I turned 38 this past May and as my back and knees creak like a door at a haunted house, I feel every bit of my years physically. That's not the scary part. I'd like to think I don't really look my age, black not cracking and such. I dress fun, dance my heart out on any floor that will have me, hang in bars with folks I could almost be a mother to, behave RIDICULOUSLY silly and sometimes have the humor of a 13 year old boy. I also suck at most aspects of adulting. In my mind, when I am not being nice to myself, I feel like a grown ass child. While I relish in my seemingly carefree, adventurous lifestyle, I sometimes don't remember or have the ability to do the things essential to being a grown adult. Adulting, if you will.
The phrase and meme du jour has been "adulting." From "adulting is hard," to "I can't adult today," but there is actually a deeper layer to these things we say in jest. Adulting is everything from paying bills on time (shit, sometimes at all), to tasks such as taking a shower, taking meds, and getting out of bed. In a nutshell, it is the basic elements of self-care. All these aforementioned tasks, I have sucked at them all at some point, sometimes all at once.
Light bill arrives every month. You pay it. Another month of charging the tablet to binge watch Golden Girls. Sounds simple enough. Lights are extra fun. How about the month you had 60 hour work weeks, a depressive episode, and happened to be in physical pain? Wash. Rinse. Repeat. For another month. You come home to a darkened apartment. Inner voice yells, "How do you suck so bad at adulting? How the hell do you not pay the light bill when you have the money? What part of the game is that?"
I have a million stories like this. The most recent happened just this week. I accidentally let my health insurance lapse because of a banking error and general negligence due to extreme stress and months of mind numbing back pain. I had an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment, dread, and disappointment. I had a number of takeaways from that incident:
Forgive yourself when you mess up. Easy to say, not so easy to do, I’m aware. This is still my biggest hurdle. I still implore you to not be so hard on yourself. You know that compassion you have for everyone else? Give some back to yourself and think of it as reimbursement. Everybody loves a refund check. Shit, I know I do, I got bills to pay back from my lack of adulting. Huzzah! Even the biggest of messes have the ability to be cleaned up or atoned. The key is to realize that just means you have to change your strategy. You have to make sure that you learn from each instance and find help on how to prevent the next occurrence. REAL adulting is making mistakes, examining them, and being proactive to prevent it from happening again.
You must also acknowledge extenuating circumstances out of your immediate control that can cause you to slip. I had to remind myself I have mental illness, life stress, and physical pain two-stepping on the 1 and 3 in my brain. Ever try to stay focused next to a tragic dancer? Shit’s damn near impossible. This also includes knowing that you still are going to fuck up sometimes no matter how well you plan. If you don’t, you’ll be the first person this side of modern history to ever get it all right.
Admit to yourself as soon as you see when things are getting rough for you. It is not a sign of weakness to admit you are tired or that you failed at something. Once you get to a point where you can at least internally say there is a problem, the easier it is to admit it to someone else. I wrote a poem ‘bout it, wanna hear it? Here it go...
a wise (wo)man once said:
i am tired.
and when (s)he admitted it
(s)he had her epiphany.
is just the big reveal
of what you knew all along.
but were too scared
I know a thing that helped me not sink into depression with my latest misstep was to have the courage to tell someone. Immediately, they told me of the many times it happened to them. I shared my story in a private forum of women I belong to and my notifications lit up with stories of similar and worse adulting falls from grace. I even got stories from, you guessed it, the women I thought had it all together. No one is immune to messing up. The notion of perfection only exists in your mind.
If your life has a tendency to be chaotic, a huge step forward is getting assistance creating a system. Whether it is scheduling/time management, bill schedules, budgeting, and beyond, it is apparent that organization is not your wheelhouse. That just means it is imperative to connect with someone who is good at that sort of thing. The great part is you can ask someone to assist you in getting organized without even disclosing your specific issue. Even if you aren’t ready to talk to someone, you can Google how someone else did it. I guarantee you that there is nothing new under the sun and your search bar will populate before you even finish typing out the second word of your quandary. I swear Google is a mind reader and lowkey Big Brother, but that’s another article for another day.
Getting your shit together is far from an overnight proposition, but it is not out of reach. You deserve the peace that comes from taking care of yourself and responsibilities; you can absolutely have it. Being a grown-up is hard, but I promise YOU GOT THIS BOO, you flawed, yet beautifully brilliant adult, you.
Alise Leslie is a blogger, author of two poetry collections, public speaker, and mental health advocate currently residing in Durham, NC. She writes at the blog, “In My Mental Mind: a black girl’s mental health journey,” focusing on mental health issues, particularly for women and men of color, through essays, personal stories, poetry, and music. Her lipstick game is most likely better than yours.
If you'd like to see what she's up to on the interwebs, you can find her here:
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