‘Is it hard to be an adult?’ he said. ‘It’s certainly better than being a kid. You can’t get in trouble with your parents. And you don’t have homework.’
He’s thirteen. Yes, being a teenager is tough. I see it in my classes, and hear it from my students too. Some of them are voicing it on their weblogs already. Can’t do what you want. Can’t say everything. Have to do as your told.
I find being an adult isn’t easy either. Homework disappears, but is replaced to all these things we ‘have to do’: taxes, shopping, cooking, cleaning, paying bills. And if you’re lucky enough to be a teacher, you almost get real homework: tests to correct and classes to prepare. I spend more time at my ‘homework’ than the kids I teach — that will change, but this year, I certainly am.
Yes, it’s hard being an adult. You don’t wake up one morning suddenly ‘adult’, and magically up to it. You remain yourself. You learn how to pay the bills, cook, clean up, live without your parents, but all in all, there is never a clear line crossed into adulthood. You carry who you are with you at all times.
I’ve long lived in the illusion that life would suddenly one day become ‘easy’, that things would fall into place and all the tough stuff would just vanish. I now know that is not how life goes. Life is always challenging. Growing up is learning to deal with those challenges. But the tough times don’t go away.
The first real insight I had about what ‘being an adult’ meant was during one of my early conversations with Aleika, in India. She was telling me how being a parent isn’t something one can be really prepared for. As a kid, we always think our parents know what they are doing — but as a first-time parent, you just do what you can. You don’t know much more than before the baby arrived. You’re not transformed into another person because you just gave birth.
And it goes on. Becoming a grandparent and growing old is also a first-time experience for those who go through it. I think no stage in life is really easy. Growing up is about taking risks. Doing things you’re not really fully prepared to do. Taking responsability for your actions and your life. It’s exciting, and it’s frightening.
La vie n’est pas un long fleuve tranquille.