existential adulting

existential adulting
image by dall.e 2

As I was perusing my daily dose of intellectual stimulation during my treadmill routine, I stumbled upon a thought-provoking video by the YouTuber, Elizabeth Filips. In her thirty-minute presentation, she expounded on the complexities of adulting and the multifaceted skillset necessary for one to juggle the various responsibilities that come with being a mature member of society.

It is an ambivalent age range we find ourselves in, dear reader, as we are no longer adolescents, yet we have not fully reached the status of "pure" adulthood, hence the name "young adults". For the luckier among us, once in a while, we hear from at least one of our parents whose love for us is demonstrated in their checking in on us. What amazes me, as someone who identifies with this phenomenon, is that my mother somehow manages to not only care for herself and her businesses but also for my siblings and me. I have wondered just how well both of my parents have trained themselves over the years to, say, not only worry about their three daily meals but mine and my brothers and sisters too. They have, by some divine miracle, managed to raise a herd of humans now spread across the 20 - 30-year-old range like sesame seeds on a bagel. And somehow, the reality that someday that may be me is starting to kick in... and maybe it might for you too as you read this entry.

Image by Dilara Irem

As one who has made their fair share of mistakes and shed countless tears within the first three years post-teenhood, I must confess that adulting is a skill like any other, and I am only now beginning to comprehend what it entails. I have come to realize that certain areas must be kept in mind as I navigate the remaining few years of my life (yay!), and I am eager to share them with you, dear reader, so that you too may ponder them for yourself. Yes… this little section exists as a disclaimer that I am in no way qualified to offer directions to anyone, particularly someone else who finds themselves in my position. Nevertheless, my slowly-fading egocentrism affords me the authority with which I shall adopt as I write the next few paragraphs.

It occurred to me very recently that every day I wake up is a mystery (shocker!). This is in the sense that every day, I turn a day older… which means I will have never been as old as I will be tomorrow if/when I wake up to face the day. The same applies to you and everyone else, which means that particularly as an adult, you will never truly know how your moment-to-moment decisions will pan out. Because of this, it helps to look at your life as an experiment. That in any given moment, you must find the most right decision you can think of and only hope that it works for the best (whatever that means). And if it doesn't… at least now you know what doesn't work. That… is the first step in starting the adventure of your life.

Image by Nina Uhlikova

Adventures, by their nature, are risky. Yes, some of us are luckier than others to have guidance from adults who have already made mistakes so that we don't have to. My personal heroes are Biblical characters whose disobedience, lies, adultery, theft, pride, complacency, betrayal, fear, and more… have informed me of which paths not to walk. Yet unsurprisingly, sometimes, the curious cat in me isn't too afraid to die, so I take on the old Swahili adage, “Akili ya kuambiwa, changanya na yako”.... Essentially, whatever wisdom you receive from others, always weigh it for yourself. Or “Mtoto akililia wembe, mpe. Ukimkata, atajifunza”... “When a child cries for a razor, give it to him. If it cuts him, he will learn.” Indeed, one is better off practising discernment to avoid pain and scars… but when (not if) you cut yourself, remember that no human has left the face of this earth scar-free.

To be human is to be essentially scarred. To be broken day by day by the dissonance between your desire to make the most out of your time here and the realization that there is no point in doing so. It is to know that there is little meaning in handling the affairs of your life yet there is way less in not successfully doing so.

This… is what Elizabeth Filips called personal hygiene.

So the concept of personal hygiene has been redefined in the context of the adult world. It encompasses not only the basics such as showering, brushing your teeth, and smelling good but also extends to your entire person. It involves more than simply keeping your room clean, making your bed, and disposing of trash. I hope that you are already doing so, but if not, picking up one of these habits at a time is not a bad start. But personal hygiene for adults involves how much you care for your mental life, spiritual well-being, social relationships, moral uprightness, and emotional health. Adulting, essentially, is to masterfully juggle these spheres with skill… and you can either be a pleasure to watch or a disaster even for yourself to bear.

Image by Vlada Karpovich

This reminds me of a concept I picked up in one of my philosophy classes, that is, to look at your life as a piece of art. To care about the aesthetic value of your life and how beautiful or grotesque it may appear. Say, my dear reader, how pleasing is the life of someone who cheats on their assignments and projects and has zero relationships with supervisors and colleagues? Alternatively, how much displeasure can one even attempt to squeeze out of the life of someone who awakes early, prays, and goes about their day with the discernment to do unto others as they would have it done unto them? Certainly none for the latter case.

In the same way, whatever your choice of adulting is, it helps to keep this idea of self re-creation in mind. Because, indeed, God has already done the heavy lifting in building us up and bestowing unto us gifts that we cannot possibly ever deserve. It is up to us then to ensure that we do not become even more unworthy of His favor. To ensure that we do not grumble over what others have over us because the Creator makes no mistakes. The Apostle Paul wrote, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” (2 Corinthians 10:12). Let this be a reminder that it is true, we do not have the same starting points… but that does not matter because we are not running the same race.