In the midst of all this adulting, don’t forget how to human

Feb. 29, 2016

Jonathan Toman
jtoman@uccs.edu

In childhood, we operate under this illusion that being an adult is an awesome experience.

The conversation inside our head, that we never verified with adults because they were just so weird, went something like this.

“When I get to be a grown-up, everything will be better. I can eat sweets whenever I want, go to bed when I want and I can create my own allowance that has no limit.”

Somewhere along the way (it’s later, or never, for some folks), that illusion comes crashing down with the force of a pissed-off atomic bomb.

Nope, life says, that isn’t how being an adult works. You are guaranteed nothing. And all that freedom you thought you would have will be taken up by boring things like work, bills and grocery shopping to keep yourself alive.

It’s an idea I’ve turned into a verb: adulting – the action of completing tasks that have adult-like qualities.

In itself, that’s OK.

But we spend so much time adulting, we forget how to human.

Being a human, especially an adult one, can be hard. It’s a lot of doing things you don’t want to, and (especially as a college student) we become so busy we don’t have enough time to worry about ourselves, let alone other people.

We forget the basic tenant that has run throughout human history: We are in this craziness together.

We forget how to relate to one another, we focus on our differences and we fail to see things from a point of view other than our own.

This idea manifests itself completely in this (my) generation, leading to a breakdown of how we communicate and relate to one another.

We spend more time talking about people than to people.

My generation shares more with a four-inch screen than another human.

We become OK with interactions such as asking people out over text, and almost hitting people while walking because we are unaware of our surroundings.

It’s an odd dichotomy – as an adult, we are confronted with our own humanity as we create greater triumphs and greater mistakes as we age. But we forget, and become less patient with, the humanity of others.

Instead of kindred strugglers in the common cause of life, we see each other as obstacles to our own adulting.

It seems that we either seek ways to bring others down, or we outright refuse to interact with those around us.

It’s almost like we put on life headphones and say, nope, I’m done, it’s too hard to worry about other people so I will only care about myself.

And, boy, all humans suffer when that is our default policy.

Being selfish, and working for your own interests, is not inherently bad. Neither is working completely for those around you. It’s best, like with a lot of things in life, to find a balance.

But when we completely disregard the triumphs and struggles of others, we lose our humanity.

At a certain point, you have to take out your headphones and face the world.