Age Appropriate

3 Apr

Going off of the theme of Kenz’s last post, being in your late 20’s as well as your early 30’s forces a lot of realizations about yourself, your family, your friends, and just the world in general upon you. It’s only natural that people in this age range feel overwhelmed, and I will fully admit that this feeling is coming a little late for our generation. I think the generations before us probably had to make these adult realizations at a younger age than we do now, but for better or for worse, we have been given a bit more carefree time. When I was a kid, I was naturally terrified of growing up since the thought of not having my parents to do everything for me was traumatic. Of course, I grew out of that stage (probably early for my generation) and now I’ve reached the point where the excitement of taking care of myself and making my own choices is SO ten years ago (I was a very independent 17-year-old). Now as a 27-year-old, I can say proudly that I’ve proven myself to be mostly an adult, but there are still some immature things that I absolutely cling to that have been particularly hard to shake. I’ve also noted some other habits of people in my peer group that have made me realize that there are some things that are essential to grow out of. Of course, not every immature thing is something to grow out of -but don’t worry, I’ll get to those too. So here is a general list of things I believe that me and my fellow late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings should try to achieve to earn our adult merit badges.

Create Mature Facial Expressions
I know how weird that sounds, but I seriously have a problem with my expression sometimes. It was really bad when I was in my teens and was a bit more introverted (I had a lot of personality waiting to come out, and sometimes it came to the surface). These days I notice it the most when I’m at my computer at work. My face twitches and responds to everything I write and read, and people must think I’m insane. I’m very grateful that I currently have a desk at one job that faces away from most other people in the office, and at the other job I’m in a side room facing away from the hallway. Last week put this habit into harsh perspective since I was using a different desk and more people could see me. I swear my face was squinched in some unnatural and Picasso-esque way pretty much 90% of the time. I had to constantly look around to make sure no one was staring. Maybe everyone does this, and they’re too busy worrying about their own face to notice everyone else. Either way, I’ve really got to stop since I just caught myself bobbing my head in agreement to myself as I wrote this.

Say Words Clearly Even If You Hate Them
Truthfully, I am mostly having this problem with one word -“boyfriend.” I hated that word when I was single and, let me tell you, I like it even less now. When people ask me what I did over the weekend and it involves the boy I’m seeing, I find myself telling a story about how me and my “befren” went on a hike or we had another failed attempt at getting him to like fish. Maybe I just don’t want to sound like one of those people who are always talking about their significant other all the time. I feel like when I say “boyfriend” I should be twirling my hair on my finger and saying the word like this: booooyfriend! We hold hands and everything! I’ve obviously just been single for a long time and need to get over it, but I’m really having a tough time with this one. If anyone else feels the same way, I completely sympathize. I wish instead of “boyfriend” I could substitute some less fluffy sounding word like “chug,” or something Seussian like “sneetch.”

Don’t Get Nostalgic All the Time
Yes, I know how fun nostalgia can be, but if I see one more Buzzfeed article about foods from the ’90s you can’t buy anymore, I’m going to throw Gak in someone’s face (because you can buy that again now!). It’s fun to reminisce, but I feel like that whole trend has gone way, way, waaaaay overboard. I think it goes back to what I said above: our generation is leery to grow up, and we want to keep pretending to party like it’s 1999. I’m sorry folks, but it’s not. Even Prince would tell you so. There are plenty of good, fun things going on now that you can get nostalgic about when you’re off at some raisin ranch eating liquified foods with the caregiver who wipes your bum for you. I don’t want to remember 2013 as the year I constantly remembered how obsessed everyone was with Titanic in 1997.

Know When To Talk, and When To Keep Your Mouth Shut
I will be the first to admit that I am a fast-talking, outspoken person. I have many things that I believe in, and there are many things (and people) in this world that I find stupid, worthless, ignorant, and just plain trashy. Do I need to call those things out all of the time? Trust me, I often want to, but what good will it do? This is the question I have begun to ask myself before voicing my opinion on something. If I am going to be hurting my cause by opening my mouth (or potentially starting an argument with someone I care about), I keep it shut. If I have valuable information to pass on in a well thought out and constructive way, by all means, I go for it. I don’t want people to disregard my ideas because I spout off at every turn. Not that I’ve done this many times, but I’ve experienced saying something that I really shouldn’t have. No fun at all, folks. No fun. It only made me more hesitant to speak out when it really mattered. I suggest everyone edit themselves in their daily conversations, e-mails, and especially social media postings (you know who you are). I won’t say “quality over quantity” here; speak as much as you want, but the quality is important. Gone are the days when you can just shout whatever is on your mind at any time you want. You’re not in a freshman year liberal arts class anymore.

