mnmlist: Man-Child Manifesto
About 7 years ago, I was training to be a personal fitness trainer. My gym assigned prospective trainers like me to “floor shifts.” If you belong to a gym you see floor-shifters shifting around the gym floor. They are supposed to help out, get towels and schmooze with customers. These workers are paid peanuts, have little to do during their shifts and usually open the gym at ungodly hours until they get their training certificates and can take on clients. The crappy pay, work and hours is meant to separate the wheat from the chaff—the people who really want to train and people who just want a job. I was chaff.
I had good reasons why I quit the gym: I made much more money at my other job (I did); their training method was stupid (it kind of was); gyms promote superficial fitness, not health (they do). But another reason for quitting revealed itself. It didn’t matter what I was doing. I always found reasons why something sucked. Personal training, acting, modeling, cooking, school, girlfriends, friends—I quit all of them for good reasons. It wasn’t an episodic issue, it was a systemic one. I was a quitter.
I realized that I wanted to be more than a quitter and a dabbler. After the gym episode, I started a program of recovery from quitting, carried out in a pretty straightforward way: I stopped quitting things and finished many things I had started (I got geeked out on transformational workshops for a while too).
But that recovery took time. It took a while before the old evidence was displaced by the new. I had to show up to relationships, jobs and other commitments for a while before I was able to fully experience myself as a committed person. With any major change, there is a period between letting go of what you don’t want and creating what you do. Which brings me to the present.
Most of my “adult” life has been spent primarily living for myself. Sure, I’ve shown up and committed to relationships and institutions, but I always made sure I had enough emotional or physical distance that our needs weren’t completely intertwined. I wasn’t going to let anyone or anything drag me down with them.
I’ve had great times living this way. I’ve been mobile and flexible. I’ve slept well and gotten plenty of exercise because no one impinges on my schedule. Since I have minimal material needs, I haven’t needed to make much money or work too hard. I’ve been able to change my life instantly without all that messy explaining one must do in close relationships. For example, I can go vegan overnight because no one else is eating from my fridge.
But something happened 9 months ago. I met a girl. I like the girl. The girl wants a family. In order to be with her for a while, I had to be on board.
My initial reaction was somewhat ambivalent. Being accustomed to living for and by myself, a family seemed like it might put a cramp in my style. I might not be able to come and go as I please. I might need a home with heat and running water. I might need to produce a real income. I might need to settle on a profession. I might need to grow up.
Then it occurred to me: coming and going isn’t as big a deal as it once was. I want heat and hot water. I want to have the material wherewithal to support a family. I want a profession. I want to grow up. And it seems like the only way to do that is by having an objective bigger than self-satisfaction (e.g. a family).
I see parallels between these 2 situations. In both cases there is a way of being I was done with—quitting and living for myself respectively. There was a way of being I want to create—being a committed person and an adult respectively. And there was/is a gap between those two states—a time without the old way but with little or no evidence of how the new way would come into being.
Nowadays, the evidence for my lack of adultness stares me in the face. I live in a dump; it’s a charming dump, but a dump nonetheless. I barely make any money. I don’t have a real job. It is not a bad life by any stretch, just a limited one. And I don’t know exactly how to proceed.
A while back, I asked a newlywed friend if anything had changed since he got married. He had been living with the girl for years, so I didn’t expect him to say there was. Instead, he said enthusiastically, “Yeah, things that were once problems are now projects.” In other words, with a real commitment it’s not if we are going to solve this issue, it’s how.
And so it is with me. As the if of my relationship becomes fainter, as my desire to grow up becomes greater, the how’s seem more apparent. I applied for 2 interesting jobs yesterday. I am still writing, but I’m thinking steadier income wouldn’t hurt that pursuit. I haven’t moved homes, but the girl and I are talking about neighborhoods and such (a big issue in NYC). It’s not a fully formed reality yet. There’s still plenty of evidence suggesting that I’m a man-child. But I gotta start building a case for me being an adult somewhere.
[P.S. If anyone knows any job leads (writing, event stuff), shoot them to me. Thanks. DF]