When I was young, say about seven or eight, I thought adults were geniuses. It baffled me how my dad knew how to fix the lawnmower when it stopped working. I was amazed when my mom would drive for hours on miles of roads and still be able to find her way back to our house. “This stuff seems impossible,” I would think to myself. The way I imagined it, you were a kid till you were seventeen, and then on the night of your eighteenth birthday you went to bend and poof! You woke up an eighteen year old adult, now gifted with the knowledge on how to file taxes and work a computer. This silly idea faded as I started to age, but I still thought until recently that being an adult meant you took careful thought into all of your actions, using your years of experience to make the best possible decision for each situation you were faced with.
Now I’m not saying people don’t make thoughtful decisions or are incapable of growing after reaching a mature age. There are very smart people who have wisdom and knowledge of how the world works and how to deal with many of life’s problems. The only thing that bothers me is the idea of ‘adulthood’. Generally, being an “adult” means being responsible for your actions, using reason, and being thoughtful in the way you present yourself and knowledgeable in specific areas of life. But from what I’ve seen, this is made up. Just observing things like a fight between my parents, the decisions of my relatives, and the mistakes that have been made by people well into their adult years tells me you never really figure it out.
But the problem is, most people will try and convince you that they have.
You may mention to them that you’re doing the ketogenic diet (as Alex and I now follow), and they’ll tell you, “That’s crazy, you better go see a doctor and watch your cholesterol levels. Too much red meat and cholesterol can give you diabetes.” Wait a second, aren’t I the one who is in shape? “You just exercise so much, and you’re young so your metabolism is high.”
That may be true, but does that mean that all people since the beginning of time began getting fat once they got a little older? Plus, there are numerous studies proving that a high fat, low carb diet actually reverses diabetes, while a high carb low fat diet does the opposite. So why are you giving me advice without reading the studies, and assuming you’re right and that I’m just a stupid kid?
This realization of the illusion of adulthood brings into question my own decisions. At this point in my life I am a nineteen year old about to turn twenty, and very often I view my decisions as flawed and immature. Instead of feeling like nineteen, most of the time I feel twelve or thirteen, just barely starting to scratch the surface of knowledge in the world. Witnessing for myself the shortcomings in my family, relatives and friends shifts have shifted my view on adulthood. Instead of feeling immature for the mistakes I make, now more then ever I realize I am just figuring it out like everyone else, and the illusion of wisdom that adulthood is supposed to bring is just a made up notion, in the ranks of unicorns and the idea that possessions make us happier (note: a post on this to come).
For example, I have many relatives who have bad habits, whether they be smoking, drinking, or even not eating the best things for their health. To me, that seems almost childish. Don’t they know that these habits are killing them? They do, to an extent, but they don’t seem to care. So it seems ironic that these “adults” are known for being wise and for really thinking about their decisions. In fact they love to tell their children to constantly think about the consequences of their actions. Is this hypocritical?
It is increasingly evident to me that adulthood is a journey rather than a barrier, and knowing this allows me to enjoy the ride, bumps and all, rather than staring at the road making sure everything goes perfect. That popular saying attributed to Aristotle comes to mind here. “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” As a nineteen year old, this saying can be incredibly grounding and humbling. I oftentimes catch myself talking to others in a way that conveys superiority to them, whether it be my peers or those older than me. Every time I do this, I’ll hear another person’s perspective on the matter at hand, and realize that I had never even considered looking at it that way, and that everything is much more complicated than I sometimes think it is. I always try to burn those moments into my brain so that I can look back at them often and reflect on them. This helps me to keep in mind that becoming an “adult” is a process that everyone is going through. The more I figure out, the more knowledge I gain, the more evident it becomes that there is no way to be perfect or all knowing. All I can do is find the things I’m interested in, focus on learning about those things, and then realize that I am a novice in everything else (and probably not all-knowing in my own field either).