Welcome to Adulthood

Beauty and Butter: A New Paradigm for Aging and the Wisdom of the Lamas

“…With an appropriated lesson from the lamas, we may be able to recast the relationship between our self-conscious concept of aging and the artificial enhancements tied to celebrity.”

During each Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first month on the Chinese lunar calendar, Tibetan Buddhist lama artists create ornate and intricate sculptures made of yak butter. These butter sculptures typically take months to create, and due to the low melting point of butter, many monks choose to complete the sculpture in a very cold room. When completed, the lively and vivid butter statues are displayed under a sky of lanterns as part of the festivities. (According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. Imagine how beautiful that would be to see!) When the festival is over, the butter sculptures are melted down and the butter is discarded.

Aside from the striking artistry of these sculptures, these butter statues are meant to represent ‘impermanence.’ Impermanence is an important tenet of Buddhist philosophy, and the butter sculptures are a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. Nurture your life, live it vibrantly, and then, when it is time, you let your life melt away.

This idea of impermanence is also useful for our own exploration of adulthood. As we all know, adulthood is inescapable. Inevitably, we will grow older. But, in our western culture which places a high cultural value on beauty, it is aging (and the inevitable conclusion to aging) that is one of the hardest aspects of being “an adult.”

Scantily clad celebrities infiltrate the covers of our magazines, our television shows, our movies, and our own collective consciousness. Thanks to Photoshop, celebrities in photographs are seen without a wrinkle, a blemish, or an ounce of fat. Thanks to plastic surgery, you too can opt to get any number of invasive and non-invasive procedures that will help you ward off the visible signs of aging! (…)
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Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Small Joys

My first ever Egg-in-a-Hole morning. Small joys, friends. Happy Wednesday!

Notes on Adulthood: July 26

It has been months since I have posted our Notes on Adulthood segment. Notes on Adulthood is a neat way to explore some of the little lessons we learn from livin’ each day. So, I am bringing it back! Don’t forget we take contributions, so feel free to send me an email or a tweet at welcometoadulthood@gmail.com or at @AdulthoodMara. Let us know what you have learned this week!

Here are my notes on adulthood (both quotations!) from this week:

1) The other day, a very cool adult (who is very well established in her profession) told me, “You never do stop asking yourself what you want to be when you grow up.’” Duly noted.

2) Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak once recounted a story of young fan. “A little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it,” Sendak recalled. “I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over.

I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, ‘Dear Jim: I loved your card.’ Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, ‘Jim loved your card so much he ate it.’ That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”

I like this quote. It reminds me that love is sometimes just too big, too special, too rare and wonderful to explain in words. And love is out there, friends! Find it, feel it, and eat it up. Every piece of it.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Tiring

Guest Blog: The Ties That Bind

“As the generally accepted signposts of maturity came and went for me (turning 18 then 21, serious relationship, college graduation, regular job, buying a house, even marriage) I was still driving along, looking for that maturity exit.  Then I became a father.  There was my exit!  Many of the other drivers on this road to adulthood exited before me and some were still driving by me, but this exit was mine.”

Today’s post-Father’s Day essay is brought to us by dynamic Kevin Robertson. Kevin’s piece about fatherhood is moving and insightful and challenges us to think about own own definitions maturity. Kevin offers us a rare insight on parenthood that is not often seen on Welcome to Adulthood[*], and adds another layer of understanding to our ever-evolving examination on what it means to be “an adult.”  He will also make you think twice about getting your dad a tie for Father’s Day!

[*] Note to parents: Inspired to submit? Add to our discussion with your thoughts on parenting and its relationship to adulthood, maturity, and/or personal growth. We’d love to hear from you!

The Ties That Bind

by Kevin Robertson

I did not get a tie this year for Father’s Day.  No barbeque apron or chef’s hat, no card depicting a lazy man sitting in a recliner with a remote in his hand, or any of the various clichéd items most men get from their children or spouse on the third Sunday in June each year.  What I did get was a 300 mile drive across the Arizona desert with my kids in route to a youth baseball tournament.  As the kids slept the drive away, I began thinking about fatherhood in general and how impactful it has been for me on the road to adulthood.

Unlike my drive across Interstate 8, the road to adulthood has few signposts telling you how fast to go or what exit to take.  Some people find their way easily, but I did not.  I always associated adulthood with maturity.  More specifically, maturity as defined by finally putting self interest aside-doing what was right rather than what you wanted.  As the generally accepted signposts of maturity came and went for me (turning 18 then 21, serious relationship, college graduation, regular job, buying a house, even marriage) I was still driving along, looking for that maturity exit.  Then I became a father.  There was my exit!  Many of the other drivers on this road to adulthood exited before me and some were still driving by me, but this exit was mine.

