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Posts Tagged With: Adulting

The Perils of Adulthood Part 1: Making New Friends

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The other day I was in my car listening to an episode of one of my favorite podcasts , This American Life.  The theme was related to the concept of human intimacy and all of the anxiety it causes. The second story was the one that really got to me. It was about how hard it is as an adult to make new friends; and not necessarily just the type you casually hang out with but close friends that you can have a bond with.

It’s a situation that has become fairly acute for me recently. I’ll be 40 in just over a year. My wife (although she appears as youthful as the summer days are long) is also in that “grown folks” age range. Life and time has us in a place now where we are being mindful about the energy we keep around us. We are scrutinizing old friendships, appreciating strong friendships and starting to “date” new friends we’ve met as a couple (as opposed to the ones we individually brought “with” us) . I’m preparing to say goodbye to my longtime “best” friend whom life is taking on a new adventures away from the city we call home and clear across the country. And it’s freaking me out a bit.

Yes I know there are all kinds of technology as well as things like airplanes that can help keep people connected and even be party to the development of long-term relationships. I’m all too well aware. My best friend is moving for a woman she is in love with, who she has been internationally dating for nearly two years and whom she met on Tumblr (that’s a whole other blog).   But the fact is, it’s not “the same”.

We crave intimate connections with other humans that come in many forms: paternal/maternal, fraternal, romantic, and platonic and any other nuance you can think of. It’s our basic social instinct. We are social creatures. And most of us like to have other creatures we relate to in close proximity to use. We want to feel like we belong. And we want to literally feel love.

These are basic hierarchy of needs foundations. It’s why the two previously mentioned long-distance lovers are both ripping themselves away from the comforts of home to be together instead of sustaining a Skype-based romance. And it’s why sustaining and making new friendships as an adult is so important to our productive human functioning.

But making friends as an adult is so much harder then when we were younger. As a matter of fact, making friends gets progressively more difficult as we age. This is both a sociological as well as psychological fact. See this helpful visual aid on Erikson’s Stages of Psychological Development from a creative Glogster Educational Blog poster.

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When we’re in our youngest years, we are selfish little “watery moles” it’s all about us and getting what we need to survive and knowing where our bread is buttered. Then we start figuring out that behavior has consequences and we have choices and we start seeking approval for our choices, including gaining a sense of self worth by starting to collect people who approve of us: friends.

But then we start becoming adolescents and young adults and as we learn more about who we are as individuals we start to get picky….until suddenly we aren’t in a daily pool of human’s representative of the relevant general population to choose from (e.g. school) and if our job is not an extension of our passions and personal identity (which I realize is a very common reality albeit very different from my own) then the people we see at work every day are not necessarily eligible for the type of intimate, growth-inspiring relationship we need as adult humans.

When middle age sets in and we are driven to re-assess our meaning and the meaning of the people in our lives and realize the pool of potentials has now become woefully thin. Of course, as you get much older you begin to once again get less picky and find social groups that will help you remain feeling human and productive despite the realities of your degenerating physical self. My parents are in that stage right now – just having moved from a very isolated environment to a thriving community of humans in a mature life-stage, where they are thriving as they make new friends every day and stay socially and physically active.

I suppose the dilemma I am speaking of comes from my very acute sense of entering middle adulthood and wondering how I am going to find the time and energy to forge new intimate friendships while working so hard to leave my mark on the world.   There isn’t really an online “friendly, casual dating” site to turn to. You have to make a point to get out in the world and start new conversations.

I think that’s why places like upscale, intimate music venues, brewpubs, whiskey and wine bars and “casual” fine dining concepts with eat-at-the-bar and communal tables have become so popular. They are places where people who have an interest outside of finding a “hookup” for the night can stumble upon people with similar interests and strike up a non-committal exploratory conversation.   They are places where gender and mating aren’t the top priority, in favor of connecting via an appreciation of an aesthetic.

But those kinds of places are only great friend-finding solutions in places where there are lots of people with disposable income like urban and suburban areas. What about folks who live in spread out rural areas or small towns or in places that lack the economic infrastructure to create economic mobility, urban development and general means to escape to a greener pasture?   How do you figure out how to find meaningful relationships with a limited pool of prospects to choose from?

As I write this I am reminded of the thing I tell myself and whomever will listen to me on a regular basis: It’s all about giving yourself permission to belong to everyone and have everyone belong to you.  It’s about the love.  I need to remember to follow my own advice sometimes.

Maybe the lesson we forget as we age is that we are all in this thing called life and the human experience together. We are of one unbroken mind and spirit. If we make a point to open ourselves up and be vulnerable to our fellow humans we have an opportunity to see inside to our deepest selves and realize that we are all the exact same thing.

We are all love. We all have that in common – we just tell ourselves that this thing we call our “self” has all kinds of rules about what we can be an who we can let in.   And the older we get the more rules we accumulate until our wall of rules is stacked to the sky and utterly impenetrable.   But I think many of the brave ones among us learn that we find friends from unlikely places when we let them through that wall.

