I have to admit that when I wrote last week’s blog about how differently I saw myself as an adult than I had as an undergraduate, I didn’t think even more issues would come up, but they did.
I cared not a whit for football — or any sports — when I was young. Marrying a die-hard football fan whose father took her to Oakland Raiders’ games at age 8 changed all that. Now I can even talk about the societal import of the December 28, 1958, game at Yankee Stadium between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Giants.
I realized that while I was once a devoted fraternity member — both as an undergraduate and as a volunteer alumnus — I have left that phase of my life beyond. Being a member of a western chapter of a southern-focused fraternity is kind of like being a PhD at a blue-collar family reunion. They’ll acknowledge that you’re part of the group, but they won’t ask you to join in too many conversations.
But the change that astonishes me the most relates to work. I never worked hard in school. When I talked about being a movie reviewer last week, I neglected to mention that the big movie-release seasons (summer and Christmas) coincided with finals. Hightailing it up to the screening room in San Francisco always took precedence over studying, and yet I still managed to wrest a degree out of the deal.
When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who labeled me a blithe spirit. She accused me of skating merrily along with nary a worry nor a proclivity toward work. I was smart enough to get by. When I graduated from Stanford, my immediate goal was to write a screenplay. It was only by sheer coincidence that I ended up working at a start-up travel magazine, which sent me on my career path.
Yet today, I am a self-employed writer. Diligent. Dedicated to serving my clients. Fully aware that if I don’t sit down at the computer every morning, my half of the mortgage doesn’t get paid and the cats don’t get fed. I sometimes wonder where in the heck this diligence came from.
Sometimes I walk around the house and marvel at its very existence. The toys. The artwork. The books in the library. I often wonder how it all happened. How did a blithe spirit like me end up a responsible, contributing member of society? Was it my wife, my parents, my therapist — or was it me?
There must have been a day when I finally got fed up with the drinking and the gambling and the emotional anguish and realized that I wanted a different life. Becoming more interested in football and less interested in the fraternity, those are just frivolous hobbies that came and went. The diligence, on the other hand — that’s something I have a harder time explaining.
Are most people taught by their parents how to embark on their life, how to be spouses, and parents, and employees? Or do they innately figure it out as they go along? Was I just a late bloomer? I guess it doesn’t matter, because I eventually started realizing that my life as it was playing out wasn’t working, and the only one who could fix it was me.
Then I remember that my father, too, was self-employed. For all the ways in which he tolerated my goofing off, he also wordlessly taught me about how an adult takes care of his family. Even if it means working late, or working odd hours to suit your client rather than yourself.
I guess it just took me a little longer than everyone else for my life to shift from frivolity to fortitude, to turn from a child into an adult. But, much to my surprise, I finally did.
For more thoughts on becoming an adult, check out RealDelia on Wednesdays, when political writer Delia Lloyd devotes her blog to “Tips for Adulthood.”