The title of this post is preposterously overzealous—it should really be called something like,
“How I started to maybe be an adult human who has come from and continues to be in a position of substantial enough privilege that my adult-being experiences are all sort of about dumb things, really, if you think about it for a while, and also I am probably not a good source of advice in this area,”
but I didn’t want to mess up the delicate, hand-wrought formatting on this page with such a long title. Fortunately, I have other apt yet unwieldy alternate titles; for instance,
“Things I had to do in the last five months in order to feel like I knew how to be a Person living in the World, during which time my life was just sort of boring, and relatedly that is why I posted nothing on my blog.”
and this post on my blog is about some of these things.
I—along with, I’d expect, most other humans—have pretty much no interest in reading online pieces “about adulthood” (especially those targeted towards the experience of whatever generation it is I’m in—I used to think it was X but I guess it’s Y now, and X already happened? I’m guessing this nomenclature is all some sort of ironic patriarchal propaganda.)
Most of these articles say dumb things (“As an adult, you don’t have to eat your vegetables, LOL!”), a scant few offer gems of true wisdom (“You actually don’t have to do anything at all on weekends anymore.”), and then of course there are the ones that make big claims which some people find very offensive, but which I think are mostly just stupid because it is sort of like saying, “Older people are all racist,” and then trying very earnestly to present self-help advice to them en masse, but they don’t really care because they’re kind of busy going about their non-racist lives.
Writing about (possibly) shared human experiences seems to me like a job for science or art: Not necessarily amazing science or art, but at the very least, for something that has a surface of potential contact with the sublime. I am pretty sure this excludes most ordinary bloggy exposition. But as I have just made myself the author of one of these posts, I feel like I need to justify a choice which I would normally describe with such glowing terms as, “unnecessary,” and, “uh, why?”
My justification is a practical one: I feel like I have not generated any original content in about five months, and this is the easiest subject matter for me to access. Half a year ago, I started working on maintaining a website so I could create and publish content instead of just consuming it. This was a real goal!—one which I managed to fail not because I was too lazy to write things, but because I was somehow too lazy to experience or think anything worth writing about.
I’m really not used to having nothing to say for such long periods of time. I enjoy having an audience, and so most of the time I keep plenty of thoughts stashed away that I can blurt out of my face-hole whenever I want. And right now I’ve got five dull months of material to work with, so hold on to your hats and stockings and prepare for a mild ride.
The transition from having your needs met by your some combination of your parents and the government (and, by proxy, whatever educational institution you are or were privileged to attend), to having them met by you, yourself, can be difficult to navigate.
…is a sentiment I suspect some people express sometimes. But it is not one that I can readily relate to. I feel obligated to establish that meeting my needs was not an endeavor that was particularly interesting or disinteresting, because it was not enough of an endeavor at all. But this is not a piece about privilege; it is a piece which stops briefly, spots some privilege flying overhead, screeching into the mountain wind, and then continues on its trail talking about whatever it was talking about instead of . Privilege is something worth grappling with, but fortunately I have consumed some nice content recently which grapples with it and I have presented it to you in the form of a ”hyperlink”.
The takeaway here is that I am telling a story, but it is a story that does not really have a meaningful struggle or a conflict. Imagine the story of The Hobbit, except instead of finding giant spiders, hissing and venomous, stalking the Mirkwood, Thorin’s expedition just gets a little bit tired of seeing rotting trees; and rather than being attacked by orcs mounted on savage wargs, the dwarves and Bilbo all become a tad hungry (only a tad), so they go looking for food, find it after a short time, and then aren’t hungry anymore as a result of consuming their food. My story is a lot like this one, except that I am not a hobbit, and I have no dwarves, and I am not on a quest, and there are few other similarities aside from those differences.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I meant to talk about finding a place to live, which seems like the sort of thing that is always a pain no matter your means.
I can’t imagine that living in the suburbs is a very pleasant choice for people who are young but who don’t have the luxury of, say, starting a job, deciding that your job gives you too many sad units, quitting your job, and then magically replacing it with some otherjob of comparable merit. Here is my impression of looking for a house in the city, having tried it:
Find an apartment. Hold up, how much does living in this closet cost?
Okay, found a shoebox at a pretty reasonable price, let’s go with that.
Meanwhile, in the suburbs:
Ugh, I had to take a cab from the airport, this is so obnoxious, it is such a cost-inefficient way to travel that I can’t even bear to punctuate my sentences properly as a consequence, but public transportation here is kind of awful and also a train station isn’t my final destination, how would that really help me?
Well, it’s a good thing that wasn’t actually an experience I had, and instead my local friend Garrett could drive me. I guess I should probably rent a car so that I can freely and independently travel to all of those exciting places that aren’t exactly where I’m standing right now. I hear that those exciting places have places where I can live.
Ha ha, who am I kidding, they honestly probably don’t.
Oh, huhn, I need an address to rent this car? Uh, well, uh, let me think about that.
Is it okay if I list the address of a hotel or something? No? It has to be my permanent address? Okay, no worries, I was just asking hypothetically.
Hold on I think my mom is calling me, let me just check my email on my phone. Outside.
Okay Garrett, can I borrow your address?
So anyway, two weeks later I moved into an apartment somehow.