I suppose what I am saying about this first peril of adulthood – making new friends – is that it’s about more than finding people in a similar life stage and / or with similar interests who have a schedule that matches yours so you can find the time to hang out and do constructive things together. Perhaps it’s also about making a choice to open yourself up and practice random acts of connection.

What if we decided to start selection with the basics (Are they kind? Are they fun?) as opposed to the limiting specifics (Do run marathons like I do? Are they vegan?). Sure – the love everyone method isn’t fool proof. You will likely get disappointed sometimes. But maybe in those situations where you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you also give yourself the opportunity to be uncomfortable and grow as a result and have the same effect on someone else.

For example, start up a conversation with a random stranger that maybe doesn’t look like you or come from your “world”.   Not only might you enhance your human experience by stepping outside your comfort zone a bit an expanding both the degree you are willing to accept the influence of others and have an influence on others based on your differences, but you will most likely find the most basic of commonalities which, if you choose to be a little fearless every now and then, can be the foundation for creation of a truly intimate human bond.

Just imagine how much better adulthood would be if we all, rather than choosing to narrow our circle of friends, choose to widen it. What if we gave more people the opportunity to “play” as opposed to setting such rigid criteria for even getting on the team? As in anything in life, practice makes perfect. So lets not get so rigid in our middle age that we feel like we don’t need to practice making friends and getting along anymore like we did when we were kids.

After all, you weren’t so picky as a child, bonding with whomever was thrust upon you by virtue of proximity at home or school.   It’s the basis of family bonding, really – you love whom you are born in to.   And I bet there are lots of you out there who still have a lifetime friend from when you were young or remain incredibly close with your siblings…despite growing in different directions.

It’s because you made a conscious decision to maintain your connection to your family (given or chosen) because you know it is the right thing to do as a human

So let’s remember we were all born in to this world together and practice making even bigger families as we mature. Let’s combat the perils of Adulthood by remaining ever vigilant that we make ourselves stronger when we give ourselves permission to make it easier to make friends.

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Anthropology, sociology, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Adulting: Because Being a Grownup Should Only Be a Temporary Affliction

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I remember being a kid trying to figure out what set adults apart from the rest of the masses of “watery moles” (Thanks, Florence King,  for that reference I will be using often).  In my best estimation, they were bigger than kids, had breath that smelled like coffee, cigarettes, alcohol or artificial mint, drove unu scooters, watched news and complained about work.

They were there to make us eat vegetables, follow rules, go to bed early, live in fear of saying swear words and make sure our clothes matched.

Another common characteristics of the adults of the human species, in my estimation as well as the estimation of many of my peers – real and fictional (Peter Pan counts), is that they didn’t know how to be silly or have fun or otherwise prioritize imagination, spontaneity and the joys of getting dirty.

Generally speaking, it seemed that being a grown-up meant earning the right to make kids do stuff “because I said so” and avoiding answering questions like “why” – or just generally making the answers up.

Having been a human of adult age for quite some time now, I think it’s safe to say that my burgeoning anthropological-analysis skills were spot on.   Adults are generally just more serious “watery moles” who have entered a life stage seemingly devoid of fun.

Lets consider this concept of the adult / grown-up life-stage for a minute.
It’s one that I have been grappling with a good amount lately, both as a professional who studies culture and consults for companies and brands and as a human resisting the confines of conformity. 😉

I remember when i first started seriously examining the topic.  It was several years ago when, on what felt  like my “bazillionth” project helping clients understand “Millennials” (the seemingly perplexing generation of humans born sometime between the early 80s and the year 2000).  In particular, I had been forced to finally develop a framework (which still works today) that showed the divergent sets of life-stages being occupied by the “adult”-aged sub-sets of Millennials

You see – the world has changed a lot since their parents were kids. Hell – it had changed a lot (and continues to) since their parents had become parents.  There are and were a number of mitigating social, cultural, etc. circumstances that prevented adult-aged Millennials (let’s just go with 21+) from fitting neatly in to the “grown-up” mold.

The term “extended adolescence” had been thrown around for a while.  Lots of talk about “entitlement” (still present) and other forms of behavior associated with being young and naive.  The fact is, however – that there are / were adult Millennials still in a semi-dependent life-stage: relying on their parents for financial, emotional and otherwise logistical support navigating the transition to on-thief-own.  Then there is / was the group who – not even thinking about marriage yet – is / was enjoying the freedom of being on their own, having the money to “play” while exploring career options and working hard to make a name for themselves.  Then there is the group that most closely resembles the standard definition of an “adult” – those who are starting families and getting more serious about their professional lives whilst doing things like buying houses and new cars and starting to explore retirement savings plans.

But here’s the thing that, regardless of life stage,  seems to have come to pass as part of “Millennial” Adulthood and has also rubbed off on “the rest of us”.  The idea that “adulthood” (noun) doesn’t have to be a definitive end.  Rather – you can maintain the trappings of youth that help keep us all curious, creative, energized, fun and otherwise still interested in exploring this human experience from a naive and ultimately rewarding point of view.

