makes me extra delusional (I have Covid! Yay!). To avoid embarrassment, I will not reread what I've published here once I take out my headphones. Thank you for understanding.


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