There is No Such Thing as an Adult
One day we wake up to find that all of our joy and wonder is gone. Life has become far too stressful, a horrid and depressing place, full of endless responsibilities and troubles that drag us down into the sea of adulthood. We gasp for breath, trying not to drown.
We have come to the end of our childhood, and we are adults now. Now is the time in our lives that we need to go out and get that education, so that we can get that great job, so that we can afford that big house, so that we can raise two children and send them to college, so that we can retire on a beach somewhere warm with a margarita in our hand.
How many days can we sit on that damn beach with a margarita before our livers fail and we get skin cancer?
The above scenario is one way to imagine living a life.
Actually, what seems to happen more often is that 10 or 20 years into this scenario most people begin to feel extreme malaise and existential angst because they don’t feel fulfilled as a human. It turns out that focusing on building a life based on safety and security doesn’t actually provide those things, and doesn't provide meaning or joy which are essential elements of life.
It turns out that risk and adventure is really what keeps us charged and full of spirit.
Happiness arrives when we feel that we can fully express ourselves, when we can be fully present in our lives.
Let me tell you a secret. Everybody is still a child, with an extra layer of “adult” slapdashed on top.
Many people wear this adult suit well. They look serious, handle bills efficiently, and take care of the garbage and recycling on the appropriate days and times.
But really deep down inside us that child is skulking, bored, wondering why we are not outside playing and having fun.
I don’t think there is really any such thing as an adult, per se. We are all just overgrown children. And the fastest way to grow old and die is to buy into this idea that we are serious adults.
You really only have to look at national politics to understand that we are all just big children on an extended play date.
The only thing that is real about being an adult is that we have perspective (plus we get bigger and smellier). Perspective shows us that we actually do need to pay those bills so that we can stay in our homes. But after those bills are paid, it’s really up to us how we live our lives. And our perspectives can help us with that as well. With some perspective, we realize that we are not going to live forever, so we really do need to experience each moment of our lives as much as we can.
The most important person in our lives, other then our selves, is our partner. They are our other half, not because they complete us, but because they are literally our lifelong playmates. And if we’re not playing, what are we doing? Yelling at each other about the bills?
The most successful relationships are full of laughter, play, and adventure — no doubt about it. Arguments happen because life is complex. But a good relationship never loses its sense of fun and adventure. If it does, it probably won’t last very much longer.
I once went to a relationship counseler with an ex and the therapist said that there was many roads that led to the end of a marriage, but the most surefire road was to have contempt for eachother. Once contempt is in the picture, it signals the end.
I didn’t believe there was anyway that contempt could be part of our relationship, but sure enough, it was there.
Contempt grows strong in the absence of play.
It is funny how much we forgo play once we become so-called adults. “Oh woe is me, life is so serious today, I have to do my taxes and frown.” That is me occasionally. I’ve set aside play to wallow in my own self-created misery.
Sure, we have to set aside time to do our hated tasks. But we don’t have to pretend that we like them.
Perhaps it is better to simply be honest about all of these things. Otherwise we provide a fertile ground for contempt, stress, fear, and anger.
We are all playing a big game of pretend, but we like to think it is all real. But there is another hallmark of being an adult. We get to make our games of pretend into reality.
In that first scenario above, we assume the mantle of the serious adult and began to layer on the responsibility until we are drowning in stress and then we die of a heart attack.
I’m not interested in that scenario.
Play is the key, I think, to eternal life. I say this with a good number of responsibilities of my own. Stress doesn’t actually help any of the problems in lives become better, I’ve noticed. It literally creates illness and tension where none needs to be.
As adults we look at the Eiffel tower and wonder about all the logistics and money needed to build and maintain it. That’s our adult perspective. But the child inside us sees that it is magic, and that is the truth as well.
So really, the advantage of growing older is not the accumulation of stress and responsibility, it the acquirement of perspective and the ability to create what is in our imagination. That is the awesome part of adulting that should never be discarded.
It is as simple as this. Being in love is play. Being in contempt is work. Is it possible to build a life based on play? I think so.
Those who say otherwise are serious adults.