When you first move out of your parents’ home as a student, no one really expects you to have it together.
You might be 18, but you’re barely an adult; not a real one anyway.
Students are supposed to be lazy, and messy, and have piles of dirty dishes stacked against a sink that is used more often as a big ice bucket to keep cheap booze chilled at parties than it is to do washing up. There’s supposed to be a bit of mould on the wall, or a window that doesn’t open properly, or something that keeps breaking. It’s all part of the student experience.
Whether or not that stereotype rings true, there is usually a parent, landlord or student accommodation office on the end of the phone to sort things out for you. To do the actual adulting, while you get some practical experience of grown-updom.
Moving into your own home is totally different.
This is your house, your very own home, and you want to make it nice and take care of it.
Anything that breaks, you have to pay for, so you try very very hard not to break it. If something needs fixing, rather than ignoring it until it’s beyond repair, you fix it.
And, if you’re anything like me, you quickly realise that you have absolutely no idea how to do that and are a bit embarrassed to ask, because you should be an adult by now, having had all that practice, but you still don’t really feel like you deserve to be.
When I bought my first home with my then-boyfriend (now-husband), I felt ever so grown up, in the way that only tying yourself in to a ridiculous financial burden can, until I realised I had no idea how to even bleed the radiators (here’s a guide to bleeding radiators, if you’re similarly afflicted) or how to empty the filter on the washing machine.
When things broke, or the boiler stopped working in the middle of the night, I couldn’t just call the landlord or my dad.
The bills that flopped through the door were mine to pay, the ten different kinds of insurance were mine to sort. No one would poke me and remind me to take my car for a service and if something went wrong there was no adult to call to fix it for me because I was the adult.
The horrifying moment when you are looking for an adult but then you realise you are an adult. So you look for someone else, someone successfully adulting. An Adultier Adult – unknown
It was a quick and scary wake up call.
But that is nothing like the shock I felt when I returned from the hospital with my very own baby.
Not only was I now wholly responsible for myself, but for another human person too?
Insane. Do they know I’m not really a real adult? That I don’t even know how to change a tyre or what is supposed to go in the drawers of the washing machine? That I don’t make my bed in the morning? That I still don’t know with any degree of certainty how to set the thermostat?
And even now, with two children and rapidly approaching middle age (which I thought I’m not really, then realised the average life expectancy isn’t even 81)… Even now I’m not sure I’d class myself as a responsible adult with any confidence.
I’ve learned to accept that I’ll probably never feel like a proper grown up, or know what I’m doing, especially where parenting is concerned.
But I have had a lightbulb moment.
When it comes to being an adult, I have no idea what I’m doing, and they may look like they’re nailing it but the truth is that neither does anyone else. We’re all just trying to look like we’re adult successfully when really, grown ups only exist in the minds of children, and it’s all an elaborate illusion.
Apart from my dad. He’s a real adult.
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