What does it mean to be an adult?
It means to be independent and self-sufficient; fully in control of your time and accountable to yourself and no one else. At least, this is the lie you’ve tricked yourself into buying.
The reality is that you have given permission to other things / people / groups / ideas outside of yourself to keep you accountable — a la, a significant other, a boss, people you want to impress, Donald Trump, a god (if you believe in one) etc. It’s in the midst of these many accountability gauntlets that your sanity is safely lodged.
Since the pandemic began, some of these superstructures have lost their grip on us.
Work that kept us accountable in the pre-COVID world has lost its teeth. Though we are still working, we have full control over how and when we do the work. No boss can scream at us in the comfort of our bedroom workstations from the comfort of their own jacuzzi workstations — not even with those snazzy collaboration tools. Actually, they can scream at us; it just doesn’t pack as much punch.
Religious / communal / social accountability gauntlets have been stripped off too. While the world experienced a spike in interest in religion at the start of the epidemic (sales of the bible and religious text shot up at the start of the epidemic), the interest has flattened out. Even my uber-religious cousin who went to church twice a week to join the video crew who broadcasted her church’s online service to the rest of the faithful locked in their houses is now looking for reasons to stay home and away from the church more often.
A quick game:
Put a finger down if you’ve gone two days without using the shower at any point in the last three months.
Put a finger down if you’ve spent 2 hours scrolling through Instagram at any point in the past week.
Put a finger down if you have a parade of tasks left undone from two weeks ago.
Put a finger down if you haven’t shaved in 1 month (or if you’ve gone without a bra for at least 7 days in a row).
Put a finger down if you’ve watched more than 5 hours of Netflix this week.
If you still have more than three fingers up, please stop reading this article now. You are a better human than the rest of us. I admire you. And I also fucking hate your guts.
Losing the stick
We’ve won back more control from the superstructures that hold us accountable. And power-drunk as we are with the new and improved range of control we have, we are confronted with how much of a slob we become when there is no big stick chasing us around to get things done.
With no big stick threatening our scrumptious derriere, we lose our routine. If you’ve ever been depressed (or more accurately, overwhelmed by a deep and dark sadness), you’ll know routine is key to getting out of your rut. But with our bumbling selves now in full control of our time, routine goes out the window. The latent sadness that haunts us all rises out of the shadows to envelop us completely.
And this is when it gets interesting. Possessed by this sadness, we are unable to get things done as quickly. Because we can’t get things done, we become mad at ourselves for being ineffective schlumps. Then, for the more perceptive among us, we get even madder for being tough on ourselves. It’s a spiral.
This is adulthood at its logical conclusion and it’s fucking ugly. More control. More freedom. Yet very little happiness.
What’s the way out?
I wish I could help you there. I would I could say; “make good use of your control and things would automagically revert to the pre-COVID eternal spring”, but I can’t. That’s not how this works.
But for what it’s worth; I have canceled my Netflix. I already feel 0.2% less sad.
Written while listening to Brymo and swilling cheap Brazilian coffee.