The responsibility for others was the key for me.  Fatherhood defines my maturity, my adulthood. It means constantly evaluating whether or not I’m setting the right example and teaching the right life lessons.   My week with was spent watching baseball with longtime fathers, new fathers, fathers-to-be, and found myself wondering how fatherhood was affecting their adulthood.  I work with children every day that grew up in homes where fatherhood was not the key to adulthood.  Everyone’s adulthood is different, which is what makes the journey so exciting, daunting, frustrating and rewarding all at once.

Our journey to the desert ended safely and successfully.   The trip was full of laughter and stories we will think about and remember all of our lives.  Just like my journey to adulthood.  So even though I didn’t get a tie to wear this year (and that’s a good thing!), ties are important to me on Father’s Day.  Ties to my father and the memories I have growing up as his son.  And ties, of course, to my two beautiful children, who are teaching me so much about what it means to be an adult every day.

P.S. When we got home, my teenagers presented me with my Father’s Day gift.  It was a new copy of “Kisses for Daddy”, a children’s book they loved and wore out when they were just learning to read.  After they left the room I did what any mature, masculine member of adulthood would do…I cried.

***

Photo by RunnerAlan2004 via Flickr.

 

Quarterly Writing Theme Winner: Inhabiting – The Bench in Apartments

“‘We’ll just write and be artists,’ we said over a jug of cheap wine.”

Inhabiting – The Bench in Apartments

By Two Girls on a Bench (Siana-Lea Gildard & Patricia Marsac)

We are often known for sitting on benches.  But when it comes to inhabiting, we have actually lived in quite a few places.  When we were first welcomed into adulthood (the day after we graduated from college) we moved into a motor home.  It was parked in our friend’s parent’s driveway.  We had no apartment lined up, no real jobs lined up, so this was our big plan, to move into our friend’s parent’s motor home.  Yes, we had humanities degrees – planning is not in the DNA of those with English and Theatre majors.

TRICIA: We aren’t that bad at planning, at least we had the motor home.

SIANA: A motor home is not a plan, an apartment and a job would have been a plan.

The best part of inhabiting this motor home was the adventure.  We felt so cool, so bohemian, we were just “crashing” somewhere until we figured things out.  Sure, the motor home was musty and the plumbing didn’t work and we had to go in the house to shower, but we got so much street cred.  Not sure who gave us the street cred, guess it was all in our minds, but we felt kinda cool.  We laughed about it a lot, mostly because we didn’t allow ourselves to be nervous about the idea that we didn’t have a frickin’ clue what we were going to do with our lives.  “We’ll just write and be artists,” we said over a jug of cheap wine.  But then our friend’s parents started asking when we’d be moving on and we really did miss running water, so we took all the checks we got as graduation presents and put them together for a deposit on an apartment.

Our first real apartment was in a sketchy area where we lived next store to a drug dealer.  We aren’t exaggerating, Tricia went to pick him up from jail one day because his pregnant fiancé needed a ride.  We really loved that place, it was a few blocks from the beach and had huge bedrooms and we wrote and painted all the time.  Sure, our window was broken by someone throwing a bottle through it one night.  Sure, Siana’s crappy ass car was broken into and nothing was taken because there was nothing to take.  Sure, Tricia felt it necessary to walk down the street carrying her Econo Club to protect herself rather than to protect her car late at night.  But that place was a gem.

After six months of living the life in that apartment, we  needed to move closer to the jobs we finally got (Tricia lugging things around the theatre, Siana lugging papers around a publishing company) and moved into what we now refer to as the roach motel.  This place sucked, but it was cheap and our reflexes became lightning fast as we killed roaches left and right with whatever we had in hand; whether it was a paper towel, a frying pan or a shoe.   We chalked this up to life experience and wrote a song for one of our performance art shows about roaches, which received the acclaim of many.  Writing what we knew, that was really living the dream.

SIANA: Yeah, I don’t remember the roach thing being that romantic.

TRICIA: Shut up, that roach song was beloved by all.

Finally, our last apartment together (before we moved in with the men that would later become our husbands) was the best.  We still talk about it with such nostalgia.  We set one of our screenplays in this apartment just so we could spend more time there in our minds.  It was a sort of two story apartment with a great kitchen where we really started learning how to cook and a living room where we really started learning how to drink and party.  We had a neighbor that played the piano, an old man across the courtyard that sat there with a little girl watching the swimming pool and a next store neighbor that became Tricia’s husband.   We had people over a lot; cast parties from the shows we worked on, birthday and fondue parties and random gatherings with strange people showing up that we didn’t know or invite.  But it was all fun.  And we wrote a lot together in that apartment.

