10 Things I discovered about growing up

Having walked the earth for just over two and half decades there’s things that I have awakened to about adulthood that I never anticipated before and that may resonate with a few readers. These read as things we generally took for granted in our younger days when we clamoured for a place at the adult table.

1. Work.

Oh yes, when you screamed out what you wanted to be when you grow up in kindergarten/nursery you never actually thought you’d have to follow through on that did you? I personally do not remember having a clear cut desire to work a certain type of job or that my identity would be largely tied to it. At 26 I work as an IT Systems Analyst and it takes up much more of my existence than I ever imagined when I was younger. It also pays for…

2. Bills.

Gone are the days when you’d say you want it and mum would provide it. If mum says ‘no’ go to dad when he’s concentrating on the game — job done. Or you’d go shopping in the cupboard or fridge there’d always be something there regardless of what it took to put it there. It seems a miracle that my dad’s car always had a full tank of petrol! Bills are the bane of my existence and I despise them. To date I have done more for utility companies and landlords than I have done for myself financially. No adult escapes the scourge of bill payment for all their lives. There is nothing more energy sapping than being greeted by one of those brown envelopes when you walk through the door after a long day at work. It’s not just utilities as well, for an adult the toys and fun are more costly too — a house, a car, a holiday, a day/night out. However, the amount spent on these pales in comparison to the one of the largest bills conceivable…

3. Tax.

Ah how can anyone not love “the taxman”! Tax doesn’t even operate like all the other bills as it comes out of your salary directly, transparent to you so that you won’t get the opportunity to spend it. Inevitably because of the complexity of the taxation system in the UK there will be mistakes and sometimes you overpay/underpay. Hold on, you mean you’ve calculated my tax code and managed to make a mistake on my behalf and now you either need to reimburse me or I need to pay the difference?! In my short working life I’ve managed to find myself on either side of this bizarre situation without my knowledge — great when the Taxman needed to reimburse me, not great when I had to give some money back for a mistake I had no part in. The worst [best] part of tax is if you’ve got sufficient knowledge of the system and accounting (or can pay an accountant) you can do without paying it or as much, as successfully demonstrated by some large multinationals (should I really name names…)

4. Responsibility.

Keeping up with the above three things means you get to be cited as a responsible adult, functional citizen. You don’t get to opt in or out of this requirement. Responsibility is conferred on you as the birthdays keep coming and you will not be able to take any vacations from it. Not only do you have to preside over your own affairs but in many cases you will be called upon to do so for others — significant others, little others (kids), superior others (bosses), inanimate others (home, car, business) etc. All of a sudden its not cool to spot a certain type of haircut. Guess who has to fix stuff that gets broken around the house? That’s right — you again! If not you — you have to call, get put on hold, get passed to a different department, spent half an hour explaining what’s wrong with the bill, be put on hold, get passed to another department and so goes the cycle until the issue is resolved.

5. Pressure to do well.

“Meet my son, he’s a ….” (Fill in the blank with prestigious profession of choice). We all know how these types of introductions go and their purpose. Inevitably they evoke a somewhat civilized “my-child-is-more-successful-than-yours” type of discourse (therefore I am a more successful parent than you)! I kid of course, but pressure to excel is not only external its intrinsic as well. All those hopes and dreams that are written down in our journals need to be crossed off. We have this immense need to be winning at life or at least to be seen as winning (hello Instagram, Facebook and your cousins). We sometimes get lost in artificial rat races only to find ourselves missing out on what life is about after winning them.

6. Autonomy (a bit of it…).

I had some episodes as a kid that I detested being told what to do by big bad “adults”. At those times I wished to grow up so no one would tell me what I ought to do. Fast forward a few years, I have my wish but with a few caveats. I have my car but it requires petrol to take me where I need to go. I live in my own house but it needs rent and maintenance — you get the point. Freedom has an evil twin…discovery number 4, responsibility. So now I’ve got new parents; employer, council, government, police, landlord, utilities — ah turns out freedom is not free at all!

7. Death of some dreams.

When I realised that I was never going to be Spiderdman despite eating Spider-Man cornflakes that broke my little heart (no I was smart enough to not get myself bitten by an actual spider). A lot of dreams have died along with my fantasies. I no longer wish to buy a super sports car just to park in the London-bound traffic — even in a parallel universe where I have the funds to do so. I don’t wish to marry a supermodel chick who so happens to want 2.5 kids and I do not wish to live in a 3 storey mansion with at least 5 bathrooms when I can only be in one at any time. If life gives you such a well defined combination of desirables without handing you some other undesirable then I truly salute you. I have since done away with the ‘you can have it all’ type fancies and commit instead to do my best with the resources and opportunities I am presented with now and that is quite liberating in many ways. I now endeavour to put others before myself even if it only involves giving a smile during a rough day (it’s less exhausting and disappointments are minimal).

8. Time Flies.

Being an adult means I have less time to build memories, friendships or to even dream anymore. You notice now that you’re living on borrowed time. You live under diaries, appointments, schedules and plans which you are always chasing. Despite all the technological aids and apps that we have, we still have the same 24 hours as everyone else and more demands on our time than ever. Life is not a massive project because we don’t know what the timeline is and despite our best efforts its variables are too many and a lot of them out of our control (which is why many of our dreams should die). If I could go back and advise my boyhood self I would tell him — stop drawing a beard on your chin, you’re going to have one that will take significant grooming time each morning for the greater part of your life!

9. Parents mean well.

Now I’m a bit older I’m beginning to understand my parents. Their wisdom and life experience has not always been welcome as I (mostly in my teens) would associate it with restriction. I don’t have children of my own but I have close friends who do and I get the dynamic at play. Their lives are now built around the little people they have helped to bring in the world. They have happily let a lot of their own desires from life die to make way for a new generation and that has to be bigger than many causes we chase after in life. Granted, my parents don’t know everything but I can never question their loyalty or motives about anything concerning me.

10. More losses than gains.

I have been awakened to this fact — we will lose more than we gain in life, every single one of us. Death will ultimately make sure we end up at the same level. We will be defined more by how we handle loss more than by what we have or accumulate. It’s easy to be charismatic when you’ve got everything but it’s in those dark seasons of the soul that we need to learn to thrive. This is when we learn who stands alongside us, this is when our resilience comes to the surface and ultimately our character is built.

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