About two weeks ago, I had a fairly scary incident: I was in a Home Depot, a place I’d avoided at all costs for my entire life, when it suddenly dawned on me that I no longer hated wandering through the aisles of hardware or the overbearing scent of sawdust. Instead, I was having a horrifyingly good time hunting down the things on my roommate’s and my list. This revelation was naturally quite shocking for me and the ensuing identity crisis not only brought me to some startling realizations about my changing interests and status in life, but also made me reflect on my time in Home Depot and how bad I am at being an adult.

Let me explain: I have recently moved into an apartment with a friend. In theory, this pseudo-home ownership is the lowest possible level of accountability I could have for my shelter as an adult, other than crashing on a series of increasingly unwilling friends’ couches (as I plan to do after graduation). Renting an apartment and being liable for the upkeep should be no issue, and yet things seem to go wrong all the time. Our first two mail keys didn’t work, there are no stove plates for our burners — we’ve learned to live with letting our pots of macaroni rest on 20-degree angles — and one night, a glass light cover fell from the ceiling while we were nowhere near it and shattered, filling our carpet with fun, little glass shards. Hence the shopping trip.

As a child, I had been dragged to Lowe’s and Home Depot nearly every other day (this is an exaggeration, but probably not by much) and I never enjoyed it. There was nothing to do there while my parents discussed types of concrete except to push all the different doorbell samples. And push them I did.

Shopping for my own home was a much different experience than that of my childhood. Looking at different parts and pieces of equipment was exciting now that it was a decorating game. At the same time, though, I was revolted and confused with my pleasure in this. How had I become this person? How was I being such a boring adult, enjoying myself in a hardware store, while also being such a bad adult in general, using Febreeze instead of doing my laundry?

I realize I’m not supposed to be good at being an adult or homeowner yet; that would be insane, since I’ve only had a few years of living on my own to have gotten the hang of this. However, this is allegedly easy mode; there is supposedly every possible safety net standing between me and homelessness/unemployment/plagues/aimlessness during college, yet I am still very often faced with situations I feel completely unprepared for, such as figuring out how to get tiny glass shards out of carpeting, or shooing ghosts out of our walls.

What I’m realizing, though, is that maybe that’s what it means to be an “adult.” Being a grown-up isn’t about having answers, it’s about the flexibility and resourcefulness that comes from using a cleaned-out butter tub as a bowl when all the dishes are dirty, or the knowhow that comes from past experiences with buying lights to tell you that you really can’t light an entire apartment with jack-o-lanterns, controlled bonfires and holiday string lights alone.

However, using that kind of critical thinking is challenging stuff, and sometimes I don’t have the brainpower to handle it. Instead, what I’d like to propose is that we, as a society, restructure the “traditional” order of life and add a new step. After high school, I would like to see a new stage in which bored, elderly people are assigned a young adult and are asked to mentor them. And by mentor I mean parent. (What I’m really trying to say is that I’m terrible at this and if someone wants to come and run my life for me, that would be much appreciated and probably for the greater good. I haven’t taken out the trash in three weeks.)

Seriously and honestly, I think the answer to all of this — the conflicting feelings about having adult responsibilities with only some of the adult mindset — is to remember that no one really knows what they’re doing, even if they claim they do and they’re a real “adult” in your eyes. Plus, there really is no set idea of what an adult is or does, even if there seems there might be. So, go ahead and enjoy your time in Home Depot, but also go ahead and push all the doorbell samples. You’ve earned it, you beautiful disaster.

Sarah Leeson can be reached at sleeson@umich.edu.


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