Having a terminal degree, working a full time job and being nigh-thirty, one would assume from the outside that I am a fully functioning adult. You know...that I've acquired the knowledge that is necessary to live competently and independently in this world. The reality is that it's an honest-to-God miracle that I pay my rent every month, have any sort of paying job and keep enough food in my refrigerator to feed myself. (If I weren't married, I wouldn't be able to claim that last one.)
Here is my small, incomplete list of embarrassingly scary adult things that I should know about...but don't.
"Hello, Mr. Government. You would like to take all of my money? That seems fair - just please don't put me in jail. Bye!" - Me in a panicked voice every year
I live in a small one bedroom apartment in Queens where I try very hard to ignore the giant, rusty hole in my bathtub. I take the subway to work every day and stare at the floor the whole way so that I don't get shanked by a crazy person. I work at a nonprofit organization. Like, an organization whose sole purpose it is to not make any money. WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT FROM ME? All I know is that when I look at the amount on my pay statement and see the amount deposited in my bank account, there is a lot less money. What happened to it? I don't know! Some congressman used it to paint a mural of himself healing the sick on his office wall or something. I don't care! Just don't talk to me, Government! We don't need your kind around here!
I used to do my taxes myself. And by "do my taxes myself" I mean I would spend 8-10 hours on TaxAct one day in late March sweating profusely and wringing my hands while I clicked and unclicked certain options and watched the amount I owed go up or down because of some sort of mystery equation. After vomiting several times and figuring out the right number of boxes to leave blank that equaled zero dollars owed, I usually opted to immediately change it all back to the maximum amount owed because, like, if I overpay I can't get in trouble, right?!
Last year I started paying a magical money troll to figure it all out for me. The good news: I got a tax return! The bad news: it cost my tax return to have someone else file my taxes! Heh...no big deal, right? My peace of mind is about a soul's worth.
2. The Stock Market
Wait. I got this. In eighth grade we played a stock market game, so I totally know how it works. First you wear a pin striped suit and slick back your hair with an entire bottle of LA Looks. Then you take some money and buy some stocks. Then you watch CNN Money and see if the stocks go up or down. When they suddenly go up, you scream, "Sell! Sell!" and then you get sent one of those giant Publisher's Clearing House checks that reads "One Million Dollars."
Pretty sure that qualifies me for the Pro Elite account on etrade.com.
Is this a thing that actual people do? Should I be doing this? Will this make me rich? It seems like one of those things that can only go well for you if you're already rich. But...like...how do you get rich in the first place? Oh, right - don't go into debt pursuing a degree in art. That's like investing in unicorns.
3. My Personal Health
I won't even burden anyone with talk about not understanding health insurance in this post because, currently, no one in America understands what's going on in that arena. I'm just talking about everyday, basic personal health.
Sure, I floss and I kind of jog up the stairs when I'm trying to get on the train before it pulls out of the station. But I think, like many in my generation, I'm scarred from the days when my health insurance details were dicey. For a while there, my insurance plan was to pray that my feeble yoga practice in graduate school was clearing up any sort of physical issue that I may be having at the time (when in reality, because of my lack of flexibility, I was probably only exacerbating any ailment) and looking maybe 4 times instead of 2 times when I crossed the street. Because of this, I actually got in the habit of not going to the doctor.
Now that I'm older I've adopted an alternative lifestyle choice known as "sedentary," and I should probably have that shortness of breath and acute pain in my left arm checked out. But I also have the knowledge now that just because someone has a job, doesn't mean they have to be good a that job. So do I go around town now making doctor's appointments every day shopping for one I trust? And isn't it a thing now to grow all your own food because grocery store food is poisonous? At what age do you have to start letting the doctor stick a finger in your butt?
I'm not prepared to face any of these things. I feel like I need a college degree in all three of them just to begin to understand the basic precepts of any one of them. It's too late for that. I used up my shot at an education with learning to play pretend.
Hey - now there's a thought - perhaps the reality is that no one actually understands these things and I'm better equipped than anyone to be an adult. By being really good at pretending to be one. I'll have one order of stock, please.