“I feel like such an adult.”
So I said yesterday, while in the process of buying a mouse trap.
At what point did it become an “adult” thing to have to deal with mice in your apartment? Adulthood should be associated with having pro-actively cleaned counters and secured food, not with spending 9 dollars on a reactive solution to a mouse emergency. Adulthood should be associated with taking responsibility for preventing bad situations, not just for responding to them when they pop up.
Undergraduate college students are placed in a strange box between childhood and adulthood. While expected to be building our future and our resumes, we’re also expected to be having fun, being carefree, and not thinking about anything important. This creates a very weird and completely non-valuable culture of complacency and disregard for consequence. We start refusing to think about more than what is going to make for a good story, or a good Snapchat.
There’s other factors that contribute to the carefree mindset. If you’re a freshman moving into a dorm for the first time, or a sophomore with a kitchen for the first time, you’ll discover something – college students are also placed in very transitional and unusual living situations. Most of us are straight out of high school. We usually don’t have much money of our own. Most of us have never lived with any other people besides our immediate family members. Most of us have never paid a real bill, or fixed the plumbing, or dealt with loud neighbors. So, instead of being completely on our own, we move into a dorm, where the environment is regulated and things are taken care of for us.
It’s another way to tell us – we’re not adults. We don’t have to care about this yet. We have time to learn.
There’s always room to learn more. However, being an adult is not about how much knowledge you have. It’s about adaptation, about solving problems. It’s about how you approach your daily life – is today going to be “all about me,” or am I going to acknowledge the consequences of what I do? Am I going to acknowledge the existence of other human beings that have to live on the same planet as I do?
At this point in our lives, we know right from wrong, and we can take 20 minutes out of our day to be responsible. It’s as simple as being kind to those around us. It’s as simple as acquiring a re-usable water bottle instead of buying a case of two dozen that we would throw out.
Disregard for consequence only harms us. It feeds into extreme drug culture, binge drinking, environmental destruction, ignorance, racism, political ineptitude.
(And, less dramatically, infestations of mice.)
All of this I think is summarized beautifully by the band Days N’ Daze in their song Day Gaunts: (https://daysndaze.bandcamp.com/track/day-gaunts)
“Bugs in the kitchen and mold in the sink
Chuggin’ down the whiskey and you never stop to think
What do we do tomorrow?”
Being an adult has never been about a specific number or pay grade. A 25 year-old who works a 9 to 5 desk job, but who doesn’t recycle, is (in my mind) just a large child. It’s about thinking about your decisions before you make them – even if they seem trivial.
Most importantly, there is no battle between being an adult and being responsible and having fun. That perception is flawed. It’s really a comparison between fun now and fun later. It’s not fun to clean up dinner right after you make it, but what’s way less fun is taking two hours to wash and clean a kitchen after a week of leaving food and dishes out, and then discovering a colony of roaches having a feast of your leftovers. It’s not fun to think about the decisions you make regarding fossil fuels and plastics, but it’s way less fun to think about the consequences of a planet where everyone is wasteful.
It’s not fun to get to the polls on a certain day and wait in line to cast a vote, but it’s a lot less fun to feel the effects of a leadership that you had no part in creating.