Don’t Believe All of the Junk You Hear
If there’s one thing that we’ve learned in the age of the internet, it’s that there is a lot of blatantly false information flying around. We all pride ourselves on our ability to throw the BS flag, but honestly, I’ve seen far too many very smart people repeat information or share an article that even the tiniest amount of Googling would discredit. Remember how we all hate stupid people? Well you’re making them stupider. Those dullards will believe anything -especially if you have a reputation for being intelligent (NOTE: Please don’t try to make a zombie mob with this tactic.) But this believing of just anything isn’t limited to the internet. Sometimes you hear something about a friend of a friend from another friend, but this information turns out to be false. Maybe you’ve spread that information. Maybe that information was about a co-worker, and you are about to be fired. I’m just sayin’. The stakes are higher when you’re older, and we have to be even more aware of the consequences. Having worked at an institution that was absolutely riddled with gossip and whispers, I can tell you now that, even if the information is partially true, spreading it is a great way to get people to hate you.

Don’t Get Annoyed At Everything
There are a lot of annoying things in this world. And yes, sometimes they need to be acknowledged. However, we shouldn’t always be looking for situations that we can complain about, or finding people to be superior to. I’ve owned up to my own superiority complex, and I still find myself rolling my eyes at the ineptitude of others, but I have begun to check myself at just what I get annoyed at. Take for example the other day on the bus (I find my attitude gets about 150% worse on buses). When I boarded, the driver had some very fuzzy radio station on at a decibel that would have been uncomfortable even for Helen Keller. I found myself sitting and stewing about what an idiot the driver was to not realize how uncomfortable he was making the riding experience. A few minutes in though, I checked myself and decided to let it go. I had an iPod after all, and my ride never lasts over 10 minutes. Certainly not something I should let affect my mood. And knowing my face, I’m sure my annoyance was out for everyone to read. No one likes a sour puss. However, I do find that I can correct many annoying situations with staring. Undergrad in the library with music on too loud? I stare. Someone talking too loud in a public space? I stare. People whose kids are being allowed to run crazy and wreck the world while I’m trying to enjoy a meal? I stare. It may not work all the time, but I just can’t let everyone get away with this shit. They must be stopped.

Say “No”
Some people have always been good at doing only what they want and need to do. I have not ever been one of those people. I like helping people, and helping is something I want to do, but it took me a very long time to stop feeling like I needed to bend over backwards for everyone. I wanted to be the person who got stuff done and who people could rely on. It took about 25 years to realize that I could still be relied on to get important things accomplished without being stepped on or used by opportunistic folks. Ultimately, saying no to something you really don’t want to do shows self-respect and honesty. If you say “yes” too often people will either suspect you just like everything, or that you’re just a pushover. I doubt you’re a pushover, so stop it.

Be Done With Drama
Let’s play a game. I had a friend tell me that she was at a party where a few peers of ours were intoxicated and hanging out. Two of these peers were in a relationship, but were having trouble. The friend of one of these peers started hitting on their friend’s significant other. One half of that couple started screaming, freaking out, and carrying on, ending the party with tears, vomiting, and general unhappiness. This situation occurred A) When I was in high school. B) When I was in college. C) Just after college. D) Two weeks ago. If you guessed D, go get yourself an Oreo and commence feeling sad about the state of “adulthood.” Granted, two of these peers have just finished college, and one has been a graduate student for many years. Still, the behavior in this scenario is just generally unacceptable, even for just after college. Stop being that girl. Stop being that boy. Be a woman, and be a man, for crying out loud.

Don’t Find Yourself In These Places
If you’re in your late 20s, you are free to be anywhere. HOWEVER, there are some places you just shouldn’t be. Just . . .no. One of these places is a bar that has a reputation for catering to the cougar/older creeper crowd. You aren’t 21 anymore, but you certainly aren’t a 50-something divorcee. You also shouldn’t be at any bar where 21-year-olds are braving creepers more in their age-range to get a specialty shot that anyone with seasoned drinking habits wouldn’t drink for all of the microbrews in Colorado (and there are a ton!). As far as clothing, I shouldn’t catch you at Sears/Coldwater Creek or at Vanity (or Hot Topic, or Wet Seal, or Maurices). Oh, is my snob showing? Trust me, I don’t have much money, but I can be thrifty and still look better than I did in high school. Kenz could show you too. (Look for that future blog post!) And as for concerts, I would like to prevent you from attending anyone in the Taylor Swift/Carly Rae Jepsen/Miley Cyrus family, but I can only go so far. I know you’ll do it anyway, just like you drank in high school even when you told you told your parents you didn’t. I promise I’ll still love you, kind of.

