As I get older, I bump my head against the horrible realization that Adulthood(TM) does not gain you any bonus information. I mean, it gets you extra knowledge, like how to make a t-shirt for a paper bag puppet, and how to get money to buy toys, most of which is awesome.
But when I was a kid, I thought Adults had SECRETS. They were tapped into some magical extrasensory perception, and if I could just cross the threshold into that space at [insert age here], I, too, would have this special knowledge. Finally! I would have a clean room, and lots of friends, and everything I wanted and needed, and everything would be ok!
That never happened. Obviously. Even worse? I discovered that not only does adulthood not make you any smarter or better, but actually, there are a lot of people who don’t even get that far.
Work is the No. 1 place we encounter this in our lives. We spend so much time with people in this really unique relationship: The Coworkers. They are not your friends, you don’t choose them and you aren’t with them because you have even the faintest wisp of anything in common. They aren’t you’re family, but you’re forced together with them by unseen hands and you have to put up with their little weird gross quirks. And the aren’t just strangers you can ignore while you wait for the bus.
It’s a special relationship, and it’s not one we’re prepared for. So when you politely ask the woman in Cubicle G to turn down her music, and she says ok, then starts a rude email chain about you, it feels pretty WTF. Why would she even bother? Why does it matter if you asked her to turn her music down? Why is she so crazy GAWD!!
Most people would leave it there (well, maybe some might key her car or something), which is actually for the best. Because digging deeper gets you to Disappointment Valley, where you quickly and painfully realize that everyone is as lost as you are, and no one learned anything upon crossing the threshold into [insert age here]. Which means that your parents and all the adults you knew never learned anything either, and they were basically just saying things to kill time.
Obviously, it’s not quite that. There are plenty of people, old and young, who say and do incredible stuff. The catch is that for every incredible thing, there are at least 80 dumb things waiting in their wings. This is why so many of our heroes are also terrible people. Drunks, drug addicts, jerks, homophobes, Republicans (not a joke – Robert Downey, Jr. is a forever let-down).
The bright light at the end of the tunnel is that you’re off the hook for having to know anything or be any certain way. Can’t do your dishes? No one ever does dishes. Have a job you hate? That’s basically the name of the largest employer in the US. You were rude to the lady at Kohl’s? 15 minutes before, someone threw a Slow Cooker at her, so technically, you were the highlight of her day.
If you can get out of bed and make it at least 8 hours without blowing something up, you’re doing better than half the population.
Of course, now that you’ve made it this far into Disappointment Valley, you have to walk out with something. You have to be better. I think this is what keeps people from fully realizing how being an adult doesn’t give you any special knowledge, or even basic knowledge. If you have to become a better person to face that, it’s not worth it, most of the time.
I’m trying to become a better person, and also, I’m lowering my standards. If I expected someone to be able to do something, I was probably overshooting by a good mile. I tone down my expectations, and think about the best way to teach kids to not be total %&*holes.