#35 “adulting”

“All adults were children once – although few of them remember it.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

I feel that this year is my most “adult” year by far and I feel like I have changed quite a bit in terms of how I think and how I behave. I don’t act on impulse as much. I consider the consequences of my actions before taking them. Maybe it’s because I am finally having a real job and earning decent pay. Maybe it’s because I am in the teaching profession and I feel like I am the adult in the classroom and therefore I am fully responsible for the safety of the students in my classroom. Maybe it’s because life happens.

It’s funny how school doesn’t prepare you for adulthood. In school, you work hard and more likely than not, your hard work will pay off. In school, everything is neatly scaffolded. In school, when you need help or advice, there are trained adults around you who will step forward to guide you through the rough edges.

As an adult, hard work does not always correlate to rewards. There are too many confounding factors, such as your inter-personal relationships and the presence or absence of opportunities. Adulthood offers no scaffolding. Sometimes adulthood feels like a wasteland – I don’t know why I am going the way I am going or I don’t know where I am going. Sometimes adulthood feels like it is a complicated knot and I don’t know what to do about it. I am afraid that I will do the wrong thing and end up tightening the knot but inaction is not an option. Sometimes adulthood feels like I am caught between a rock and a hard place – every decision seems to implicate something else and I can’t make up my mind on what to do because all the decisions carry consequences that I am afraid to shoulder. I don’t know who to turn to. I don’t know who to trust. Sometimes I feel like I am thrown into the deep end of the pool. I feel apprehensive and lost.

Becoming an adult is quite a funny and awkward process, especially when you are not ready to become one. I used to naively imagine that someone would watch over me and chart my progress but it’s not like this.  For me, becoming an adult is more like this: something unexpected happens and someone needs to take charge or take the responsibility. I look around in search for someone who is more “adult” and “experienced” to take charge and I realize that there is no one around me. I have to step forward and be the one in charge. I have tried asking others to seek relevant advice, I have tried to fake it, I have tried to go with my heart. But no matter what, the bottom-line is I need to become the person in charge.

I wish there is a marking scheme or a set of rubrics so I know what I have done wrong and how I could have done better (assessment for learning). But sadly, adults are not assessed formally. In fact, most of the time, people just need someone to do the job and it is good enough when that someone can complete the task within stipulated time and does not require another person to assist on that job.

Since there are no guidelines or marking schemes for adulthood, I feel that it is the responsibility of the adult to self-evaluate himself/ herself. And how do you do so given that there are circumstances ahead that you can’t foresee? I think if there are no external guideposts, then there have to be internal guideposts. You need to follow your heart and act in a way such that your conscience is clear and that you are true to yourself. I think it’s better to lose your way in life than to lose yourself.

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