Finding the Goalposts

“They keep moving the goalposts on you, don’t they? Get A’s, good college, Latin honors. Get into the London School of Economics. Get a good teaching job. Ivy League school, tenure. Now you gotta publish, now you gotta go to Stockholm.” –Stanley, to the President, The West Wing: “Night Five”

McD and I were talking today about…well, adulthood, basically. How we seem to be high-functioning adults—we’ve checked things off the list for adulthood: job, transportation, shelter, food preparation, social interaction, literacy, bill-paying, savings account, doctors appointments, etc. etc. etc.—and then boom, something comes up, and it turns out we don’t know how to use the post office.

Just makes you feel like you’re always trying to catch up instead of actually achieving anything.

I’m pretty intensely competitive (despite my best efforts), and grownup life is cruelly ambivalent about rules. I always played sports where, the moment I signed up, the rules were already well established. School, too. There are things you need to do to “win,” some of which might come easy and some you might need to work on, but you play the game, and then you win the game, and then another game comes along and you win that, too.  (I was pretty good at school and sports, heh.)

This is just the stuff of your standard existential crises, I know, and a continuation of my previous post. (How many careers/entrepreneurial projects/identities will make me a real grownup?) But as McD and I were running errands, feeding ourselves, caffeinating ourselves and pondering the ins and outs of preprinted labels on Priority Mail envelopes (not to mention being excellent employees pushing a two-hour lunch break), I expressed my frustration at those things that make me question my adequacy as an adult.

“I dunno,” said McD. “I think you and I…I think we’re doing OK.”

Here’s hoping. I guess I could use a good victory. I guess everybody could. Maybe I need to keep score better.

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