What They Never Told Me About Adulthood!

On usual days, I forget that I turned 35 last year. Mostly, when I fill out forms, I am reminded that I have already lived half of my life (based on the average life expectancy of 70.8 years). I have experienced infancy, childhood, teenage, and adulthood, and the mid-life crisis is knocking at my door. My wisdom tooth has still not appeared, so I am unsure whether I have gained any wisdom, but by far, the 35th year is a reasonably good space and time to be. However, like all real-world experiences, it has its pros and cons. Last week, a conversation with a friend about messed-up biological clocks and sleep cycles led me to curate a list; I call it the list of things about adulthood that no one told me.

I was born in the 1980s. As a generation, we saw a massive transition. We have written letters, made pen pals, used landlines, ancient Nokia sets, iPods, smartphones, and ChatGPT. We have witnessed many shifts, from Doordarshan's Friday night movies and Zee TV's launch to the explosion of content on OTT platforms, from telegrams and post-11 pm cheap landline call rates to WhatsApp video calls. Sometimes, it feels too much, almost not needed. As the world around me changed, I grew up; from an infant in the 1980s, I embraced adulthood by the 2020s.

Ironically, I always wanted to grow up. Remember the classic ghazal by Jagjeet Sahab, "magar mujhko lauta do woh kagaz ki kashti, woh barish" (translated as "But return me those days of paper boats and rains"). I used to think - "Why would somebody want it?" I felt powerless as a child. I had no say in deciding what to eat or wear, when to sleep or wake up, where to go for a holiday, what to watch on television, etc. The usual Indian parenting seemed controlling to me. I was also a sensitive child, continuously under self-inflicted pressure to please and comply. At some level, I wanted to grow up fast to be "independent." Adulthood seemed attractive - one could go out anytime, eat all the garbage, and wake up past noon. Little did I realise that independence and decision-making power would cost me considerably. My elders shielded me from the costs; I mostly saw their happy sides.

Thus, just before my 36th birthday, I thought of bursting the bubble because o! boy! It isn't rosy on this side! Here, I share a list of things that hit me in the face in the so-called "adulthood." You may relate to it if you fall in the same age bracket. If you are over 35, you may find it amusing and amateur. If you are under 35, you may brace yourself for the show.

Life Beyond "Bartan-Kapde-Jhadu"

Only when I lived on my own, I understood the endless tasks one has to complete to manage a home. The standard "bartan-kapde-jhadu" comprise main tasks, but there are so many teeny-tiny things that even a lifetime does not feel enough. The list is enormous, ranging from arranging utensils, dusting the furniture, cleaning the fans, folding clothes, and keeping things at designated places to the mental baggage of unwashed curtains, soiled taps, wet washrooms, and dirty sinks. The funny part is that these tasks don't count if one completes them. These count only if left undone, like KYC or linking an Aadhar card to a bank account. The result is an exhausted and irritated adult. This is why the majority of adults have the same expressions!

Two and a Half Friend(s)

From an extremely close-knit group of "how will I live without them" school friends and a vast circle of "they make my life lively" college friends, my life has eventually boiled down to two and a half friends, and these relationships are intense. My two friends stand by me thick and thin, and a half-friend makes guest appearances. I outgrew some friends, some moved on, and others faded away due to a lack of time, energy or connection. Sometimes, when these two-and-a-half friends are unavailable, I feel like a lonely loser. This happens to many, but we don't discuss it. Vulnerability is not appreciated in the adult world!

No Time to "Go-Goa"

My childhood dream was to visit Goa. I had a vivid imagination about Goa - it was marketed as a symbol of freedom and rebellion to our generation. At some level, I wanted to grow up to be able to go to Goa anytime. I have visited Goa twice; it is undoubtedly a wonderful place - very carefree and gives one the freedom to be oneself or be anyone. However, it isn't only rosy as one grows older. It looks great in Instagram pictures, but it's hot and sandy. It needs time and vacation, which the office won't give often. One may have the money but not the time to go. It also causes sunburn and heartburn!

The Most Asked Question - How are you?

Based on comprehensive research (I won't cite specific sources, so please bear with me), it's been determined that the average adult poses the question "How are you?" approximately 1.89 million times throughout her lifetime. Ironically, this inquiry feels incredibly superficial because, truth be told, the person asking usually isn't interested in the answer to "How are you?" Adults develop a conditioned pattern of asking and responding, typically in the most routine manner imaginable. The fundamental truth remains that, irrespective of how tough things get, ultimately, you are the one who will stand by yourself.

Parties and Hangovers

While one has the budget for better parties in the 30s, what begins to dawn upon one is the realisation that the body is a machine with organs that keep it functional. These organs have specific functions and demand maintenance. There isn't any moral police checking on me whether I am drinking too much or overeating, but subsequent morning hangovers are so bad that now I am my own moral police. Have you encountered post-30 adults mentioning how they are on a break? They are the ones who have already finished their quotas.

Metabolism Mafia

Another realisation is that there is a system in the body known as the "digestive system" and perhaps, there are some "foods" that one must consume to keep the digestive system healthy. While momos appeal to the eyes and the tongue, the gut doesn't appreciate them. One extra pizza slice or one extra chapati, roughly 50 grams of wheat, could be game-changers. There is also a concept of a full body check-up in three months, typically unknown to youngsters. Many of us have been on an incessant attempt to shed 5 kg weight for a decade and have bought countless gym memberships and diet plans to achieve the goal but in vain. Further, hair loss is a reality, not funny fiction, at this age.

Everyone Feels Like a Victim

I feel in adulthood, almost everyone feels like a victim, and coping is an essential life skill. More than half the population around me mentions that they are going through a "low phase." Daily themes include betrayal, break-up, loss, defeat, anxiety and failure. In fact, on several occasions, I come across adults and friends competing with each other about whose life sucks more. It may feel sad initially, but gradually, things become customary.

It Keeps Getting Worse

When one encounters adulthood initially, independence is quite liberating. Slowly, the responsibility and realities start coming into the picture. From where I stand now, what I find amusing is that conditions keep getting worse. The cliché saying that if one focuses on studies, one's life will be sorted forever never really comes true. The challenges keep getting more demanding. The only silver lining that comes through is acceptance.

The Golden Rule of Acceptance

Adulting calms one down - the aggression subsides. The "kranti mode" to lead feminism or communism also slows down. On most days, I don't want to fight any battles. I want to stay away from all the battles. I want to sit in silence. I hold back my reactions. I accept differences of opinion. I appreciate different kinds of people, their desires, and their priorities. To each her own has genuinely become my mantra. My perspective has evolved, and I have learned, although not wholly, the golden rule of acceptance. Nothing brings more peace than this rule.

To summarise, life isn't rosy or easy for anyone. We are all sailing our boats in the deep waters of adulthood. We constantly make efforts; we continuously strive to survive and thrive. But in all the chaos, there is still hope. The moon at night while rowing the boat looks very pretty. Even in loneliness, the moon keeps company, and in the darkness of the night, one keeps rowing with a heart abundant with acceptance.

Honestly, zyada kuchh option bhi nahi hai :) To all the boats, the moon, and the rowing adults! 🍷

Write a comment ...


Assistant Professor, Malaviya National Institute of Technology Jaipur. PhD, Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee.