Archive for March, 2014

Warnings from wannabe grown-ups

They aren’t always right.

You know, those people who try to “warn” or scare you about all the challenges of the upcoming phases of life.

They’ll tell you high school was the best time of your life. Or life keeps getting sadder the longer you live it. Or you’ll never keep in touch with your college friends.

They’ll tell you your priorities will change and what matters to you now won’t seem so important in a couple years. And time will go by so fast you’ll lose all track of it. They’ll tell you all of this with a straight face because they mean it, and they probably think they’re helping you out.

But they’re not always right. They’re not telling the whole story, the story of growing up.

What they don’t tell you is how rewarding it is to get a phone call from a college friend who’s now living in another state, someone who’s certainly far away, but who still cares about what’s going on in your life.

They don’t tell you how amazing, how accomplished it feels to be driving toward the city and all its skyscrapers, even in rush hour traffic, just thinking “I live here. I actually live here.”

And they certainly don’t tell you that the whole idea of “growing up” is a myth. That adulthood is like an invisible cloak – you end up wearing it without even knowing. That in your twenties, you’re both relatively old to your previous self’s perspective and oh-so-young to the rest of the world – at the same time!

They don’t tell you these things, and they’re not always right. These people who like to think they’re giving warnings leave plenty of holes in their “advice.”

Fortunately, it’s within these holes that each of us can make a life for ourselves as we “grow up” our own way.


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A spring cleaning urge for the ages

Each age comes with its urges. Consider a few examples, from the twenty-something age range:

21: Time to drink … legally! 25: Time to … celebrate that I’m halfway to 30??? 29: Can I repeat this birthday indefinitely? 26: My urge at this age is an odd one, and not so universal. I want to get rid of stuff. Stuff I don’t like, mostly, but also stuff I don’t need – both in the form of physical, tangible things and mental hang-ups that weigh me down.

I’m moving at the end of next month,  so that certainly could spur the urge to lighten the load. And so can the general yearly reminders that it’s time for spring cleaning, whether the weather cooperates or not.

But at this age, I also feel an urge to part with some strange remnants of my youth. I’m the oldest of three kids in my family, so you wouldn’t think I’d have any hand-me-downs. But in essence I do. They’re called hand-me-ups. These secondhand things from family members have never been my favorites, but I’ve kept them and dutifully used them all the same.

Socks from my mom. Underwear from my sister, along with sports bras and two pairs of running shorts that have always seemed one size too small. There might be more hand-me-ups tucked into the far reaches of my closet and drawers, but if so, I’ve subconsciously hidden them away.

For some reason I haven’t yet identified, at 26, I feel the need to move on from these things. I’m a real adult now — although somewhat reluctantly. So I feel time has expired on many of these well-worn, yet never-liked items. I’m starting to wonder why I’ve kept them so long in the first place. Duty? Gratitude? Guilt? Just being too cheap to buy new ones? Probably a combination.

But the urge is strong enough now. I’m going to overcome my pack-rat tendency toward keeping these old items and I’m going to pitch them. It’s going to happen.

I’ve kept these strange socks and annoying underwear for years, so I’ve done my duty and shown my gratitude. I realize it’s silly to feel any emotion – let alone guilt – over some ankle socks or turquoise Hanes, so I can cross that unpleasant feeling off the list. And I budget my money; I don’t make a ton. But I do make enough to afford my own, personal undergarments, in styles and colors I actually like and feel comfortable in. It’s the small luxuries here, people, and I’m ready to get me some.

If only the unnecessary mental baggage I carry (and we all carry some of this, don’t we?) was so easy to discard. I know I worry too much sometimes – about things I can’t control, or worse, about things that aren’t important. But I can’t just leave worry behind when I move to a new apartment. I can’t just tell myself I can afford to stop worrying or I’ve worried enough in my life to meet some quota and now it’s time to stop. It’s not that simple. But it’s time for spring cleaning and fresh starts, so I might as well capitalize on my urge to purge my life of unnecessary things and give it a try.

So as I get ready to turn 26 (in three days), I’m going to leave stupid worries and unwanted undergarments behind. And I’m going to challenge you to do the same — figuratively, of course. Take a look at your things and your thoughts, and lighten your load by leaving all those you don’t need in the dust. Tis the season, after all.

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When college athletes make you feel old, it’s time to ‘go pro’

These days, all it takes to feel old is to turn on the TV and flip over to ESPN. It’s almost March Madness time, and all the college basketball players look really young.

Even though they’re these giant, muscular guys and tall, toned gals, the realization that they’re in college – where you haven’t been for several years now – makes them seem like babies.

My apologies to the thirty-somethings out there, who have a lot more credibility in claiming this. But even in your 20s, you know you’ve officially reached adulthood when watching college athletes striving for national titles makes you feel old.

Unfortunately, and obviously, there’s no going back.

I’m all for March Madness – I look forward to the pool my cousin and uncle run every year, to ranking my picks from 1-32 based on my “confidence” in them to win it all, to having a few good rounds, maybe picking a lucky 5-12 upset, and then watching my bracket implode.

But if watching college sports makes you feel old, maybe it’s time to say goodbye to your alma mater and your red Solo cup of cheapo beer and watch pro sports for a while.

In the pros, any age starting with 3- is over the hill, but in your 20s, you’re golden.

With pro sports, you can revel in the accomplishments of people your own age without feeling like you haven’t made it yet, or like you’re old, even when you know you aren’t.

You can dream of hitting on the hottest players with no chance of seeming like a creep. You can remind yourself that you’ve “gone pro” too – although it’s only in your own career path that’s almost certainly not as glamorous as top-notch sports. You can see the best of the best play during their prime. (It’s not called the pros for nothing.) You can form a tradition of following a favorite team, as my family has with the Bulls. And you can claim some generational pride for the amazing accomplishments of your peers.

Besides, you can always go back to watching college sports when you actually are old – that way you’ll lose the expectation the players will look your own age, and gain appreciation for their young guns and talent. Never fear, your alma mater, and its supply of impressive athletes, isn’t going anywhere – except the “Big Dance,” if you’re lucky.

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The ‘old’ among us listen to AM radio

“When did we become old?” asked a friend in grad school, who just had confessed he enjoys listening to AM radio for news, weather, traffic and interesting talk.

He had already given his answer, and it’s as good as any. We became old when we became AM radio listeners, tuning in for the informative value of news on the go that doesn’t require a computer, tablet or smartphone app.

The moment AM radio becomes an important part of our daily lives is another one of those moments when we can say we’ve officially reached adulthood.

Listening to AM radio proves we’ve accepted a heightened sense of responsibility.

We know we’re being held accountable for being on time to work, family gatherings, volunteering engagements and other events, so we tune in to AM radio to hear if our current route will get us there as scheduled, or if we’ll have to scramble to find a faster way. We’ve begun to feel a vague sense of responsibility for knowing what’s going on in our area, the nation and the world, so we half-listen to news radio while driving, catching snippets of stories so we’re never completely clueless.

What’s so adult or “old” about AM news radio is that it’s not trying to entertain – it exists to inform. It’s not focused on sports, music, entertainment or advice, yet we’re still listening. It’s not as glitzy and sometimes the sound of it can be quite dull – monotonous, yet calming. News radio delivers facts like “do I need an umbrella today?” or “construction on the Kennedy begins tomorrow,” facts responsible twenty-somethings need to know.

So the AM radio listeners among us, maybe we are a little bit old. Luckily, we’re the kind of old that’s on-time, well-informed and put together, yet still knows how to have a good time. And when it’s time to kick back, we can always turn the dial back to the familiar forum of FM or to our iPod for some tunes and a car-dancing jam session.


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