Just Have Some Confidence Already!
I am very fortunate to know many cool people whose coolness partially comes from the fact that they don’t give a flying fudge if people think they are cool or not. Part of the beauty of this age is that all of the things that you might have been insecure about when you were younger are now probably traits you would never give up. In my experience, some of my favorite things about me were what made me an oddball in high school and slightly beyond. However, I am always amazed to find people who are still worried about how “cool” they come off to others. It is a widely known fact that worrying about your coolness is the least cool thing you can possibly do (see: every movie ever where the dumb sidekick friend cares too much). Everyone since you were a kid has told you to “be yourself,” and it’s actually really great advice because you are bound to feel awkward and out of place at some time during your life (if you haven’t, I just don’t understand you). As long as you are being yourself, you are not being a fake, a follower, or just a goon. And trust me, all of those things are worse than being uncool. Self-Respect: Just Do It. (Sorry to get nostalgic there with that ’90s Nike tagline).

In general, I have compiled this list to help you feel confident in your role as an adult, but truthfully, it is also to help you successfully blend into the adult world. Most of these habits or tendencies I’ve listed are worth shedding anyway, but there are some things you should never, ever stop doing. However, you might have to acquire some extra skills and finesse to maintain them. Never fear though, I am the master of maintaining the habits that some adults consider “juvenile” (or as I call them, fun).

Don’t Give Up Your Snark, Get Better At Hiding It
I know how it feels to have a witty comment or hilarious thought, but not be able share it because of my environs or the people I am with. It’s absolute agony to have your genius go unnoticed. So what do you do? Well, why do you think any number of electronic communication gadgets have been invented? Text a friend, e-mail them (NOT on work e-mail!!), keep a running list of scenarios and your reactions to them, start a semi-anonymous blog . . . Anything that gives you that gratification, but doesn’t put you in a bad position with the people in your life or your job is just fine. You certainly shouldn’t chastise yourself for having these thoughts. Celebrate your snark! What would the world be without it?

Maintain Your Hobbies, Loves & Guilty Pleasures
I know that sometimes the tendency for people to be nostalgic stems from the fact that they yearn for a time when they were free and encouraged to do all of the things they loved (college, anyone?). However, in the midst of graduate school, new jobs, bad jobs, evolving careers, new relationships, and more responsibilities, you really should prioritize doing what you like. There’s no downer feeling like when someone asks you what you’ve been up to, and all you can say is that you’ve been in a rotation of school, work, etc. Isn’t that the lifestyle we always said we would avoid? Don’t make excuses. If you really like something, you’ll find a way to do it, and you’ll be happier for it. And let yourself have those guilty pleasures too. I know I gave some of you Taylor Swift/Miley/Carly fans a hard time back there, but if it makes you happy, you have my consent. I will always have my Presidents of the United States of America CD to rock to (Kick out the jams!!) In a crappy economy, and in a time when the plans that you had made may be starting to take another direction, this is where you have control, and it can make you very happy. You may not always make your money doing exactly what you love, but as long as you’re doing it, you have made yourself accountable for your own happiness.

Doing Voices
So maybe doing impressions and accents isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s definitely mine. As long as you’re not offending anyone by being sexist, racist, etc, it can be a fun way to lighten moods and give people a laugh. Back in my old job as an advertising representative, I really solidified my relationship with one of my co-workers by doing a Yogi Bear impression (I think he was mostly happy that I even knew who Yogi Bear was, but still). Even if it’s not doing voices, let yourself be funny -it makes things a lot more interesting and enjoyable. Don’t be the office stiff.

Be Open To Others
While it is harder to make friends once you get out of college, it is not impossible. Since college, I have made several friends who I absolutely love. There have also been some people who I hung out with, but later found to be not the best. Ain’t no thang. Unlike the school environment when you might constantly come in contact with these people, in the real world, you have more say about who you want in your life. It’s a good policy to always be kind, but don’t put up with people you don’t like because you think you have to. Most people have their group of friends who will always be there for them, but you should never see yourself as being “set” on friends. You don’t have to like everyone, but you never know who you might miss out on if you don’t open yourself to the people around you.

Goof Off
Some of these other categories could generally be put under this header, but I feel like I need to emphasize it. Never. Stop. Goofing. Off. Think of how much better the world would be if everyone were a little less serious. Even with my personality I find myself acting way too serious for no apparent reason. At that point, I have to ask myself what’s up my rear end, and find a way to stop it (stop being up my rear end? Don’t read too much into that). Again, don’t go getting yourself in trouble at work and blaming me, but find ways to make your environment better, or at least more tolerable. You should also goof off in big ways, like planning a weekend trip on the fly, throwing a random costume party not on Halloween, have a Pee-Wee Herman-themed movie night. Whatever you’re planning on doing, make it less mundane with a touch that will make it more memorable and more enjoyable.

In closing, you are no longer the responsibility-less spring chicken you were a few years ago, but you aren’t dead yet. Our life expectancies keep getting longer and longer; do you really want to spend 75% of your life being lame? If there’s one thing you should take away from this, it is that you should never use the “old and lame” excuse. If you’re telling your friends about how old and lame you are, and you’re not even old enough to legally be president, it’s your own damn fault. WAKE UP! You’re still in the prime of your life.

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