Denial

It seems as though we spend the first eighteen years of our lives eagerly awaiting adulthood, and the next seventy years trying to figure out what adulthood actually is.  Admittedly I have only spent nine years as an adult, yet I am no closer to understanding it than I was nine years ago.  In fact, I think I’m further.

Perhaps that increasing distance from the secret truth of adulthood, that ever-broadening sense of self doubt, is itself the secret truth of adulthood.

It’s like Catch-22: if you’re sane enough to realize you’re insane, then you’re not actually insane.  You’re only insane if you don’t think you’re insane, in which case you won’t be able to proclaim your insanity.  That is to say, if you’re actually an adult, you’ll never be sure that you are one.

Or perhaps it’s like mountaineering.  The closer you are to the mountain, the less clearly you can see its peak.  Only at a distance can you see the mountain in its entirety.  Only at a distance does adulthood make sense.  Once you embark on the trail, you see nothing but trees, obstructions, and false summits.

But alas, I have come up with a new explanation for the mystery of maturity.  We’ll see how long it takes before I throw it out on the bonfire of bad ideas.  Four days?  Four paragraphs?  Will humanity ever understand itself?  Will the fly ever understand the turd from which it feeds?  It can only but try:

I am starting to believe that we are brought into this world (as children) with an inborn condition of denial, and adulthood is merely the process of destroying that denial.

I’ll start with an example:

A young child might think they are capable of becoming an astronaut one day.  They are unable to accept the truth that they are probably unfit for sailing the cosmic seas.  They don’t understand the work and scrutiny that goes into the process of becoming not only an astronaut, but a pilot in the first place.  As they grow older, they begin to realize that becoming an astronaut would be unreasonable.  It’s a step towards maturity, sure, but the denial is still there.

“I didn’t become an astronaut because I didn’t put in the work.”
“I didn’t become an astronaut because I didn’t have proper support from my parents and teachers.”

“I didn’t become an astronaut because I no longer really desired it as a goal.”

These are all misdirected excuses for failing a childhood dream.

“I didn’t become an astronaut because I’m simply not capable of becoming an astronaut.  I suck at math and engineering, I can’t handle high stress situations, and I’m generally just a sorry excuse for a human being.”

Ah hah!  The denial is shattered!  It’s not the outside factors that prevented you from becoming an astronaut.  It’s you, at your core.  You’re the one who sucks.  The failure was you all along!

You could have put in all the work necessary for decades upon decades.  You still weren’t going to make it.  Congratulations!  Your denial has been shattered!  Adulthood has been achieved.

Although, it’s entirely true that this fictional child ultimately didn’t want to be an astronaut anyway.  After all, we change our minds about what we want to do all too frequently.  Maybe identity issues would be better examples, since identity is such a core constant.  Or so we would like to believe.

Denial:
“I go to the gym because I want to be healthy.  Not like all the other meat-heads who just go for vanity.”
Process of Maturity:
“Yeah, I’m doing bicep curls.  What of it?  It’s part of a balanced workout.”
“Dude.  My biceps are huge.  Flexy flexy!”
“Hello, cashier, I’d like to buy this tub of creatine and a lifetime supply of protein powder.”
“Damn.  I guess I do go to the gym for the vanity of it.  I’m a shallow, superficial ass of a human being.”
Adulthood achieved.

You see, the delusion was that you were somehow unlike other people at the gym.  The realization that you are no better than they are is what pushes you up the mountain of adulthood.  You can make excuses about your creatine all you want, you self-absorbed gym rat.  It will never change who you are.

Denial:
“I’m a great writer.  I just haven’t had the time to write my novel yet.”
Process of Maturity:
“So what if my short story was rejected?  They don’t understand my genius.”
“I have all these great thoughts in my head.  Why do they come out on paper like a poop smear?”
“I love this coffee shop.  Too bad it’s full of posers.”
“I’m a terrible writer.  Maybe it’s time to consider another profession like accounting.”
Adulthood achieved.

