One year when I was still in highschool I asked for a green ipod for my birthday. The green was important. It was an unwell pistachio colour, sort of warm and cool at the same time. But teenagers aren’t renowned for their emotional restraint and despite the vomit-undertone I couldn’t have fallen more head-over-heels in love with this colour if it fronted a boyband. I stared at it in advertisements and in shop windows. I dreamed of it. I repeatedly prompted my mum so to make sure she absolutely knew the green one was mine, the one I was meant to have.
On my birthday, there was a heart-flutteringly ipod-shaped present for me.
Before we go any further, I’m going to throw up a wall of disclaimers just in case this escapes the orbit of my regular audience and ends up in the gross, judgemental part of the internet where navigating the comment section requires bio-hazard gear, and even then it’s best to detox afterward with a full exorcism.
Disclaimer: I was psyched to get an ipod.
Disclaimer: Even though it wasn’t soul-mate green.
Disclaimer: Although I asked for the ipod, I didn’t expect to get it. My family routinely request present suggestions from each other and giving someone a suggestion doesn’t obligate them to fulfill it. I also did not feel entitled to expensive presents at all. Plenty of times we were told a suggestion cost too much.
Did I miss any potential judgement-windows?
Oh, of course.
Disclaimer: Yes, I’m a millennial. As horrifying as it sounds, some people were born between 1981 and 1996 (or wherever the boundaries are), including me, and sure, we meet up virtually over the interwebs every full moon and use complicated tournaments of Mario-Kart-by-proxy to decide which industry we’ll be assassinating next, but that’s really not the point.
And the point isn’t that I didn’t get the colour ipod I particularly wanted, either. The point is what I was told next.
When I was in my early twenties I lived alone. I had moved to the city to attend university. Previously I had lived in a residential college and then with a friend, and afterwards I would move in with my partner. But between all that there was this quiet year where I inhabited a tiny apartment with an awkward diagonal wall all by myself.
I’m introverted, at home with my own company, a wee bit controlling about my personal space, and perfectly happy staying in most evenings. I liked it.
At least until the mouse.
I waited until I’d seen it a couple of times to confirm that, yes, it was really there, and no, it was not just a one off visit. I had acquired a housemate.
I called my mum, who was 665kms away and could not physically help me.
There as no one to deal with it for me. I didn’t want to live with the mouse, but I didn’t want to kill it either. I also didn’t own any mouse traps. So I rigged up my own solution.
(With hindsight, there were warning signs I would end up turning my life into cartoons.)
You’ll be shocked to learn it didn’t work.
But I tinkered. I found if I spilled some rice the mouse would come out, even if I was quite close. And then I tinkered some more. Until finally…
I was so proud of myself. I even managed to locate a sneaky mouse-hole and block that up. I was sure the mouse would not come back.
And I had not killed it.
I bought a trap, baited it with peanut butter and put it in the cupboard. My partner stayed with me so when it happened
I wouldn’t be alone.
‘Proper’ jobs are out for me, unfortunately, due to chronic illness. I’ve made my own job writing and drawing. (I don’t make enough to pay income tax). I’m proud of it and I like it, but not everyone sees it as a ‘proper’ one.
Even though my partner did have a ‘proper’ job, there were a few years where buying a house seemed utterly impossible. The world is no longer built for a couple on a single (‘proper’) income (at least, Australia isn’t. I can’t speak for everywhere). But, somehow, we pried our way into the exclusive club of Valid House Hunters.
House hunting was a long, weird series of meetings with hyper-adulty sorts—mortgage brokers, real estate agents, conveyances. We put on sensible-masks, threw around words like “interest”, “settlement date”, “pre-approval” and waited for the inevitable moment they twigged to our game and threw us out.
No one was more surprised than us when we pulled it off.
And home-ownership was fun.
But it really was.
And then we had three miscarriages.
(I looked again to confirm it that, yes, it was really there, and no, it wasn’t just a one-off)
Each time we made the appointments. Paid for scans. Let people know. I went to the hospital (my partner stayed with me so I wouldn’t be alone when it happened). We made more appointments. We tried to make time to grieve, to process. We booked ourselves into therapy. We reassured other people when we didn’t feel at all assured ourselves.
It’s been almost a year since the third miscarriage, almost two years since the first, and most mornings when I wake up my first thought is still
Some days the big, ultimate answer, the only thing capable of getting me out of bed, is the dishwasher. Or the laundry or the vacuuming, or whatever chore it’s my turn at.
Because I get that little high of accomplishment from getting them done. Because I don’t feel like I have control over anything else in my life anymore. Because I still don’t know how to be someone who had three miscarriages. I don’t know who that is. I can’t get out of bed for her.
But I can be someone who empties the dishwasher.
And once you’ve emptied the dishwasher everything seems a little more possible.
But not fun.
Fun is hard. Fun is elusive.
Fun is a chore.
Really. It’s a job you have to do to stay healthy, like flossing. It just doesn’t feel like flossing when it comes naturally. Right now, for me, it doesn’t. If I want to catch it, I have to set traps.
We set traps. We bought some new video games. We build each other blanket forts. We taught our cat to hi-five. I take refuge in adventure-steampunk, comedic SSF, and comic books.* We go for walks and adventures and find new places.
Am I an adult?
Over the course of my life I have been told so many things about what being an adult is all about. I’m nearly 30, and according those adulthood criteria, I’m not sure I qualify.
I’m (considerably) over 21, so I definitely meet the age requirement. I also (part) own a house, which I believe some people would count in my favour.
But I do not have a ‘proper’ job. I do not earn enough to pay income tax. I do not have children, which some people seem to think is necessary (I might still have them one day, but I might not). I still play video games and read comic books. I am the proud owner of a stegosaurus-shaped handbag.
Am I an adult?
If I was to tell someone what adulthood was, to impose my own definition, I might choose to say that it’s just doing the next thing. I think the accurately vague nature of that is perfect for adulthood, and bonus, if it’s a thing you do, then it’s a verb, and therefore ‘adulting’ becomes valid terminology.
When I first started writing this, that’s what I thought I was going to say. But as I wrote and drew, I looked and thought again, and that’s not how this ends anymore.
Am I an adult?
It’s not the real question. The real question is, do I have to be?
The essence of adulthood, from what I’ve been told, is that you’re not supposed to enjoy it. If you do, people will line up around the corner to say you must be doing it wrong or you’re naive and deluded, and anyway just you wait for the next milestone, that one will really wreck you.
The criteria are ridged, pointless, and in some cases unhealthy and irresponsible. It’s all about ticking boxes and how things look on the surface. It’s not about how you’re doing or what’s going on underneath.
And if everyone says it’s that, who I am to disagree?
So take it all away. It’s been messed up too much for too long. I don’t want it. I don’t even want to fix it, though you can try if you want.
I’ll just be over here, doing the next thing, drawing dinosaurs, and choosing puke-green everything. Crowned queen of the dishwasher and nothing else. Trying endlessly, desperately, to have fun.
After all, adults can do anything they want.
* Sidebar: for fun giggles from those respective categories I recommend Soulless by Gail Carriger, Redshirts by John Scalzi, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (beginning with Vol 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson).