Pages

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Double Trouble

The difficulty in straddling the roles of not-quite-adult and definitely-not-a-kid is most apparent in the contrast between my two part-time jobs. I imagine there are many twenty- and thirty- somethings in the same place. (Though certainly there's no age restriction on this struggle.) I am an outreach specialist in the Mayor's Office for a grant program which assists homeowners in upgrading the energy efficiency of their homes, and I also work at the front desk of my local Y. Costume change aside, bouncing between the jobs makes my head spin sometimes. It's not the hours or the logistics so much as the identity swap that causes me to strive ever toward that Eden we call balance.

When I'm at the Y, in my lovely uniform of bright blue polo and khaki pants, replete with magnetic nametag, I suffer the constant woes of any customer service position: dismissive customers, rude customers, angry customers, patronizing cutomers, you get the picture. Understandably, in a customer service position located less than two blocks from a major university, most Y members assume I am a student. After all, many of my counterparts behind the desk are. What does it matter what these semi-strangers think? Does it really affect my life? Well, yeah. Part of this whole transition to adulthood is being recognized and treated as an adult. I mean, isn't it? Or is this the part of the story where I'm reminded that it only matters how I see myself? I fight the assumption because it's too easy to sink into the brainlessness of simple tasks with little responsibility. It's a short, slippery slope from being considered a young careless student to becoming an unambitious adult.

Then I step into my office for my "real" job, and an almost opposite feeling settles in. After all, I'm completing tasks I've never done before, answering questions and shouldering responsibility just like a Real Live Adult. As I communicate with community partners and coordinate events with established businesses, I sometimes think, "Don't they know I'm making this all up? Don't they know I haven't done this before?" Fortunately, I get a lot of positive feedback from my colleagues and other professional contacts. Still, it will probably take more time until I feel truly successful at the position- and truly "grown up."

I would love to be done with mindless service positions that only net me a measly paycheck and nothing else. However, I work for a grant program that is ending in seven months, meaning I'm out of a job (AGAIN), and the Y gives me fall-back cash while I figure out more long-term plans. The Y offers the opportunity to make more cash if I sub for other people's shifts. Supposedly I could get fitness instructor training as well (though that's failed to materialize so far). All the same, I hate spending precious hours in a job that doesn't feed my life or fit in my vision. After a good weekend, though, perhaps I can rain in my bad attitude and start acting like an Adult.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's the Big Idea?

It's odd that the bigger the idea I have, the more difficult it is to put into black and white. Well, considering the relative complexity of Big Ideas, maybe it's not so odd. It's difficult for me to share my deepest passions- what if other people think I'm silly? What if they just don't get it? What if I'm the only one who feels this way?

Speaking of being the odd one out, my latest passion- indeed, one of my new Big Ideas- could be something I simply missed out on. Perhaps I missed the memo, but I feel the cultural conversation surrounding the transition to adulthood is severely lacking in the Hard Stuff. Did everyone else get the message that major landmarks of adulthood (school, career, house, relationship) are not only optional, but also completely unassociated with any particular age? Where is the message that just because you graduate college doesn't mean you automatically get a full time job in the same field? Where is the message that changing your mind about the rest of your life- even several times- is ok?

Maybe I missed all this. But this is definitely a theme I'm going to continue examining. In my cross-country move and head-first dive into an adult relationship, financial independence (mostly), finding a job, searching for a career, and establishing my own life, I've been continuously struggling with the trappings of adulthood while still feeling like an adolescent. I haven't yet pinpointed what will make me feel like an adult. I do my best to look and act like one- being mistaken for a student is frustrating. I find myself often returning to financial security as the hallmark of adulthood, but I also think that's pretty messed up. Does a number, a bank account, or a type of bank account really define my maturity? It shouldn't. If someone else suggested that to me, I'd definitely counter the argument. But when my own head suggests it, arguing with myself just feels, well, crazy.

And so the process begins. What the hell is adulthood and how the hell do we talk about it together? Stay tuned.