1. Oat meal. I’ll admit it. I’m a fan of hot breakfast cereals as a group. Oatmeal, cream of wheat, grits, corn meal are all perfectly pleasing breakfast foods in my kitchen. Running unnaturally late one morning this week, I opted to try breakfast in the little coffee shop / doughnut place in the office. That was a mistake. I saw oatmeal on their menu and thought to myself “self, how badly could a place screw up oatmeal?” The answer to that was a watery mess that had far more in common with the average soup than any kind of oatmeal one might expect to be served. That’s going to be a hard no from me, thanks. When the response from the manager is “yeah, that’s the new recipe we’re supposed to use. Nobody likes it,” I feel like you could have warned a guy ahead of time. Personally I’m 100% open to employee recommendations that warn me not to order something on the menu because it sucks. Not great business perhaps, but it would have been top notch customer service.
2. Telling me to smile more. Mostly I smile when I’m happy… not when I’m focusing in on the 13th revision of a PowerPoint slide or enduring the 3rd hour of a meeting that should have been an email. The fact that my face tends to go rather blank and the corners of my mouth draw towards a scowl in front of my computer terminal aren’t necessarily a commentary on anyone… Though I suppose it could be if it’s someone who tells me to “just smile” one more time. I’ll reserve those clear eyed, happy looks for times that don’t involve spending eight hour clips tethered to a cubicle. Otherwise I just end up walking around with a fake smile plastered right below my dead eyes like so many other drones who don’t seem to know what a smile is actually meant to convey.
3. Responsibility. I want another dog. I also want another cat. I also want to go to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer convention in London this fall. I want a new truck and maybe a plunge pool in the back yard. I want a remodeled master bathroom and new kitchen countertops too. I am, however, not currently getting any of these things because I’m making at least a passing effort at behaving responsibly and in a mostly adult manner. This leads me to believe that responsibility and behaving in an adult manner is stupid, largely unfulfilling, and generally annoying. In a world where the penalty for behaving utterly irresponsibly seems fairly low, I feel like I’m getting the worst end of this bargain.
It shouldn’t shock anyone to learn that I keep extensive lists. Everything from books I want to read to what groceries I need ends up on lists I keep on my phone for quick reference and for ease of making additions or deletions. It’s an old fashioned model lightly updated by technology. It is not, however, foolproof.
A few staple items, like rice and potatoes, I usually buy in quantity because so much of what I cook is loosely based around five or so key ingredients. They get used quickly and replenished on a regular basis. Because they get used and replaced so quickly, I occasionally find that the lists haven’t kept up.
It’s on days like that – like today – that I find myself conflicted between two compelling, but mutually exclusive, desires. I can either make a quick run into town to pick up the onion necessary for meatloaf I’ve planned for Sunday dinner or I can stay home avoiding people and use onion powder as a sad substitute.
I deeply love a good meatloaf. I am also appalled by the idea of dealing with the general public when it isn’t strictly necessary. Surely you can see the hooks of the dilemma on which I find myself stuck.
This is obviously what’s meant when they “adulting is hard.”
1. A crowded room. There’s something (well, maybe everything) about the roar of a crowded room. It’s truly the sound I hate most in the world. So many people. So needy. So many questions. All overlapping, running together, and becoming indistinguishable from all the constituent sounds, as every voice gets louder in a failed attempt to project itself above the others. Just listening to it consumes every bit of energy I can muster. Truly hell is just a room full of other people.
2. Own it. One of the marks of a decent human being, in my opinion, has always been their willingness to accept responsibility for their decisions and actions. A decent person owns it, even when they’ve cocked up. I can’t list the number of times this week, “Yep, I fucked that up” has come flying out of my mouth. I might not do it with a song In my heart, but the one promise I can make is that I’ll stand the hell up and be counted for the bad as well as the good. If only showing that kind of personal courage was part of some kind of organizational system of basic values. You can’t see it, but I’m rolling my eyes.
3. Slobs. You are grown ass adults representing some of the largest corporations in the world. Stuffing a banana peel beneath your seat for someone else to deal with, much like an ill-behaved toddler, really should be beneath your dignity. Even if it’s not beneath your dignity you should damned well be old enough to know better. Even if neither one of those is the case, I’m more than happy to disabuse you of the notion that you’re in any way special and deserving of delicate treatment. You’re just a douchebag. Hopefully I’ll see you doing it tomorrow so I can tell you to your face.
I’ve been told on more than one occasion I “do days off wrong.” I’m probably guilty as charged. As evidence let me walk you through an example 8 day period…
Monday. Day 3 of a three-day weekend. Scheduled root canal surgery.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Normal Work Days.
Friday. Day 1 of a 4-day weekend. Features an oil change for the Jeep and an eye exam with dilation.
Saturday, Sunday. Standard weekend procedures.
Monday. Day 4 of a 4-day weekend. Sit home and wait for HVAC service tech to show up.
