Later, Voyager

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I’m 77% an adult.  This number comes from the “Adultness Test,” created by Dr. Robert Epstein, an American psychologist.  The test is comprised of 140 questions, ranging from knowledge of law to odd things like, “True or False: A woman can be impregnated through oral sex.”  My adult score was dragged down heavily by a putrid 33% in “physical abilities” and a disappointing 56% in “self management.”  So, in other words, the fact that I don’t exercise isn’t really my fault – I have poor self management skills.

Being an adult is important to me.  It became important once I moved out of my parents’ house to go to college.  I remember my roommates being shocked by all the things I didn’t know how to do.  I couldn’t cook anything; I couldn’t do my laundry; I had never had a job.  When I was hungry, I microwaved something.  My white clothing didn’t stay that way for long.  When I was broke, I called my parents.  In an apartment of young adults, I was just young.

Assuming I’d successfully grown up at least a little bit through the years, the massive regression came when I split from my ex, after spending 7 years together.  Moving into an apartment by myself, I didn’t have a bed, a dresser, a computer, or any furniture for months.  I slept on the floor.  I kept my clothes in cardboard boxes.  When I finally decided I needed a place to sit, I took a wooden chair from the dumpster.  It didn’t really matter to me, because all I wanted to do was drink and write.  By the time I finally bought a bed – a nifty fold-up number from K-mart – I had amassed hundreds of empty beer bottles and maybe two completed short stories.

77%, Mr. Epstein? 

Depression, alcohol abuse, and the lack of any decent personal relationships turned my life in North Carolina to crap.  I would get incredibly sad leaving work, knowing I would be sitting in my empty apartment alone for the rest of the night.  I accepted a job in South Korea, and I told myself that this would be a new beginning.  The start of a new way.  I was going to be a “competent adult” if it killed me.  My eyes were filled with stars as I pictured myself doing amazing things, such as saving money, keeping a clean apartment, and developing relationships and friendships with people.  I spent the last week in North Carolina more or less isolated with nobody else around.  When I finally left, only one person cried because I was going and that was my therapist.  I wondered if I had to pay her extra for the tears.

The question is, then, how am I doing?  How is this whole competent adult thing going?  Overall, I’m fairly happy with myself.  My apartment is typically kept up nicely, I’ve been a good employee, and I’ve been able to send money home.  I’ve put more effort into my physical appearance, keeping myself fed, and trying to be a good person than I have in the past.  I’ve made strong friendships with people, and when dating relationships have fallen apart, I’ve done my best to accept it.  Granted, there are screw-ups every now and then, like landing in the hospital after a drunken fall , for instance.  Hey, I’m a work in progress.  The key word being “progress.”

It all reminds me a lot of the movie “Now, Voyager,” staring the great Bette Davis.  In it, Bette is a grown woman stuck in a state of arrested development thanks to her overbearing mom.  A shrink (played by Claude Rains) gets involved, and decides the only way for her to become an adult is to – ready for some out-of-the-box thinking – take a long trip by herself.  Hence, she goes on a cruise on the “Voyager,” where she eventually develops her independence and then, of course, finds love.  Coming to Korea, at least in part, is my “Now, Voyager” kick.  In this strange place, I’ve started to take care of myself.  It isn’t “Now, Voyager,” because it hasn’t fully happened as of “now.”  Maybe it’ll be soon. 

It should be, right?  I only have 23% to go, after all.

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