You see, partially-fictionalized self, part of success is actually doing.  It doesn’t matter how many great ideas you have.  If you don’t execute them, they’re worthless.  The janitor probably has great ideas too.  At least he’s making a salary with benefits while squandering his talent, instead of drinking macchiatos all day while Instagraming your handwritten manuscript.

Denial:
“I’m not a waiter.  I’m just doing this until my acting career takes off.”
Process of Maturity:
“I’m not a waiter.  It’s only a day job to support my acting habit.”
“I’m a waiter, but the day I land that role, I’m out of here.”
“Well shit.  I guess I’m a waiter.”
Adulthood achieved.

I guess the adult asks: when do I cut my losses?  The child doesn’t ask this because the child still maintains the delusion that they have unlimited potential, and that their shortcomings are somehow caused by external factors, like teachers with vendettas, or casting directors with agendas.

Denial:
“I’m a nice guy!  If only she’d get a chance to know me, she’d want me!”
Process of Maturity:
“Maybe if I’m really nice to her all the time, she’ll realize I’m a nice guy and want to be with me.”
“She totally only wants to be my friend.  What a bitch.  That’s okay, maybe if I keep being nice to her, she’ll come around eventually.”
“Wait.  If I was only being a nice guy because I only wanted something in return, then maybe… maybe I’m actually a huge douche.”
Adulthood achieved.

If you’re entering into an interaction with someone with the goal of sex, it doesn’t matter how much of a nice guy you are, your motives are the same as the very people you loathe, except you’re being less honest about them.  Adulthood is about coming to terms with you not being any nicer than her infinitely more attractive boyfriend.

Denial:
“I’ll fall in love and get married to my soulmate.”
Process of Maturity:
“I mean, this person is nice and all, but I’m just seeing them to fill my need for companionship before my soulmate comes along and sweeps me off my feet.”
“It’s nice to fall asleep and wake up next to somebody.  I don’t know how I ever slept alone.”
“Oh hey, we have kids.  And a house.  How’d that happen?”
“I guess they’re my soulmate, maybe?”
Adulthood achieved.

Sometimes your consolation life is really just your life.  Accepting that, and appreciating what you have is the best you can do.

So there you have it:  An adult – someone who understands their limitations and shortcomings, and decides to make emotional and practical concessions such that they may continue to live another day in a world that’s pretty cool regardless of how much of a disappointment you…

…no wait, that sucks.  Long live childhood!  I’m awesome at everything I do, and I have infinite potential left before me!  Yay!  Presidency, Nobel Prize, Pulitzer, a billion dollars, here I come!

_______________

Okay, yeah: throw this entry on the bonfire of bad ideas.  Let’s go back to adulthood being that glorious epoch where you can eat bacon doughnut sandwiches, and nobody can tell you no.  Except for your wife.  Or husband.  Or doctor.  Damn.

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About Doctor Quack

Just another bonehead with an internet connection.
This entry was posted in Editorial and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Denial

  1. A friend gives me stacks of The Sun Magazine when they are ready to pass them along and this morning on the ride into work I began reading this article: http://thesunmagazine.org/issues/431/your_own_damn_life There is a quote from it:

    “There’s an African proverb: ‘When death finds you, may it find you alive.’ ALIVE means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live. That’s the way to evaluate whether you are an authentic person or not.” – Michael Meade

    So, perhaps it’s not so much a theory of denial as much as it is people living their own damn life. Figuring out what they are good at, what they really want to do OR to the opposite end of the spectrum, being content at living a life that everyone else says they should.

  2. Kat says:

    I’ve given up on nearly every dream I had as a child. I’ve come to realize that adulthood is a bunch of people, with very little direction, flailing about wildly in an ocean of difficult choices. But, I had a cupcake for breakfast once and felt like a god, and Cards Against Humanity is a thing, so maybe adulthood isn’t all bad.

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