Sunday, 4 March 2012

Insanity: The Things You Can Learn From a Drunken University Fresher

I’m insane. I realised it the other day whilst looking in the mirror, after getting back home from a very late night out. Hair a mess, makeup smudged, probably smelling of cheap vodka and cigarette smoke - suddenly it hit me. "I’m an adult now," I thought. It’s time for me to make intelligent, informed decisions. It’s time for me to grow up and be mature. I turned away from the mirror, about to mentally beat myself up for staying up until the morning… for the third night in a row… But then I asked myself: what does it really mean to be an adult? What do I need to do not to feel like a complete failure at this whole grown-up thing?

Look – I’m eighteen, I don’t know how to whistle and horror movies still scare me shitless. I find it difficult to cook dinner for myself, not to mention wash my underwear or do healthy things like… um… moving? But don’t be misled and think I haven’t tried to be an adult. Ever since coming to university, I’ve been convincing myself that growing up is the way forward & something I need to do. I set out to join the gym, eat healthy, do my work on time, budget well and keep my room neat. Needless to say, none of those things actually happened. The gym membership was too expensive, eating healthy too time-consuming, I had too much work, not enough money, and no place to store the wardrobe rapidly growing on my floor. The only things I did have – and still do to this day – were excuses and bad feelings. But those negative emotions were not caused by a poor diet or lack of exercise, but rather my realisation that I was not fulfilling the standard adult role. And not meeting the socially constructed criteria for adulthood made me feel nothing but inferior to others.

But then I backed up for a second, and tried to recall the things I have done since I’ve become an "adult". Aside from getting ridiculously drunk at parties and spending a little too much money on things I don't need, I stayed up all night talking to a friend about her family problems. I followed the news and watched The Young Turks show every day. I took a walk in the middle of a rainy night and laughed at myself out loud when I slipped on the pavement and skinned my knee. I went on a charity hitchhike across Europe with no money. I told a guy how I felt about him. I signed up for capoeira lessons. I burnt my fingers on a hot stove and had to walk around with a cup of ice water for the rest of the night because it felt like the skin was going to melt right off them.

Some of the things I did were great, some plain stupid. But one thing is for sure – I did not do them to be an adult, I did them to be me. None of these actions were influenced by how I think others would want me to behave. Sure enough, often they were not even based on a coherent thought process, they just happened. They all had consequences, both good and bad. But the one thing I can tell you is this – as immature as my approach towards grown-up responsibilities may be, I often feel genuinely happy. And that is more than I can say for many "real" adults. 

Of course, I'm not saying being responsible will make you sad. But nor will it, based on my experience, make you happy, as some people suspect. If you push yourself to be spontaneous and do things outside your comfort zone, or just things society might generally consider "weird" or "eccentric", that's when you will discover that the real happiness lies in the present. Sometimes you should allow yourself to spend the whole night reading your favourite book and eating ice cream, even though you know it will result in you being sleepy at work the next day. Because putting off the things you wanna do oftentimes means that you will simply never get around to doing them.

So yes, I’m insane for not living my life more responsibly. Bat shit crazy, if you will. But so are you if you always do.

Images: "Daddy's Little Girl" by Elena Rendina, via noirfacade

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