I’ve been on earth for almost five decades, and there are still moments that I marvel about adulthood — that I’m in the middle of it, that it requires nonstop decision-making, that it’s a constant process of mistakes and trying again.
For example, I’ve finally taken advice from cookbook authors and celebrity chefs: I gather all ingredients before cooking. Experience is often the best teacher, and I’ve been burned one too many times from diving into a recipe, mixing dough or preparing a casserole, only to discover that I’ve run out of a key ingredient. If my neighboring best friend doesn’t happen to have an extra egg, canned chiles or a teaspoon of tarragon, I’m forced to either make a best-guess substitute or dash to Kroger. When I’m feeling especially grown up, I even chop all the veggies before I start to prepare soups and sauces. Lo and behold, the rest of the process is smooth.
Being an adult also means that I want people to stop and admire my home’s freshly painted trim and shiny new gutters that were installed over the summer — a project for which I squirreled away extra cash over the previous year. But please ignore the windows that need replacing. Good gracious, have you priced the cost of new windows? It’s the next big project on my list.
I’d also love to show off my new washer and dryer set, purchased to replace the 19-year-old set that got our family through the infant and toddler years, the arts-and-crafts stage, the endless blur of multiple costume changes, and the cross country plus marching band era.
Without fanfare on a Saturday afternoon, the washing machine stopped agitating. Repairs would have cost about as much as a new no-frills washer. The dryer was still functioning, though I sensed its days were numbered, and I wanted to have a matched set, so I researched my options — which leads to another win in adulting.
I didn’t give in to Pinterest pages and the allure of fancy appliances. I bought a basic, top-loading washing machine, one that defies the bells and whistles of the past few years and avoids issues including mold, mildew and door seal leaks.
In another sign of maturity, after waiting a week for delivery, I didn’t burst into tears when the tech told me that he could not actually install the new washing machine, as disconnecting the old one would likely cause a flood. The valves had corroded after so many years of service, and I would first need a plumber to cut into the drywall and replace the valves.
I also didn’t throw a fit when the plumber’s schedule and mine couldn’t align for another week.
So far, I’m treating the new set with extra care. I’m dusting it weekly. The top of the dryer hasn’t yet become a catchall for coins, lonely socks and wayward buttons. I remove lint after every single load.
I’ve still got a long list of adulting skills to work on. At the top: Gathering all of my financial documents in a timely manner so that I’m not forced to file an extension for federal income taxes. At the dawn of each new year, I vow to get everything to my accountant on time for April 15, and every year I fail. Will 2022 be the year? I make no promises, though I’m sure my accountant, who was working right up until this year’s Oct. 15 deadline for me, would prefer it.
When I take a moment to celebrate my grown-up victories, I vacillate between feeling like a champion or a poser. I’ll give myself a heap of grace, reminding myself that I’m pulling off this adult life solo. And then I think of the other 10 million single-parent households in the United States, all of them doing this on our own, too.
We’re adaptable, flexible, resilient — until we’re not. And then, if we’re on our game, we ask for help. On our best days, we can even lend a hand to others who need some help with adult decisions or who just need a cheerleader. Go, adult, go!
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.