You just have to realize that there are certain behaviors that constitute the “responsible” part of being an adult. Otherwise, the rest is crap and you should just scrap all preconceived notions of what an “adult” (noun) looks like.  Rather, just selectively practice the skills / art of “adulting” (verb).

As defined by urbandicitonary.com

Adulting (v): to do grown up things and hold responsibilities such as, a 9-5 job, a mortgage/rent, a car payment, or anything else that makes one think of grown ups.

Used in a sentence: Jane is adulting quite well today as she is on time for work promptly at 8am and appears well groomed.

You see, there are certain kid behaviors and characteristics that are super-valuable if you want to thrive as a human being.  For example:

Play:  this is behavior we do as kids to prepare ourselves for adult responsibilities.  But what separates play from adult responsibilities is that it is done for enjoyment, rather than for a serious or practical purpose.  We do the activities of play because they are fun.  We learn things, we experience consequences and then we brush them off.  Because it’s not so serious.  When we choose to be adults in the traditional sense we tend to take everything too seriously and always have an agenda – win or lose.

Fearlessness:  daring to express ourselves and test our limits without fear of reprisal or injury.  The sheer will to not care what people think and just boldly do what the voice at the core of our being tells us to do. We trust we can find the solutions to our problems, finding the best injury lawyer will come easily to us, should we need one, so slide a little.  Because even if you do get scraped up or break a bone or get your heart-broken – all of those things heal and we are better off for ware having had the experience.

Curiosity:  the audacity to ask “why” at every turn – to see the world with fresh eyes as often as prolifically as possible.  The need to have things explained to you “like a three-year old”  because “because I said so” is just not a good enough answer and if you ask “why” often enough you eventually find out that nobody really knows anything – that we are all making it up as we go along and that there is always room for interpretation and there is always more to learn.

Creativity:  perhaps the last bastion of childhood that some lucky and enlightened humans have been lucky enough to carry on in to their grown-up lives.  This is the art of envisioning the reality that you want and making it happen by any means necessary – even if it means coloring outside the lines or putting something out there that might be utterly imperceptible to others or simply allowing yourself to temporarily exist in a fantasy of your own imagining.  It’s the art of making yourself think beyond the tangible by allowing yourself to dream.  It is the behavior that allows newness in to the world. It is probably the single thing at the root of the other three behaviors / characteristics listed above.

But let’s not devalue the importance of “adulting” as a  behavior.  In balance with the childlike behaviors above, these acts are necessary for survival so we may free ourselves up to thrive. Example adulting behavior includes:

Holding down a job: showing up on time, completing tasks and otherwise establishing a track record of being able to support one’s self financial through delivery of a service to others and playing nice with other humans in pursuit of the same.

Paying taxes:  because somebody has to pay for all the things we take for granted, like roads and schools and feeding / caring for those who can’t support themselves.

Voting:  the act of being accountable for creation and direction of government so we don’t become a race of lemmings or victims. Nobody wants to fall off a cliff to their death simply because they didn’t take the time to learn what’s going on and punch a few holes in a piece of paper.  If you choose not to vote for your leaders you give up your right to complain.

Eating right:  deciding that the cake made out of fruity pebbles (it’s a real thing – i narrowly avoided that non-adulting behavior this morning) does not count as breakfast and realizing that in order to actually keep your adult body functioning so you can do all the cool stuff you want to do well in to your old age that you need to be careful about what you put in it.

Listening to others:  being mindful of hearing other people’s points of view and not just putting your fingers in your ears and screaming when someone is saying something you don’t want to hear.  The fact is, we don’t all agree and need to respect one another’s right to divergent opinions so we can get along in harmony.  The side benefit is that sometimes you learn something and often learn to empathize with your fellow humans simply by being open to new words or experiences that might bear similar motivations to your own.

Cleaning up: yourself, your home, your car, your desk,etc.  Because dirt = germs and chaos and cleanliness  = space to think, grow and thrive.  Also – a clean “anything” is more welcoming than a dirty one – which means you will invite more humans in to your world that you can play with. If you can’t seem to create a clean tidy enviroment for yourself, you could always hire from a company like, Denver Concierge’s house cleaning service. Then you just focus on your work and play!

That being said – it is all a delicate balance.  All work and no play makes any human a dull sack of flesh. But all play without accountability for one’s actions can lead to serious consequences.

But i think the new generations of adults (I refuse to use the “M” word anymore) have  taught us a few things about a life well lived.  There’s nothing wrong with choosing the lower paying job because you get to spend more time with your kids or taking the road less traveled because it looks like more fun.   And you don’t have to separate your creative self from your work life or not play at the office.

Life is a curious wonderful time where we spiritual beings get to have this awkward and amazing human experience.  Lets remember to enjoy the ride and – by all means – practice “adulting” responsibly, but NEVER EVER become a full-fledged grown-up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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