My free time over the next five or so months was occupied in a similar manner; that is to say, I basically had a bunch of tasks to do which were essentially required, mildly inconvenient—and somehow all terribly off-putting.
For the most part, these tasks were really dumb and easy. (Finding my apartment ended up being somehow magically easy, and I ended up in the cheapest single-person unit I could find anywhere in the area.) One of them was “Make an online account for dealing with my health insurance,” which took me about two months to not do and twenty seconds to actually accomplish. Other such gems include:
Put all of my mail in the same place.
Wipe the floor in front of my bedroom door so that I can take the rug I hung over the door because the ground was dirty and put it on the ground where it is useful.
Know what is happening in my bank account.
I have always been pretty good at not putting things off, or at least not in a way that manages to affect my ability to continue living other parts of my life. In college, putting work off usually meant that I would instead do other things which were still productive but more appealling—or at least which were entertaining—and then at some point I’d have to stay up really late to do the original thing I ought to have done.
But I think the attribute which sets all the basic life-related tasks I put off in the past months apart from actual, meaningful forms of work—of the sort that one procrastinates in school—was that they somehow critically blocked large numbers of other tasks.
The basic thought process went like this:
Wait, I have to ~look at my bank account~.
How the hell do I do that? What does that even mean? How do I process all this data?
Ugh, I guess I shouldn’t get invested doing anything else yet. I should really look at my bank account first.
Better just watch reruns of Sherlock.
This is horrible! (Aside: my favorite Sherlock rerun to watch is the one with the wedding.)
But, anyway—horrible! This thought process was more pronounced for certain tasks involving money, because I at some point became aware that I was making an “income,” and if I didn’t do something else with it besides “just let it sit there,” the magic of economics would cause my dollars to gradually become worth no dollars, and then wouldn’t I feel silly? I was told that sorting out my finances was exponentially more impactful the earlier I took care of it. So this meant that at least being aware of what money I had, or spent, or didn’t have, or ingested, took front-seat importance—I should deal with it before I do other things!
Empirically, this was such a drag that my reaction to it was, “Well, better do zero things, then.”
I had similar self-paralyzing reactions in response to other tasks. While my mail was piled on my desk, my response was, “Guess I can’t use my desk ever.” And of course, during all the time I put off opening my mail, I couldn’t just go do other things, because—of course!—opening my mail was the thing that should come first.
This is clearly just a psychological failure on my part. Each task which prevented me from doing all the other interesting and satisfying things I would do, just because it “takes priority,” didn’t have enough inherent value to motivate me to jump on it. Finishing these dumb tasks just lets me do things I want to do, instead of allowing me to have done things I want to do, and apparently my weak and feeble mind was unable to traverse this vast linguistic canyon. Unnerving.
Of course, the most ridiculous consequence of this thought process was that not only did I avoid making new content, I even avoided consuming new content. This concrete conclusion managed to elude me for a few months, at which point I realized that I’d become actively averse to watching new shows, or eating at new places, or even reading new articles on the Internet—which was really the last straw. I typically keep a long backlog of links I’ve clicked but have not read, and then read them when I’m eating and can’t do anything else productive—but one weekend in February, I found myself actively re-reading something I’d read a week before.
I believe that this is probably the closest approximation we have as a society to the Platonic form of unproductivity. Reading anything on the Internet at all is probably ill-advised, because so much of it does not actually enrich one’s life, and it’s nearly impossible to discern what does without just consuming the content. Reading some random link I found for a second time just because reading a new link offended my sense of priorities must needs be an active vice.
At long last, enough was enough, and thus concludes the story about how I purchased financial software, bought a blue-tinted plastic container for my mail, did my taxes, and then went back to being a person instead of being a fleshy rock.
Wow, what a shitty story.
There and back again
I think this is a good time to return briefly to my friendly revision of The Hobbit.
The events of The Hobbit come to a head when the armies of the Dwarves, the Elves of Mirkwood, and the Men of Lake-town join forces to fight against the approaching army of Goblins and Wargs. But imagine a story in which, after reaching the Misty Mountain, shuffling around for a bit inside and discovering no Dragon, Bilbo just turns around and begins to walk home.
The climax of my story is not like this hypothetical climax. The climax of my story sucked, and didn’t involve walking. Really, it wasn’t a climax at all, and that is probably the most major difference.
I have no idea whether my insane response to having to do dumb tasks with little independent value is due to my special-snowflake neuroses, or if everyone’s been doing this and I just wasn’t invited to the party where we all sit and avoid doing anything at all out of fear of priority inversion. But, regardless, I enjoyed writing this, and there is a takeaway here, I suppose. It’s the obvious one, though; it’s: “Stop being a moron, you moron; don’t respond to having to do boring but requisite tasks by doing nothing and just do the goddamn task.”
Apparently being an “Adult” involves lots of junk work with no intrinsic value and which is neither consumption nor creation. Processes of creation are especially valuable to me. I have a lot of admiration for all works which add new content to the world, and I am very glad that I have returned from the stupid depths of doing no things because bleh, to the world of content-producing humans.
P.S.: I was partly impelled to write this because I read John Campbell’s final Kickstarter update and became very deeply upset and felt the need to put something into the world, and that something ended up being this blog post. That happens sometimes; you would maybe rather have something better but you just sort of end up with blog posts. Okay.