Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Growing Up

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On opening my exam timetable, I had a horrible realisation. By the end of week 7, term 3, I will have finished my undergraduate degree. With graduation (assuming I ever finish this sodding dissertation and make it to my exams) comes great responsibility. For many young adults, university is an awkward purgatory through which you must stumble blindly, before emerging as a knowledgeable, responsible adult in the heaven of a graduate job, or the enduring hell of unemployment. Or so I thought. When I started university, I believed I would spend three years of my life in a nurturing cocoon, accompanied by my laptop, some biros and a metric fuck-tonne of vodka, before fluttering out of graduation as a radiant butterfly ready and willing to take on adult life and all its responsibilities. I was wrong. Clearly the student caterpillar drank too much in the cocoon bar and fell out the emergency exit before its wings developed. She’s now desperately trying to learn to fly on a hangover, while shouting ‘yeah but what are the metaphorical implications of your linguistic choices dude?!’ at passers-by. I’ve lost myself in my butterfly analogy, but you get the message: I am not ready to be an adult yet. Disregarding legal technicalities, as far as I’m aware an adult is ‘one who has got their shit together’. There are undeniably teenagers who are far more adult than I am, but we’ll go with this as a working definition.

I decided that, as the end is nigh, I should spend a week attempting to act like a functional member of society. I would cook nutritious meals, wear presentable clothes, and live in a clean, humane environment. Achieving all this at once would be naïve, and a shock to the system, so I decided to try and add one positive change per day…

On day one, after completing an army-standard assault course before leaving my bedroom, I decided that the first step should be to tidy, and clean, my room. Having successfully moved my floordrobe into my wardrobe and laundry basket, I made an attempt on my desk. After sending a small forest’s worth of paper down to the recycling, I was almost able to see my work surface again. I found an enormous lidded box, and carefully put away my two tea pots, four mugs, four boxes of tea bags, and eight varieties of loose leaf tea. As a result, I was able to store my kettle on top of said box and free up even more desk space. My next job was to clean, and I had the rather depressing realisation that in the five months I’ve inhabited my room, the floor had never met Henry the hoover. The two were quickly introduced, and Henry kindly removed the inch of dust, hair, fluff, and bobby pins from the carpet’s surface. For the first time in weeks, I was able to sit at my desk to work, rather than attempting essays horizontally from the comfort of my (unmade) bed. By this point, it was gone lunch time, and I realised that if I were a truly functioning adult, I’d have got dressed five hours previously.  On opening my wardrobe I was perturbed to discover I had completely run out of underwear…

After spending the afternoon of day one trying to hide the fact that I was wearing a swimming costume under my clothes, I decided it was finally time to do my laundry. In the absence of a drying rack, after four trips to the launderette, I set about hanging underwear and clothes from every available surface: door handles, my chair, the light-fittings… It was only on returning home from a lecture later that day that I realised my ingenious window-sill drying rack had failed me. Instead of forming a hammock between my window latch and my window sill, my bra had made a bid for freedom out of the window, and was hanging on for dear life down the outside of the building, for the whole world to see. I couldn’t even console myself that it was a nice bra for anyone to cast their voyeuristic gaze over, because I’d dyed it grey when I negligently stuffed it in the washing machine with a pair of jeans. Having retrieved my bra from her vertiginous bid for freedom, I decided that I now had no excuse to go bra-less for the rest of the week. SIGH.

When I have the time, I can be a relatively good cook. That is to say, I try to dabble with new recipes every couple of weeks, and I’ve only had food poisoning once this term. And that was from a ready meal. On the evening of day three, I attempted to make a Bolognese cannelloni. I built up a serious sweat trying to beat my roux into a béchamel sauce, but thanks to yesterday’s successful adulting, had some nice clean pyjamas to change into after supper (which was a success).

Thanks to the massively insightful nature of my new adult self, I had three more days’ worth of supper ready in the fridge to be reheated in the microwave. After helping myself to a home-made ready meal (with SALAD, I’ll have you know, cause vegetables are cool now), I headed out to spend the evening with friends. Despite the promise of a right-royal piss up, I left after a couple of drinks so that I could spend the next day productively working.

On day five, I awoke feeling sick with a splitting headache. I’ve always wanted to cause mild harm with an empty wine bottle to people who loudly tell you they NEVER GET HANGOVERS, but this was ridiculous. I had intentionally tried to avoid getting pissed, and this was how my body repaid me?! If adulthood is about getting crippling hangovers worthy of a night on Jaegar in Dalton Rooms, when all you’ve actually had is two beers, then count me out. The headache persisted throughout the day, so I decided to break my promise of wearing a bra and clothes and remained in my pyjamas in my darkened room. It turns out, alas, that the headache was actually a precursor to crippling flu, and I consequently remained in my bra-less, bed-ridden state for the rest of the week. My plan for day five had been to get up before 9am without hitting snooze on my alarm. Having woken up at two hour intervals throughout the night to hack my lungs up like a consumptive Victorian urchin, all plans of getting up early were soon abandoned. I thought I’d console myself by binge eating the remaining two portions of cannelloni, but to my horror discovered I had left them out of the fridge the night before. After 24 hours on top of the oven (which had been turned on at various points throughout the day) I didn’t want to risk food poisoning from luke warm, two day old Bolognese, so settled for half a tub of Ben and Jerry’s from the freezer. No one should have to adult when they’re ill.

Have I learnt anything from my half-arsed attempt at adulting? It turns out having a clean, tidy working environment, and attempting essays whilst sitting at a desk, is actually conducive to productive study sessions. Judging by the number of adults who dress in their finest M&S Christmas pyjamas to accompany their children to school, I am not the sole adult advocate of pyjamas as day-wear. When I am responsible for feeding other people, I will strive to provide balanced, nutritious meals as often as I can (fish fingers and peas totally counts, right?), but until then, I’ll eat what I enjoy, and if that’s a three course meal one day, and Weetabix, golden syrup, and a tub of ice cream the next, then so be it. Ultimately, adulthood is something that happens to all of us, whether we are ready for the responsibility or not. Growing up, however, is entirely optional.