I am very scared to be an adult. I can say this truthfully because it is nearing the end of January, I am graduating in May, and it feels like I have five months to get all my habits lined up neatly like gemstones in a display case. No more procrastination on things like paying bills, I have to wear properly bleached white shirts and not slightly yellowed ones, I can’t eat potato chips in bed or pour too much garlic chilli on my char siew, I need to have an active social life. Most importantly, I need to have both a job and a passion. Which I will naturally excel in. This is the sum total of all the insane ramblings inside my head, the thoughts that won’t stop.
Thankfully, I am not a scion to a fortune and my parents aren’t handling any family businesses, or I can imagine that the pressure would be far worse. I won’t feel that I can just pack my wardrobe into a Hush Puppies luggage and migrate to an Amish town for the rest of my life. How do adults do it all? How do they hold the weight of expectations on their shoulders and breathe like teenagers? Or even better, babies. I don’t have anything, the past 22 years of my life seems to have been for nothing.
The rational side of me knows that it is the way I think that gives me so much anxiety. I know that most people do not have everything down pat when they die. People make mistakes, life throws them dungballs, they don’t settle everything they want by the time they are hooked up to a ventilator or wrapped in a rattan mat. That is why their descendants are so careful with their own lives, it is the longing they saw in their parents faces that makes them want to not repeat the same mistakes. But as they age, their lives might inevitably expand to fill the cube that their parents inhabited, and not an inch more.
I know that a large majority of the world’s population live in poverty greater than mine- I get access to premium healthcare, clean water, food, safe government, security, premium education, no discrimination etc.
I know that those who are as fortunate as me, some of them will give up their good fortune to drugs, alcohol, rabid sex, escapist methods because they cannot deal with the discomfort of reality.
And even more will give up their dreams to settle down and have a family, or take a job that pays the bills and does nothing else, and at the end, wonder at the smallness of their lives. Like a cookie jar that is sealed tightly and always filled with cookies, it doesn’t look wrong until the kids grow up and stop eating cookies.
Some will have terrible luck after university- a car crash, cancer, bankruptcy, family issues, co-dependency, unable to get away and unable to start over again.
Or some, like me, will steer clear of bad habits, work very hard at things, have generally okay luck, but have no idea where the ship is headed towards. If I imagine the world as a large jar filled with M&Ms the people who are truly thriving and happy are the ones left at the bottom of the jar. The survivors.
But even so- it is not a comparison with other human dwellers of the world. It doesn’t matter to me that forty million people were murdered because of religious strife or that another forty million were given access to free healthcare for the rest of their lives because of a change in presidency. What other people are going through is just a reference point, it’s something to say at the dinner table “hey at least you are not like…” or “did you hear about…”, it is not something that really comforts me in my insecurities and my bad dreams.
Logically I know that life is unpredictable, and I just need to stay humble enough to accept everything that comes my way. But everything and everyone around me- it feels like we are all populating this tank that has increasingly stale air.
I took down the habits tracker last night because it was making me unhappy. I couldn’t complete all my habits in one day, and there were several days where I had to go without this or that because I was doing something else. But the word ‘habit’ to me, means that it is a concrete thing to do every day. You can’t skip a day, you can’t cheat, and if you are going to cheat then you might as well not do it.
From now on, I am using that tracker to track good things that happened to me during the day. Things like eating pork porridge, a good group project meeting etc. I am learning to follow my intuition and not control my fears or my life so heavily. I am not a bird in a cage. I am human, to be free.