Tuesday, September 29, 2015

On Being the Adult

I'm bad with details. And I don't care about money. And I'm kind of like that dog in Up who's easily dis... squirrel!

When I was a lad, I was a scout from Bobcat (they didn't have Tiger back then) to Life. That's one rank short of Eagle. I earned many merit badges. I met many requirements. I camped. I did survival training. I completed leadership training. I was selected for Order of the Arrow. Two things stood between me and earning the rank of Eagle Scout: the service project (coming up with an idea, pitching it for approval, and organizing and leading a team to execute it all seemed like a lot of work to me) and just one more merit badge: Personal Management. In hindsight, it was telling that I never completed the merit badge that would teach me how to balance a check book, to create and stick to a budget, and presumably several other valuable life skills.

Anyway, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, being a responsible adult. This, the Year of Divorce, has been a roller coaster time in my life emotionally, and a time when new experiences are popping up practically every week. When I was 19, I moved out of my parents' house and straight into student housing, which they paid for, while attending my first year of college. Which they also paid for. At new student orientation, I was offered a credit card by the local bank, despite having no job and no demonstrable means of repaying any accumulated debt. Predictably, I immediately began a long campaign of spending money I didn't have.

When that year of college was up, I had to find a job, and an apartment, and a roommate. The next year was the only time in my adult life when I was entirely responsible for myself and my bills, and I continued with vigor my campaign to increase my credit debt.

The following year, I moved in with Aerie, and she, being the person she is, took responsibility for our finances. She swore when she moved out of her parents' home that she would never be dependent on anyone again, and she meant it. She was in charge. For the next 23 years, I paid little attention to things like "income/expenses" or "budget" or anything else related to our financial situation, except for a brief period when, because her stress levels were high, I took over responsibility for paying bills. Unfamiliar with timing bill payments to work in harmony with payroll deposits, I immediately overdrafted the checking account, and she immediately took back responsibility. It wasn't a learning opportunity, it was just more in a growing pile of evidence that I was not capable of being a responsible adult and an equal partner to her in the business of our family life.

Of course, in my defense, there were other ways that I contributed, ways that were uniquely valuable and perhaps would not or could not have been made by anyone other than me, but... Well, bygones, as they say.

So, my point, really, is that now I'm the only responsible adult in my household, and learning how to do that, how to be that, is a challenge for me. I still don't care about money, and I'm still bad with details. I forget things easily unless I write them down, and I usually forget to write them down. I'm constantly forgetting and resetting the passwords associated with pretty much all of my online accounts, including those that let me do things like check balances, pay debts, transfer funds, and other useful adult activities. The modern world is a wonderful place, with the convenience of autopay and electronic payments and transfers, but Jesus, the passwords. The passwords!

In my work life, I have systems in place to help me keep track of details and schedules, some of which I inherited and some of which I created, but for some reason, it's taking me a little while to learn to create and adhere to systems in my personal business. It's possible, I know, and I already have the skills to make this work. I've just never had to before. At 43, I'm finally learning how to be responsible outside of a work environment. I'm making mistakes, and I'm learning from them, and what's most exciting is: I don't have to answer to anyone, or apologize to anyone for those mistakes. I don't get chastised or criticized. My mistakes are all mine. I am my own boss. It's a little scary, but exhilarating, too.

And yes, I'm aware that the fact that this is how I feel about it is a strong indicator of at least one place where I went very wrong very early in my marriage.

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