Saturday, May 22, 2010

Things I don't like and what I can do about them: facing adulthood

Boy have I got things about which to blog!

I started reading this blog, RealDelia, which has the tagline "finding yourself in adulthood." Again, it's anther blog that I read that I'm not truly sure I like. Y'know how when you read a book, sometimes it takes the first few chapters to figure out the characters and the writing style and such, and then you realize you're either actually reading the book, or you're just sort of putting up with it to the end? I tend to read everything as if it's a book, and so with blogs, it frequently takes me several posts to figure out if I actually like it or not. Either way, in the "about Delia Lloyd" section of the blog, she talks about how, when she was younger, she thought she'd arrive in adulthood, but that in reality, it's way more of a process.

A while back Captain America and I were having dinner with some friends with two young girls. While their father was grilling, we were playing a sort of improvised game of soccer. At some point, Captain America and I both turned to the dad and were engaged in a conversation about I can't even remember what. The older daughter put her hands on her hips and said something to the effect of "the grownups are not paying attention to their goal!" I looked around to try to figure out who these people of terrible sportsmanship were, when I realized that the "grownups" she was referring to were Captain America and me. When had we become grownups?, I wondered.

I think a lot about adulthood because there are a number of things about it I don't like. I remember having a conversation with my aunt when I was in middle school, and she said something to me along the lines of "when you're an adult you can have Oreos for breakfast if you want." I must have been complaining about having to eat something healthy. But now that I'm an adult, I really can't eat Oreos for breakfast. I'd never burn off those calories. But in middle school, I was on a synchronized swimming team, which means, if I was awake, I was eating. I don't like that now that I get to make the decisions about what I eat, I really can't eat all of the junk I would have liked to eat as a kid.

I've been feeling sort of melancholy lately, with this sort of generalized, overarching feeling that despite knowing I've got a pretty good life, I'm just not that pleased with it. I feel like I've got a good life, but it's not the life I would pick out for myself if I could shop for one at Macy's.

I've already blogged about how much I don't like my stupid parking garage situation, or blow drying my hair. The other day, on my evening walk, I came up with the idea to make a list of all of the things in my life that I don't like, and what, if anything, I can do about them. I thought this might be a good exercise for a few reasons. First, sometimes just identifying the problem is enough to feel better about it. Once it has a label you can sort of mentally file it away somewhere.

Also, I thought I'd see if there was an aspect of my life that could just use a little tweaking and I'd feel a lot better about it. For example, when I had a long, awful commute in Oregon, I found that listening to an audio book on the drive made it significantly more bearable. Sometimes a little change really can make a big difference. Also, for me, the important thing is noting what I can do about something. Not what I should do or what I'm going to do. Just what my options are.

Maybe this seems like a silly exercise, but I thought it was worth trying. Here are a couple of my dislikes and what I can do about them:

I don't like my that my hair is fading into this sort of reddish color. I can dye it a different color. (I could also cut it all off, or wear hats so I don't see the color.)

I don't like exercising in the morning. I decided that this wasn't entirely true. I don't mind exercising in the morning; what I don't like is feeling rushed in the morning to get out the door. So, what I can do is organize more things at night, go to bed earlier so it's easier to get up in the morning, or just not exercise in the morning so I have fewer things to do before I leave for work.

When I realized I started to generalize my list, I don't like not being able to focus at work, I tried to make it specific. It's not that I can't focus at work, it's that I'm being pulled in different directions. I do a number of different things at work that my boss isn't directly involved in. Of course, all of these other team leaders think their thing is the most important item for me to work on. But my boss is on my side, so I can always check with her as to what she thinks I should be doing. I can discuss with her what I'm being asked to do and why I think one thing should be a priority over another. It's also her job as my manager to tell other people to back off when they're pushing too hard (getting SOX compliant info to the auditors now really is more important than writing requirements for a project that isn't going to launch for another eight months. Really.) And I can take frequent short breaks at work. I've read a number of articles stating that taking short breaks enables the brain to re-energize itself, but I actually rarely take a break at work, and when I do, I feel guilty about it. No more. If spending a few minutes every hour or so not thinking, or going outside, or whatever make me a better worker, then that's what I'm going to do. Or at least try.

I also discovered that some of the things I don't like are really quite silly. I don't like the security doors on my house. We don't lock them. We don't even always close them. They're just annoying. Captain America has plans to take them down, but that requires bolt cutters or something, and his uncle promised to help, but we apparently haven't been able to sort out a good weekend to do this yet.

Or, I don't like that we have to eat every day. It is such a waste of time to make lunch every day just to eat it, and then have to do it over again the next day. But, it would get expensive to eat out every day. See? This is both ridiculous and tough. I could make a giant smoothie every morning and just sip it all day. I could eat only really easy things, like Clif Bars. I could have Captain America be in charge of our food situation. Or, we could become a bit more prepared with our meal planning so we don't have to do all of the washing, chopping, and cooking every day.

Whenever I say to my friends, in a joking sort of manner, that sometimes being a adult just sort of sucks, they always laugh and agree. It's definitely one of those things where there are benefits (like no longer living with my parents), and challenges (someone's got to figure out dinner, despite working a long day). When I was little, I thought that once I was an adult, things would be better: I'd get to make my own rules, set my own standards, do what I wanted, and basically live the life I wanted (I also thought I'd be tall and thin and have long light-brown hair and live in a brownstone in the Village. And be the sort of person who can always find the perfect pair of jeans).

To an extent I do live the life I want. But there are also limitations. My company expects me to work Monday-Friday. But I think I'd rather work Tuesday-Saturday. Captain America and I do a number of things that we never did as kids, like travel to Egypt and Europe. But at the same time, I can't quit my job and spend my days reading and writing because we have a mortgage to pay. I know I'm not the only one trying to find the balance between doing the things that need to be done so I can live the life I want, and actually living that life. So let me know if you've come up with any good solutions to this problem, okay?

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