I remember being a kid and revering my parents because they conducted themselves with authority (read: scared me into submission), seemed to have their shit together and basically made things happen – like shelter, food, medical appointments, vacations, nursing me back to health when I got sick, combing the knots out of my hair, picking me up from guitar lessons, etc. When you’re young, you don’t marvel at how parents pull all this miraculous stuff off because you don’t yet know how damn difficult it is. Things need doing and they just get done, because your parents do them, and that’s all you know. Cause and effect. Like magic!
Fast forward to adulthood. Wow – things sure look different from here. With experience comes an appreciation of how demanding and sometimes ridiculously demoralizing being an adult actually is. But now as an adult – and of course one who constantly interacts with other adults – one thing I’ve realized is that all those things you’re told or believe about adults lands squarely in the realm of fiction. Just another one of those colloquial myths, those social fabrications you swallow gladly from an early age. Every once in a while I find myself choking on what a clever ruse it truly is. This is a far worse realization than the horror that Santa Claus doesn’t exist – because when you grow up you can buy yourself presents and you don’t have some fat, smug bastard deciding whether you’re good or bad. You’re your own boss. Which is fantastic. But now this means you can’t rely on your folks to do everything for you. With freedom comes responsibility. It turns out that all that effortlessness we think we’re witnessing as kids is basically an illusion. So I thought it would be fun to expose a few of the big myths that we adults desperately cling to:
1. You will figure it out.
Whatever ‘it’ happens to be – what you want to do with your life, how to make money, your political/religious affiliation, your place in the world, etc. This is pure poppycock. The truth is, we will always be figuring it out because everything is temporary and everything changes. Even when we have one thing figured out, something else will come up eventually that will challenge us in ways that reduce us to lost, existentially confused creatures.
2. You will get smarter and wiser.
Here’s another huge thing we have to do for ourselves now: THINK. There are days when we seem to be exposed to so many people who can’t bring themselves to rise to this challenge that it’s a wonder our only reward for not losing our cool is culling the sympathy of our friends. The fact is, I’ve met an awful lot of adults who don’t know how to do anything other than subsist on hope, fear, insecurity, prejudice, etc. If you’ve been walking this earth for half a century with a figurative blindfold over your eyes, I have a hard time respecting you if you think the degree to which your gums have receded is an accurate measure of how much more right you are than me.
3. You will be able to independently and correctly decipher right from wrong.
This is so, so wrong. Or perhaps I should say that we do know deep down what’s right and wrong, but we’ve become so selfish, entitled or have simply gotten very skilled at justifying and rationalizing. The last time I checked, our prisons aren’t full of children. Adults do plenty of questionable and downright atrocious stuff knowing it’s wrong, but somewhere along the way this stops becoming all that important to us. At least to some of us.
4. Life will get better and/or there’s a solution to everything.
Take a look at the economic and environmental disaster that is unfolding before us right now, globally. Either we don’t know what the fuck we’re doing, or some people have a plan and they’re just screwing the rest of us dumb, lazy idiots over. How many people do you know who have faith that we’re not going to blow ourselves up or otherwise commit suicide on a macro level? We clearly can’t agree on how to address issues like unemployment, abortion, gun violence or education. I’m a pretty optimistic person, but any adult who tells a child that they’re not going to dread/hate getting older, spend their money at a rate matching that by which they earn it, and become overwhelmed by relationship problems and the complexity of the universe is setting that child up for epic disappointment.
5. You’re going to love marriage and parenthood!
It does seem that once most parents have children, they’re thrilled to have them in their lives. I’m not sure if it’s heroism or biology, but regardless – thank goodness for that. But this doesn’t mean they don’t occasionally think, ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into? Myself? Wait, there is no me anymore!’. And that whole marriage thing? Like you’re not supposed to bang another human being until one of you dies? And you’re expected to want to stay together no matter what happens? I suspect that a big part of the reason people, especially young people, rush into marriage and parenthood, is because they were never told just how difficult and miserable it can be (or often is, if you’re feeling pessimistically generous). What parent is going to tell you that, if they’re being really honest, they sometimes wish they could live their own lives and no longer be burdened by the obligation to pretend they’re still in love to perpetuate a facsimile of order and comfort?
6. The world makes sense.
It doesn’t. We just like to believe it does. Or maybe it does make sense but we can’t comprehend it. See what I mean? So when we point out the silliness of imaginary friends and make believe to kids, maybe we should turn some of that realism on ourselves. After all, in totality I’d say we’re the ones who are selfish, insolent, stupid, gullible and scared of pretty much everything. Now if they can only forgive us for bringing them into this mess without their consent.