Today has been a weird day. I got up 11 hours ago, and am just now sitting down to my first “meal” of the day: stale Ritz crackers with discount cheese and lunch meat. I had a morning shift today, which meant an early morning. Usually, the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend’s alarm starts going off around 5:30am and he’s out the door by 6am. This gives me an hour power-nap before my 7am alarm. Today, I just couldn’t nap though. Tried to make coffee, but the coffee maker did that thing where it fills the filter with water but doesn’t let the water drain into the coffee pot. So, I came out of the shower to find weak-ass coffee-ish water all over the floor and counter.
No time to make more coffee, since I had to go through the cupboard to gather up non-perishables for a charity event I completely forgot about. Made it out the door a few minutes early so I could stop and grab a Monster on my way to work. Once again, the Perpetually Absent Coworker didn’t show up, and may not show up for the rest of the week. This sent everyone into a panic, trying to rearrange schedules and cover shifts.
Instead of sitting down and relaxing on my break, I did my grocery shopping and sliced up half a cucumber to eat at my till. Had the usual menagerie of the strange wandering through the store today. Walked home in the rain, and was able to rest long enough to take a quick poop before it was back out into the world. Ran donation to campus for that charity event, caught up with an old friend, walked home in the rain again, and then scurried around the house trying to get a day’s worth of cleaning done in 17 minutes. Pretty sure I failed, but the dishes are done.
And now I’m sitting here with my plate of discount stale food, watching an old Daria episode and typing while the ever fierce and powerful Bowser Kitten watches me from the bed. I am finally sitting, trying to massage my plantar fibromatosis with an 8lbs dumbbell. The Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend should be home any minute now, and I’m going to try and cook him a dinner amazingly awesome enough to match his amazing awesomeness.
This is a pretty average day, I guess.
Some people think this is a weird day to have, considering I’m 35 years old. I worked 5 hours today, had to walk to and from work (and everywhere else), didn’t feed myself, and spent the bulk of my day getting yelled at by customers because we’re in the middle of our postal code survey at work and they think it’s part of a government conspiracy. I don’t have some high powered job like everyone thought I would at this age. I’m not a lawyer or a professor, I don’t have a nice office or a comfy desk chair I can spin around in and wheel down the hallway. To a lot of people, I’m not a real grown-up.
That’s why I call myself The Failed Grown-Up. You see, there are people out there that think that life has to follow a very specific, linear plan in order for it to be successful. You go to grade school, and then high school. You work hard, get good grades, maybe get a part-time job. Go to college or university, buy a car. Graduate. Get a “real” job, fall in love, get married, buy a house, have babies. Then it’s work until you grow old and retire, then rest and relax until you die. Anything that strays from this very neat and organized little path is wrong.
I used to think like that, on and off. I worked hard in high school, got pretty good grades. After I dropped out of university and went through the period I call my Dark Days, I jumped back into school and went to college for the program that would get me a “real” job the fastest. I threw myself into the “find a job that will pay for me to relax and die someday” mentality.
The fact that I didn’t stick with that path seems to really bother some people. The funny thing is, it’s not the people that matter most to me. My parents are fine with my life choices, as long as I’m happy, healthy, and can keep a roof over my head. AAB and the Bowser Kitten fully support me in my retail life and my writing projects. Actually, the people closest to me are perfectly fine with what I’m doing. Ok, some of them have that “really, isn’t it time to grow up and give up the whole writing dream” mentality, so I just don’t tell them that I still write.
Customers that come through my line at work seem to have a problem with it, actually. I’ve had a few dozen parents point to me while they tell their kids some variation of, “See, that’s why you stay in school. You don’t want to wind up with a nothing job like that when you’re older. Study hard, stay in school, get a real job, not like this loser here.” I have had people tell me to my face that I’m a loser for working retail past the age of 25. People roll their eyes at me when I try to explain things to them about products as if I can’t understand scotch or wine on a budget like mine.
That’s one of the downsides of being a Failed Grown-Up. Other people seem to think that they’re somehow above me because they work in an office, or are married, or have kids, or own a home. It’s like they’re so damn superior because I’m on the other side of the counter while they pay. Some of them are outright mean about it at times, too.
How do I counter that? Being a Failed Grown-Up, I have quite the collection of childish things. For two whole months, I wore Halloween accessories at work, and I’m not talking pumpkin earrings. I had tiny top hats on headbands, cat ears, devil horns, a black veil, even a pirate hat and bandana. I brought toy swords and knives with me and had a parrot skeleton on my shoulder sometimes. We have some pretty weird music being pumped through the store, so when I’m at my till I bounce around and dance to it to keep everyone entertained.
People take issue with my appearance, too. When I was 19, I chopped off all my hair and dyed to fire engine red. I had 21 piercings in just my ears and dressed all in black. When I went to visit my dad at work, he made me wear mum’s bright coat and a toque to cover my hair. His co-workers laughed and told him it was all a phase. Someday, I’d become a Real Grown-Up, take out all my piercings, and let my hair grow long and natural.
Well, I’m down to 13 piercings in the ears (and one in my nose). My hair is still short and red, just not as bright. The bright burgundy I have now makes my eyes look bluer, and the haircut I have is easy to work with and maintain. I am damn adorable, and people notice it. There is no one way to look like an adult.
Now, this whole Failed Grown-Up thing isn’t all sunshine and roses. One of the reasons I’m in the situation I’m in now is because I went back to school so late and without any research into it. I didn’t look into the cost of a degree, backup plans in case I couldn’t get the job I wanted with that degree. I didn’t bother looking into scholarships or bursaries or really doing anything to make going back to school more affordable for me. I threw myself into it and took out student loans. Those student loans, with the job I have now, will most likely haunt me for the rest of my life.
Thanks to the overbearing loans, I don’t have the money for things. AAB and I are raising our fur-child Bowser Kitten in a house where we rent bedrooms. We have random roommates coming and going, and have no control over who we live with. We can’t afford to buy cars, or a house, or any sort of real assets. We each have a computer, a phone, and we share an iPad we got secondhand refurbished. We can’t afford vacations, or to even really take time off work to just be together. To make ends meet, I am at the half-way point of a 30-day stretch at the store, and he works almost 60 hours a week sometimes over 6 days every week. We don’t have the luxury of time that others our age seem to have. I would love to move into a small house, get a second (and maybe even third) cat, start a family (with a human baby or two, not just cats). That’s not something that’s possible for us right now, though.
Would I change things? Maybe, a bit. If I could, I would go back and apply for this job much earlier than I did, so I’d have higher seniority and better pay. I would’ve applied for more free money (scholarships and bursaries) while I was in school, and saved more of my loan to put down as one big loan payment. I wouldn’t have taken on so much credit card debt. But I can’t change those things now. I can only accept them and move forward. I push forward every day, not to make up for the mistakes of my past, but to live my present and future in a better way. Yes, I’m paying off my debt and saving up for a new place to live. And yes, walking everywhere and relying on public transit in a city that was made by the auto industry really sucks. But things could always be worse.
So even if you stray from that well-thought-out-plan you had to make you a Real Grown-Up, Sunshine, don’t let it get you down. It’s not the path you take that makes you a grown-up. It’s what you do with whatever is on your plate that defines you. So go out there, and be the best you that you can be. That’s what being a grown-up is all about.