Adulthood is Just a Dysfunctional Group Project Reincarnated
There is no definitive moment that came with an epiphany that I had finally done it and grown up. My memories of recent years include moments when embarassment lessened to resignation, indignation turned to apathy, and carelessness appeared where I never expected to see its face—in a spin class where I wore my shirt inside out. Is the true sign of adulthood perspective? Could the realization that happiness can be bought, however fleetingly, in the form of baked goods signify my passage into total maturity? Does a 401K make adulting official? Why have we made adult a verb?
Growing up, what people initially termed bossiness eventually became "natural leadership skills." I settled neatly into college leadership positions that were designed for people like me, who craved order and appreciated people who showed up to meetings on time. Or at all. I assumed that the real world welcomed all ideas and created similarly supportive environments for participants. I was woefully unprepared for the reality, characterized by a general disregard for when things start and a staunch awareness of when things are supposed to end. In hindsight, it's essentially like a group project.
Group work is one of the singular collegiate activities that I firmly believe mold you into an adult. You either rise to the occasion or become the person everyone hates. You then presumably continue in this role for the rest of your working life. There are several constant characters in a group — the Controller, the Delegator, and the Missing. The Controller prepares the group and spends the rest of the time panicking as to whether they will actually get anything done/sending frantic reminder emails. The Delegator divides his or her tasks neatly among the others and then disappears to do arguably cooler things than the rest of the group. The Missing doesn't bother to show up until the actual presentation.
You know who you are.
A successful and less emotionally draining group project requires you to pair up or at least include a trusted friend in your group. The person you choose will be exposed to your inability to lose, your desire to get an A, and your total disgust with the rest of the group. The position is not for the newly befriended; do not invite the kid you just met walking in to class or the boy you recently decided looks like Bradley Cooper if you squint the right way. Love does not belong in a group project.
Of course, rarely does a group project involve anyone you actually want to work with. This is preferable because you would rather remain ignorant of the atrocities your friends commit as members of a group. The very first meeting with your group reaffirms one of college's greatest life lessons: assume everyone is an idiot until proven otherwise.
I moved to New York City and assumed that all 8 million people would be rude, in a hurry, and steal the cab I had just called. This is true of 5 million. But in every situation, there are the remaining 3 million who acknowledge that you have waited five minutes in the rain for the cab careening towards you and do not steal it while you stand in soaked shock and blunt validation of your theory. Most people know the right thing to do. What really matters is actually doing it.
Remember the kid who said he would outline chapters five through eight for the presentation and decided to just clearly recite the Cliff Notes version of the introduction instead? Don't be that guy. Following through with what you said you would do is a fairly sucky life lesson, when learned the hard way, but one of the most important. Your choices affect other people (what!) and (surprise!) there are repercussions. A year later, I've found the keys to adulting success in kindness, hard work, persistence, and a little bit of luck. Be willing to be the first person at the office and the last to leave, don't measure your happiness by social media, keep your friends close, and make memories outside of your cubicle. Also, don't be a jerk.
Life after graduation is just one big group project. You can choose what character you play, so choose wisely.
Feature Photo VIA Unsplash.