No pithy intro here. I’ll get right down to it.
Really, there’s a lot they don’t teach you in school. Personal finance, for one. My father – god rest his soul – was about as solid of a C- student as you could ask for. But his education soapbox was that no one is taught basic finance. You know, everything from the VERY basics of how to write a check (remember, this was the mid-90s when “that crook Clinton” – his words, not mine – was in the White House and the only place you could find online porn was in AOL chat rooms, or so my friends told me) to compound interest (which I did learn about in Algebra II, thank you Ms. Toland) to the present value of money. Valid point. I know Dave Ramsey would agree.
But where was I? Right, the things they don’t teach you. Mainly what I’m talking about is how to deal with being an adult.
Notice I didn’t say how to be an adult, though they sure as hell don’t teach you that either. We all muddle our way through that particular comedy of errors and most of us turn out ok.
But I want to know how to deal with being an adult. If I had to take a stab at what psychologists might call what I’m referring to, the term I’d use is emotional resiliency.
For example, today we paid our property taxes a full two days early. I have a folder for 2012 tax information and I’m actually putting shit in there. The kids had simultaneous epic meltdowns this morning – before either of us had had our coffee, if you can believe that Shakespearean tragedy – but we kept our cool and diffused the situation, despite self-induced vomit on the kitchen floor (a kid’s, mind you). You see? We learn how to be adults.
But I have to say, I am so proud of myself for accomplishing these tasks. My car has a current inspection sticker AND a current registration sticker. Our car insurance renewed a few days ago and we both have our new insurance cards in the glove box. Ever since we refinanced our mortgage in October I haven’t been able to figure out how to put it on autodraft, yet I’ve made payments on time every. single. month. All of these accomplishments bring me the utmost pride in myself and my competency. There is nothing I can’t do as long as I don’t run out of stamps.
Is the bar that low, though? “Congratulations, kid, you haven’t been evicted. No tax liens on your house, slugger.”
Maybe it’s a generational thing. It always seemed like my parents had their shit together. No late bills. Credit card paid off in full every month. They even changed the oil when that little sticker told them to. But I feel like I negotiated the START II treaty when I manage to cancel HBO once our shows are over (you can’t do it online, you have to call, can you believe it?).
My struggle is how I deal with the fact that things that should be a routine part of living as an adult in an “advanced” society are in fact Sisyphean tasks. How do I come to terms with the guilt and shame and sense of pride and shame at that sense of pride that surround the accomplishment, or lack thereof, of the most basic tasks?
I praise my children when they remember to put on underwear for school. You’d think that would go without saying. I guess you could say the same about paying your water bill.
God save us all when my generation is put in charge of things.