Before we dive in, I want to make it plain that I know I am an adult. I’m a 32-year-old man with a wife, a house, my own business, two dogs, and an occasionally achy back. But I’ve learned that no one really knows what’s going on at any given moment. That’s what they don’t teach you growing up. Everybody is just out here doing their best, but more often than not no one is 100% certain of what’s happening.
But that’s okay. That really is part of what being an adult is: figuring stuff out. But that’s the scary part of being an adult. There are some moments that transcend the scary and actually result in a feeling of . . . competence, maybe? There are certain times when something happens and you feel, just for a moment, like you really know what you’re doing. And that’s what these moments are about.
1. Shopping at an Office Supplies Store (With a Purpose)
I used to go to Office Max or Staples or whatever with my parents (who themselves own their own business), and I had this strange desire to need something from the store. Like buying a pen or notepad or something would somehow make me a more legitimate person. “Look at that kid!” “I don’t think he’s a kid; he’s holding a box of pens and a three-pack of legal pads!” “Yeah, but he’s only 16!” “True, but maybe he’s one o’ them fancy tech kids like the Myspace or Napster guy.” Shut up. I was 16 in 2005 and those were big deals back then.
But now I have my own law firm and I do regularly have to buy things at an office supplies store. We’re a small firm for now so it doesn’t make sense to have them deliver stuff, so mostly it’s just me running over to Office Max when I have time to grab printer paper, pens, legal pads, highlighters, tabs, Sharpies, etc. And every time I give them my State Bar Office Max Discount number and know that all the stuff I’m buying is legitimate business stuff, I feel a little more like an adult.
2. Mowing the Lawn
Here at Cosas Totum we’re all pretty big King of the Hill fans. This is mainly because most of us are from North Texas, but it’s also funny in an irreverent sort of way, and because we grew up around here, there are a lot of characters that we could identify as people in our lives. We all know some slow-drawling libertarian like Dale Gribble, and we all know a fast-talking South Texas ladies’ man like Boomhauer. But we all know that the most adult person on the show is Hank Hill, who really loves mowing his lawn.
Maybe it’s because when I was a kid it wasn’t really my lawn I was mowing, but it never felt adult. I didn’t pay for the lawn, or the equipment, or the gas, or even the boots I mowed in. But now I have a lawn that is mine, a lawn mower, weedeater, leaf blower, spreader, bottle of Round Up, and fertilizer that are all mine. Knowing I’m using tools I paid for to keep care of property I own just feels nice. And afterwards, drinking an ice cold Lone Star and surveying my handiwork makes me feel very adult.
There are two reasons exercising makes me feel like an adult. The first is that my definition of “exercise” has expanded since I left high school. I was once pretty athletic. I could dunk a basketball from a flat-footed jump and I could run a mile in about six and a half minutes. But then I kept eating fast food but quit playing basketball four hours a day, and next thing I know I look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s fatter cousin. And now my definition of “exercise” includes a slow walk around the neighborhood, mowing the lawn, playing golf, and slow hikes. None of those things would have been strenuous enough for me to call them “exercise” fifteen years ago.
The second reason this makes me feel like an adult is that I know I’m exercising for the purpose of being healthy. When I was younger, exercise was just part of what I did anyway while having fun. Playing sports, even pick-up basketball in my parents’ driveway, was exhausting, but it didn’t feel like exercise because we were having fun. Now I know that I need to do things to help lose weight, keep my heart beating, and live long enough to retire and hopefully travel the world with my wife. Any time I get in from a nice long walk, I weigh myself and pat myself on the back for keeping with it.
4. Going Out with Friends
So, obviously this one hasn’t happened in a while because of Covid. But after law school, going out with friends changed. In college, we’d go to someone’s house, drink until about 10:00, then go to the bars and be there until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Now, we meet right after work and only stay until about 8:00. Or if it’s the weekend, we might meet at like 4:00 and be out until about 8:00.
True story: two years ago my wife and I were invited to go out with some colleagues to Deep Ellum on a Saturday. We tentatively said yes, then when they suggested meeting at Dot’s (pictured, and which, if you’re ever in Dallas, I highly recommend) at 10:00, we waited a few hours then made up an excuse not to go. And you know what? It was a great decision. Instead of dealing with parking, crowds, and $8 beers, we split a couple bottles of wine and watched Sneaky Pete on Amazon. And when we finally turned off the lights and went to bed at 10:15, it felt super adult. We made an economic decision and a personal comfort decision and they both turned out to be perfect.
5. Waking Up on Saturday Morning
I’ve never been one to sleep late, but I used to be able to sleep until 8:30 or 9:00 on Saturdays. In college if I was hungover I might make it to 9:30 or 10:00. But now the only way I could sleep until 9:00 is if for some reason I was up until 5:00 then took some ibuprofen PM washed down with some bourbon. And even then I’d probably only make it until 8:30 or so.
But now I can only sometimes sleep past 7:00. And I love waking up on Saturday mornings, going downstairs, putting coffee on, walking outside to get some fresh air, writing a Cosas Totum article, and reading the news. It’s just so freakin’ adult, man. Saturday morning, orangish light of immediate post-dawn coming in through windows and over the tops of trees, sipping a black coffee and just existing at a time when no one will bother you for a little bit, and there is a modicum of complete tranquility and control. No hangover, no responsibilities at the moment, and some quiet. Of course, waking up Saturday leads to:
6. Saturday Chores
Running errands, grocery shopping, cleaning, mowing, whatever. When you get dressed and make the rounds to Home Depot, Office Max, Kroger, the liquor store, maybe grab some lunch at a place with patio seating, it just feels adult. Then, of course, you get to go home and utilize the provisions you got on your journey. Ants getting bad again? Lucky we got some ant spray at Home Depot. Floors need mopping? Good thing we grabbed some Swiffer pads at Kroger. Sports on TV? Well, it’s no coincidence we went by the liquor store.
And knowing that all of those things are for the betterment of your existing responsibilities and property makes you feel like an adult. Doing all those things, then taking a shower and just relaxing for the evening is the best. You’re using your own money to buy your own stuff for your own desire, and that level of autonomy, while small, really helps offset the occasionally overwhelming feeling of no control that permeates so many other parts of adulthood.
As an aside, I just want to talk about how ridiculous that last picture is. I mean, he’s screwing a cabinet hinge, but the turn and smile at the camera is laughably disingenuous. And the next question I have is where is he? That looks like a doctor’s scale in the background, but that doesn’t look like a doctor’s office or a patient room. And what kind of psycho would have one of those big scales in their home? And if you did have one, it seems like the most logical place would be in the bathroom, but we can rule that out because it looks like the shelving behind him has cups in it. So presumably this is a kitchen, I guess.
Anyway, back to the main issue. Being an adult isn’t fun all the time. It’s mostly noncommittal, occasionally overwhelmingly stressful, and rarely the best thing ever. But sometimes those little moments that make you feel like a real adult are the ones that help get you through the overwhelmingly stressful times. So go out and enjoy the day, and be the best adult you can be!