TRICIA: I loved that apartment, I miss my bead curtain.

SIANA: Me too, I miss that old papasan chair too.

Now we live in houses just a few miles away from each other.  We thankfully share a 7-11 between our houses that we can frequent to keep our youthful spirits intact.  We’re thinking inhabiting may be more of a state of mind than where you live.  Although we have to admit, we are kind of attached to indoor plumping now.

 

***

­­­­­­­­­­­Website: www.2girlsonabench.com

Email: blog@2girlsonabench.com

 

 

Quarterly Writing Theme Winner: Life in a Box

“Out of necessity, I grew accustomed to never owning anything that I couldn’t move up or down three flights of stairs on my own.”

 

 

Quarterly Writing Theme Winner: Inhabit

Life in a Box

By Luke Williams

The tumultuous days of young adulthood are often marked by a lifestyle of near-vagrancy. Dorms, houses with eight occupants, coffin-sized studios, and the ever-popular Craigslist leap-of-faith roommate – I’ve lived them all. Looking back, I was a new-millennium cowboy living life out on the open range of new possibilities without anything to tie me down.

And while I would band together from time-to-time with other likeminded young adventurers it was always apparent that I was riding solo. “Self,” I might say on occasion, “your Craigslist leap-of-faith roommie suddenly has a brand-new wardrobe, and you seem to be missing a couple checks and a few sawbucks from your dresser…Suspicious?”

Looking out for yourself and anticipating betrayal out of someone you share a bathroom with was such a foreign concept that it nearly threatened to steamroll right over me. I was lucky enough to grow-up in a reasonably functioning household –at the very least I never had to worry about finding someone other than myself getting horizontal in my bedroom (and my bed!) until my grown-up years.

It was during these early days that my concept of home radically shifted. It was no longer a safe haven, a respite from the outside world, it was just literally where I could fall into unconsciousness for varying spans of time. Most striking of all is that it was never permanent. Nine months here, six months there, and one anomalous year-long stint with a signification other.

Out of necessity, I grew accustomed to never owning anything that I couldn’t move up or down three flights of stairs on my own. I stopped searching for random cardboard boxes and instead invested in giant rubber containers. I never gave a passing thought to hauling around personal treasures, pictures, or anything that fell outside of utility.

I became an expert at urban, young adult survival. I could screen out the Craigslist roommates who might try to put broken glass in my cereal simply from the number of smiley faces they used in the posting, and should I sense any impending doom after move-in, I could have my truck loaded-up within a day and be off to my next stop-over.

As I continue down my path through adulthood, the challenge has now shifted to learning how to turn that survival instinct off, or at least dial it back a notch. I’m in a stable work environment, I have a stable living situation, and yet I can’t seem to bring myself to unpack everything I own. I struggle to convince myself that hanging a picture isn’t a futile gesture, and I still come home expecting everything I own to have been pawned.

I find myself once again readjusting my conceptualization of what home means. So maybe, just maybe… adulthood is about knowing when to reassess expectations just as much as it is knowing how to avoid a roommate who is prone to perform pirouettes off a balcony.

***

Luke Williams is a freelance writer and graphic designer. He lives in a modest apartment in San Diego and recently purchased a couch. For more of Luke’s work, visit his blog LukusnotLucas.  

Photo by Amsterdamize via Flickr.

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Unpredictable

*Photo of Green Flash at Morro Bay, CA, by Mike Baird via Flickr.

Dear Summer, This is the First Day of My Life…

“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” – Dalai Lama

My life is for living. Not just working, and studying, and making dinner, and sleeping.

Not just catching up with DVR shows, and not just checking in on Facebook.

Not just for dating, or drinking, or hanging out.

My life is for living. Actively, freely, happily, healthily, and with compassion – living for me. Living the kind of life that fills you up to the brim, and you are sooo full of life that any moment you feel that you may burst!

I remember the first day I ever lived. It was the first day that I really lived for myself and realized that I owned the moments and outcomes of my life. I had just arrived in Madrid for my first solo international trip. I remember thinking I would just “wing it” to get from the airport to Puerta del Sol, the bustling epicenter of Madrid. So an exhausted jet-lagged Mara and her big red suitcase jumped on the metro and got lost for two hours. When I finally arrived at the Sol metro stop, I hauled my oversized suitcase up the stairs (it was too big for the escalator) while hurried and annoyed commuters bristled past me.

When I made it to the top of the stairs, it was mid-day in Sol and I was stunned and speechless. Never before had anything in my life looked so grand, so beautiful, so intimidating, and yet so full of limitless potential. I remember taking the biggest breath of Spanish air that I could muster and I vowed to memorize the moment. The first moment I had really lived for myself.

It has been over 6 years since I studied in Madrid. But the memory of the moment still inspires me. The friends I made in Spain, even though I don’t talk to them much, still exist. Proof positive that it was real, I was there, and that I lived.

Now that I am a “responsible adult” I can’t just jet off to a foreign country to live. I have a job I take pride in, and friends and family that I love and that depend on me. But I still want to live a meaningful life. I still want moments I can memorize. I want to be full to the brim.

For a few years shaky years there, I equated my primary meaning in life with my relationship. I became stagnant in my own self-development because I was so focused on someone else’s happiness and making sure the life we were building was as happy as I could make it. And somewhere along the way, I stopped really living for me.

This is the first day of my life.

In the past few weeks, I have been filling myself up to the brim. I have been traveling on many mini-adventures, visiting with old friends and making lots of new ones, trying new things (I actually rode on a motorcycle!), writing, running, and cupcake-baking. But I want more!

Dear warm California Summer, I am dedicating your glorious months to Me. I am picking up bits of inspiration from everyone I meet and I’m forging a life rich with learning, growing, stretching, and self-exploration and evolution. My goals, dear Summer, are lofty. I am training to run a 5k and then a 10k by August. I vow to perfect a chocolate soufflé and the best-ever crème brulee. I am borrowing a “starter guitar” and am taking guitar lessons. I signed up for a metalwork jewelry class on Saturdays. I am going to learn how to golf and swim. And I am signing up to take a statistics class to remind myself that “living” is also a challenge.  (I have evaded math my whole life, but living is about conquering fears!) I will not take your warm days for granted, Summer, and in your comforting months, I intend to live life fully.

And somewhere in this Summer of Self — between guitar practice and learning the backstroke — I hope to have a few moments of meaning that I can memorize. Moments where I look at the sun, take a deep breath, and know that I am living for myself.

*Photo by Reservasdecoches via Flickr.

What I Don’t Learn From My Parents…I Learn from William and Kate

My friend, a single twentysomething, has a theory. “People date people who ‘feel like home.’”

Her theory is that whatever your home life was growing up, that you tend to date people (albeit subconsciously) that reenact that vibe of ‘home.’

Her parents, for example, had a problem with addictions (alcohol and gambling, more specifically). When dating, my friend is on heightened alert to avoid men who may have any kind of an addictive personality, but (as it always tends to go) it seems that those are the guys she likes the most – despite her better judgment.

I’m not here to explore the validity of her argument. But, generally speaking, it does seem to make sense that subconsciously we mimic the patterns of our role models.  Undoubtedly, for most of us, our parents (or step-parents, as often the case may be) were our role models for relationships.

I don’t have very many friends whose parents are still married. With the divorce rate so high (over 50% — meaning, you might as well flip a coin as to whether your marriage will last), and if we accept the argument that ‘we seek relationships that feel like home’ –

Does that then mean we are doomed to repeat our parents mistakes?

It seems so….

This brings me to my next point.

Why care about the royal wedding?

I made it a rule to hide every Facebook post that talked about the royal wedding. I boycotted my usual gossip websites. I didn’t flip through even one US Weekly in the grocery checkout line if there was even a mention of Kate or William. I couldn’t believe that so much money was being spent on this wedding when there is so much need in the world. And the fact that I was barraged with royal wedding details at every turn made me really irritated.

I get it. They are royal and getting married. But seriously, I don’t care to watch or hear anything about this lavishly curated production.

But on the morning of the royal wedding, my friend was visiting from Arizona. While I was making coffee and getting ready for work, she flipped on the replay of the wedding. It the part where Kate walked up to the alter and William whispered to her “you look beautiful.”

And then I realized it. The royal wedding, while lavishly curated, gave the world an opportunity to believe in love again. In my generation, our parental role models are divorced. We date people who are often reminiscent of certain patterns of behavior we witnessed in the home. And, frankly, it is really hard to believe in love.

It is hard to believe that getting married and having a family will ultimately prove to be a happy path of life-long love. But in that moment, when the world watched two young people (who inevitably will face extraordinary challenges throughout their marriage) pledge their lives and love to each other, William and Kate became our new role models.

And I became a little less jaded.

And I think it’s a good thing that we can a have renewed resolve (even if it is for one brief televised wedding moment) to believe that with hard work and compromise (and hopefully a lot of growth, fun, and laughter), we too can live happily ever after.

Thoughts??

*Photo by MikeBaird via Flickr.

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