On my 16th birthday, a neighbor (by which I mean someone who lived within a three mile radius of my house out in the boonies of Montana), called me to let me know Stormy, our cocker spaniel, was dead. I was alone for the weekend and I had to walk over the frozen lake into Magpie Bay and locate the body of a dead, frozen dog. He had fallen through the ice after running off.
I carried him home, crying all the way, and then buried him, hacking into the ground first with a pick, then with a spade. By the time the task was done, I felt very adult. I handled death, in a very personal way. I took responsibility. How much more adult did I need to be?
While most people were getting their driver’s licenses and driving, I was not. I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was in my senior year in high school. No driver’s ed (that would require me staying after school which was nigh impossible due to living out in the aforementioned boonies). Having the right to drive at the same time I had the right to vote seemed like a clear indication of adulthood. At the same time I was looking at colleges and took my first solo trip on a train from Helena to Chicago (Naperville). Alone, in the world, in a big city… this clearly made me an adult. I was making a giant decision all by myself. Parental input was limited, neither of my parents went to college and only one of my five brothers and sisters went away for school, so the depth of experience in these matters was quite shallow to say the least. Making these decisions on my own seemed very adult.
Then I regressed. A lot. After college my first job was at Godfather’s Pizza. Then at a bookstore. These were not adult jobs. I finally moved back to Chicago and got a job at a credit union and my life became very, very adult. It was all responsibility – no fun.
Yet at no point did I feel like an adult in those years.
I felt the full weight of being an adult last year when my mother died. I was riding in a vehicle with my siblings as we drove about making the arrangements. “I keep waiting for the adults to step in and tell us what to do and then I realize… we are the adults.”
Is that what being an adult means? When stuff has to be done… the not fun stuff…you are the one who has to do it?
This adult thing isn’t fun at all.