Last week, I was lucky enough to reconnect with old friends from college. Twice even. I met up with Ira Velasco, a blockmate of mine from almost 10 years ago (Block G, hollerrr), who came from Bonn, Germany and the University of Cape Town, pursuing further studies. I also went to a birthday of one of my blockmates from IMC (s/o to SDL), Felix Acuna, an art dealer based here, in Manila. One common discussion we were all having was Adulting; how to be one, how to deal with transitioning from being a child to a full-fledged grown up, how far we had all come along despite remaining the same people we were back in college. It was interesting to see how differently our paths turned out to be and how we all ended up wherever it was we ended up.
We were pretty much all in reluctant agreement that life just sort of... happens to you. The stakes are just higher (mo' money, mo' problems yo) and whatever problems we ever faced in college were peanuts compared to whatever it is we need to deal with these days. That isn't to say that this point of view isn't a privileged one, because it really is. We all have had the luxury of hindsight, reflection and retrospect to sort of guide us through the trappings of adulthood. And no, this isn't one of those I-hate-adulting rants, most people my age would probably put out there. No complaints here, really. But what I do want to do is to share how I cope with with life when it happens to me, how I deal when life all of a sudden hands me with lemons that I want to squeeze into other peoples' eyes, with the hope that other millennials (or tita-millennials or tita-lennials, copyright pending) who need some sort of coping-mechanism-strategy-thing to guide them through the challenges of being a grown-ass human being. Or maybe I'm just writing this all down as a reminder to myself that there still are some things that are under my control and that there are steps that I can undertake to get out of a proverbial pit/funk. In any case, here goes nothing...
Close Your Eyes and Get a Grip
There is little worse than the feeling of losing control over what is happening in real life. When circumstance totally feels like the gag show that it can be, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and just succumb to its pressure, especially when it feels like it's coming from all directions. And when this feeling comes, and it usually comes in waves (as it does for me and as you've probably experienced). So, when this happens, what I like to do is to close my eyes and count backwards, slowly, from five and breathe deeply. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? But I'm telling you, it works wonders for me. My frenetic panic dissipates. Granted, it doesn't completely disappear, but it's a good reminder to know that there will always be five seconds that you can use to tell yourself the following things:
5... Okay, here goes.
3... What can I do immediately?
2... Okay, I know the thing can be done, like, right now.
1... I'm going to do it NOW.
It may not work for everyone and it may not work every single time, but this is how I generally try to pacify my anxiety. Sometimes I do five seconds, sometimes ten, sometimes fifteen. It doesn't really matter. As long as I devote a few seconds to this breathing exercise, I know I will eventually get a hold of the things I can control and accomplish something.
A List Always Helps
After counting from 5, I usually try to list down everything. I begin by listing my problems first because it can help in assessing a situation for what it really is. And after listing all of those down, I list down the solution to each one. And then, I prioritize the easiest thing to accomplish first and try to cross out what needs to be done, one by one.
I prefer listing things down this way instead of breaking them down into tasks or whatever because the sense of accomplishment is greater when you set yourself up to solve a problem. You can break the solution down into tasks after but knowing what problems you need to face and having the solution right in front of you helps so much because all that you have to do is to execute them accordingly. All you have to do next is to just do them, basically.
95% of Adulting is Showing Up
What I've learned from the last decade or so is that if you have an appointment or a set of appointments, just being there, your physical presence, on time (because of course), is what an adult does. If you are able to just show up, then the battle is more than half over. You will have already accomplished something you can cross out of your long litany of things to do.
I have experienced weeks of just wanting to cancel meetings (because I'm fortunate enough to be in a position to do so) but because I've gleaned over the years that showing up is an inescapable part of adulthood, I just go ahead with my appointments anyway. You fake it til you make it. You grit your teeth and you show up. And you know what? I come out of those meetings feeling more fulfilled and accomplished because I knew that while I had dragged my feet going into the meeting, I was still able to get through it.
Being a Person is Harder than it Looks
Sometimes, when the stakes are high and the pressure suddenly mounts, it is easy to fall into the trap of being a terrible human being; one who is grumpy, in a constant mood and unable to function. And if there is one thing, and only one thing that I have learned, above all, it is that being an adult is being a decent human being; even when you don't want to, even when things are hard. BE A PERSON.
This is priority numero uno. All of your life can crumble and you can be a witness to your own undoing, but as long as you remain decent, things will get better and life eventually corrects itself and you will never ever regret being a decent person. You can rest well knowing that you were decent. And I'm not talking about humble-brags or stroking your own ego by being self-righteous or pious or whatever. I'm talking about being decent, being good, unwatched, without audience, without anyone else seeing it, without recognition or praise and without any scrutiny.
I think this is probably the hardest to achieve but once you have done this (and this is a constant, daily struggle) professionally and socially and across the board for your entire life, you will have become a full-fledged adult. This is how I cope with adulthood. My anxiety diminishes the moment I realize that my decisions were fueled by my wanting to be a decent person. I'm not always correct (because I'm human and that comes with the flaws humanity has afforded me) but I can rest easy knowing that I had done things to the best of my knowledge and abilities.
Yes, yes, I know, these are obviously things that are easier said than done but practice makes permanence (hopefully) and there is not a lot we can really do about terrible situations life puts us in but we do have complete agency over ourselves and sometimes, that's all that matters. It's completely fair to want to lose your shit and drown your sorrows in some whiskey (lord knows I've done that more than once) and you're free to do that. But it's always good to have an exit strategy, stop the whining and the walwal and replace it by grabbing your problems by their proverbial horns and eliminating them one by one.
Is there anything you do or tell yourself to make the adult life easier? Let me know in the comments below and let's discuss! I'd love to hear your thoughts!