Just now I’m filling my gullet with high test products from big pharma hoping against hope that I can stave off the aforementioned Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from turning into one or more days of mucking through life with whatever cold virus of the week is going around.
I miss the days when I took a day off to not do a damned thing instead of either a) hacking up a lung and feeling like ass or b) to be a productive and responsible adult homeowner.
As I sit at my desk at the office it strikes me that I’m not so much being an adult as I am pretending to adult. Sure, I’m meeting my quotas, building beautiful slides in many, many briefing decks, putting a roof over my head, paying the bills, and keeping a number of small creatures alive. It doesn’t feel like that’s all that high of a bar to pass over. Particularly when I’m so often doing some or all of those things on autopilot.
That leaves me wondering how to define the core mission of being a adult. What characteristics define success? If the baseline is pay taxes and stay out of prison it’s straight forward enough. Alternately if the minimum level of entry is being able to provide for and sustain another human life into adulthood, I’m not even racing on the same track. In fact I’ve spent two decades driving at great and reckless speed away from that track. What then are the defining characteristics of adulthood? Is it merely a function of age? Is it behavior? Is it something intangible?
Since my real goal is to mostly maximize the amount of time I get to be home with my nose stuck in a book, or playing with the internet, or otherwise hiding from human interaction the point is largely an academic one. Even so, there are lots of people out there raising reasonably well adjusted children or doing important medical research or keeping a nuclear reactor running smoothly. Maybe any or all of them feel adultier than I do. Just now I’m not feeling any of it.
That’s not saying that I won’t do a fine job keeping up appearances. I’ll go through the motions and get most of them right, but just now I’m having a tough time shaking the feeling that the only major difference between the 1998 model Jeff and the 2016 variant is now I get less sleep, take a few more pills, and don’t need to show ID when I go to the liquor store. Maybe I should just change the definition of successful adulting and declare unilateral victory.
1. Other duties as assigned. I can do my job – the heavy analytical lifting – or I can do the other duties as assigned – issuing keys, setting up new employees with laptops, filing, hole punching, and flipping slides. However, I lack the gift of being in two places at once so you’re going to have to pick between those so I know what you actually want me to spend time tending. I’m good either way, but choose one and you’ll get a seriously good analyst, close the other and you have a spectacularly overpriced secretary. The choice is utterly yours.
2. Being other than on time. Although I’ve been doing it nearly every working day since January 2003, people always seem surprised when I shutdown and head for the doors on time. You may work for love. You may work for pride. You may even work to give your short time on this rock a sense of purpose. I’m a simpler animal. I work for money because I know my time isn’t free or limitless. Think of it what you will, but you can always be assured that when I’m “on,” you’ll get the best product I can manage, but I will be equally dedicated to preserving my personal time at almost any cost.
3. Free stuff. My news feeds and the media channels have been filled with talk of everyone who wants “free” stuff these last few days. They want a $15/hour paycheck guarantee for entry-level unskilled labor – essentially a request for “free” money since their economic activity doesn’t command such price in the marketplace already. They want “free” higher education. They want “free” healthcare. They want “free” housing and “free” food and maybe even a “free” phone. I may be a poor simple hillbilly from Western Maryland, but it strikes me that what the most recent round of protestors really mean is they want the stuff and they want other people to pay the bill. Precious little in life comes for “free.” Someone, somewhere, has to pick up the check. It’s not presently the popular thing to say, but in my mind being a grown ass adult mostly means being able to make your own way in the world, paying your bills, and being a responsible and productive member of society… or maybe I missed a memo somewhere. In that case, where’s my free shit?
I’m about to have the first time this year to engage in my favorite winter pastime – watching the Team Aberdeen Proving Ground Facebook page explode with commentary about the weather, when decisions should be made, whether it was a good call, whether it happened early enough, whether it should have been a 2 hour delay, a 4 hour early closure, and possibly questioning the paternity of those making the decisions in the pre-dawn hours of every day that snow is “likely.” Whatever decisions are made over the next few days, you can rest well assured that social media will decry it as exactly the wrong thing to do.
Despite its off the beaten path location in the wilds of north eastern Maryland, APG and its environs are densely populated with advanced degree holders, senior staff, and the occasional person who has stood toe to toe with Taliban fighters. At the first sight of a flake, all that education and experience goes out the window and everyone devolves into a hopeless mass of name calling indecisiveness. The only thing they can seem to agree on is the goodness of posting poorly thought out comments that everyone on the planet can read and hold them accountable for making.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from voicing their opinion tomorrow because God knows I enjoy reading them. On these snowy days, it really is the most entertaining thing on Facebook. With that being said, I’m not sure when we all got the impression that it was up to someone else to make decisions about our personal health and safety. If for one moment I think my safety is imperiled by being on the road, I’ll make the decision to stay home and sit on the couch with my fuzzy slippers while the world goes on about its business. My life. My decision. That’s one of the perks of being a grown adult in this society. I do wish more people might consider showing the least sliver of personal accountability, but as usual that’s likely too big an ask.