Adulthood is an interesting conundrum. When I was little, my dad and grandparents would say things like, “You’ll understand when you’re older,” or, “it makes more sense when you’re an adult.” Looking back, I realized they were right…and they were wrong. Depending on the topic at hand, I do actually understand. I understand why I can’t allow the kid to have a third snack in two hours. I understand why it’s not healthy to only eat candy all day. I understand why it’s imperative to make sure to brush your teeth and take showers to get clean.
Those petty little situations that arose as a child finally make sense to me. To be fair, they were making a lot of sense to me many years ago, possibly early into my teens. Now that I’m older, so many things don’t make sense. Struggling every day, I attempt to come to terms with the balance between leisure and responsibility. I’m not talking about sitting down to watch TV for an hour or anything but rather the balance of finding time to be a human being and not a machine that must acquire certain aspects in order to conventionally survive.
When I was a kid, I never understood why my father was so tired after work each day. He would finish work, and I would ask him if he wanted to go play some basketball. Some days were yes and others were no. No pattern really emerged that signaled the reason for any of his answers. Instead, I just assumed it was how he felt that day and not because of any outlying or ulterior reasons.
As an adult, I’ve come to learn that those outliers are predominantly based on other things inside the psyche and aspects of my life.
A good example would be a few weeks ago. I’m currently unemployed due to Covid-19, thus I don’t leave the house every day to go work eight hours. Instead, I find myself doing a lot of writing, housework, and random chores here and there. On this particular day, my stepdaughter asked me if I wanted to go on a bike ride. I wasn’t physically exhausted, nor was I in a position where the bike ride sounded like a bad idea. However, I had spent the majority of the day in discussion with my fiancee about job searching, house hunting, wedding planning, and miscellaneous other topics pertaining to our idea of sustainable adulthood.
While this is pale in comparison to the things that many adults do on a daily basis, it brought upon a form of mental exhaustion for which I was unprepared. I felt extremely tired for the rest of the day, which is odd given the amount of time I spend writing or doing other mentally challenging activities. For some reason that I couldn’t explain, the idea of a bike ride sounded too exhausting for my tired mind.
As a child, I could never understand that, but even as an adult, I still don’t understand it. Why am I so tired after having a three hour long conversation? I worked in customer service and would spend eight hours mentally focusing on conversation and the more specific aspects of my job. I would still come home and be up for doing different things.
Finding a balance between those practical and leisure activities has become a chore for which I was never ready. I’m still not ready for them. I am a fully grown adult, fully capable of providing for myself and my family, and yet I have not grasped the concept of balancing different aspects of my life.
Then I look back on my father and often wonder how he ever did it. He was a single parent that somehow managed to work a full time job and still provide for his family. He coached my baseball team, played with me, played with my sister, took her to her gymnastics lessons, made us dinner, and still found time for himself. My father did all of that and more. How?
Granted, much of this might stem from the idea that I have a stepdaughter but no child of my own. Perhaps the drive to do things for your child vastly outweighs personal preference and liability. I know that my fiancee would do anything and everything for her daughter, including go without eating so that her daughter could eat. I love that little girl with everything that I am, and I know I would do the same, but perhaps the ideals of overall satisfaction are different for biological children.
Would I say yes to the bike ride if it was my own child? Honestly, I don’t know.
Regardless of the reason, I still don’t understand why a three hour conversation like that made me feel so tired. I understand why my dad didn’t want to play basketball sometimes, but I don’t understand why it does that to me. Is it my age? My physical health? My mental health?
Without reason, I’m beginning to feel like something got misconstrued in the aging process. To quell the confusion, I feel like something changed somewhere down the line of our ancestors. I can work eight hours and feel fine at the end of the shift, whereas my fiancee will work six hours and be completely exhausted. I can spend four hours writing, whereas my best friend would be mentally finished after one hour. Does our individual perception and development play a major role in our own physical and mental prowess?
As a child, I spent my days playing all day. As a teenager, I spent all day studying and practicing different skills. As a young adult, I spent all day working and trying to enjoy life. As a full adult, I spend my days worrying about the next thing in life’s roller coaster. While I enjoy the minor things when time and energy allow, I find myself more focused on the varied aspects of conventional living.
I still enjoy watching movies, but I don’t find the same joy in them I once did. I still enjoy playing video games, but I don’t get the same thrill or rush when I play them. I still enjoy reading, but the books seem more like a chore than anything else. A myriad of other activities, once fun and entertaining, have lost value. It’s as if my sense of enjoyment has all but fizzled into nothingness while I am forced to move from one thing to the next.
Life has always been about progression. In my eyes, nothing matters unless there is some form of progression from one point to the next. It can be a large progression such as a new job, moving to a new place, or buying a new car. Little bits of that lifestyle can also be found in smaller, less substantial progressions such as a going on a date, getting a favorite restaurant’s food, or writing tomorrow’s blog post.
My life has always been consumed by that progression. Today there is nothing, but in two days time, I have an appointment to get my car fixed. While many consider this type of living to be unhealthy, it has always pushed me forward. What I did on a day to day basis didn’t matter as long as I was surviving until the next progression.
Now, I still live by this progression, but everything has started to overwhelm any kind of positive. Beforehand, it was all about the next event, no matter the scope of its spectrum. Whether it was a small meal or buying a new car, everything had a reason and a purpose which gave me some form of enjoyment.
Unfortunately, I am now stuck in a constant and consistent trap of progressing to bigger and less enjoyable things. I thought doing these things were supposed to be great leaps and strides in the aerial show of life. While I do fully enjoy looking for a job using my degree, buying a house, and getting married, the scope at which I must do these things is so overwhelming that I have lost the taste of enjoyment.
That batch of chocolate chip cookies? Tasteless. Watching a great movie with good company? Mediocre. Playing a video game to help escape reality? Pointless. Writing to my heart’s content, putting forth a particle of the fragmented thoughts in my head? Exhausting.
I know this is unhealthy and bad for my mental health. I understand that I am not living a conventional lifestyle by making these choices, but I haven’t quite figured out where the puzzles pieces fit into the overall picture.
When are things fun again? When I will regain the sweet taste of enjoyment? Does it ever get any easier or is a person’s true strength limited to his or her ability to not be weak? I’m confused. Welcome to adulthood, right?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I promised a bike ride to a very wonderful little girl.