Adulthood

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I’m stuck in a loop of never fully convincing myself that I’m an adult and it’s in step to take adult moves towards adult responsibilities, because I’m making adult money. It doesn’t feel like I am making adult money because it’s not being robbed of me by adult expenses, because I haven’t taken the adult moves towards adult responsibilities that incur those expenses.

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There is no way to get in unless you already have one of these, and to get one of these you need to have all three.

It’s for this reason that I can’t commit to looking after myself. I’m a grown person, and I’ve lived alone for six years without serious injury from home accident or owing money to the mob. But I rent, and I’ve only ever considered buying a home once. When that fell through I knew I had to get more together before I could try again. I needed to have the adult money to make that adult move. But the money that I have can’t be adult money, because I’m making it without working 60 hours a week or having decades of experience in a high demand industry. Those are responsibilities that can only be earned through demonstrating maturity, and nobody could be seen as mature if they rent an apartment.

Ad nauseum. I don’t go to a podiatrist or physiotherapist to see how I can stop killing my feet with the walking and running that I do (when I do the running – separate issue to come later) because I’m afraid of what the solution will be. If I have to wear a certain brand of shoes or buy expensive custom orthotics, I won’t have the flexibility in style that gets me taken seriously as an adult. I’ll just be that loser in those shoes – pay no attention to that lady in the corner; she knows not what foot fashion is to the essence of a grown human, and thus she is still in that job that doesn’t pay as well as ours.

I know that physically I should keep in shape and that requires investment in time, discipline, money, and overcoming pride around other people. I don’t want to lose a lot of weight, but I want to maintain a level of control over my body and make my arms stop jiggling when I gently wave. I would need to join a gym, which would require facing my fear of being judged, and commitment, which would require an established plan through a trainer, which costs money. But look at me – I’m just a schmuckette with a schmuckette job (with a feminine suffix because the collar’s been dyed pink so it can be cast aside as merely an accessory to Real Business). I don’t have the right story to tell people whom I may meet at the gym. There will be no common ground. Thus, I don’t make the adult move of taking adult responsibility over my adult health and paying for professional advice on proper equipment. When I run, I just go on a 10 minute jog around my neighbourhood. Everybody can see me, so I’m more invisible. I avoid the adult move.

But I’m not even avoiding it properly. I’ve stubbornly stuck through running before – in spite of/because of a sore leg/ankle/foot/head/arm (yes, even arm); in spite of/because it was raining/snowing/extremely cold/extremely hot – and that’s just in the past 20 months since I decided I was going to spite my reluctant participation in bare requirements of high school gym class by running more out of choice. I got to wrap a scarf around my head like a ninja, which made me feel like I was doing this too immaturely. I wasn’t buying proper winter jogging equipment because the way of running I chose wasn’t of adult responsibility. I couldn’t spend adult money on the adult move to take adult responsibility for my fitness.

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So that’s the rut I’ve been stuck in for 31 years.

To Not Sleep, Perchance to Create

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I used to have worse sleeping habits. It’s a side effect of other medication that I can fall asleep pretty well now. When I had insomnia I would mostly just lie in bed at best in an absence of anything – no tiredness, no comfort, nothing but awakeness. At worst it would be related to inexplicable pain in my limbs.

Now, I can usually get 7-8 hours in on weekdays, and on weekends I lie in bed as long as I please, coming in and out of sleep for a couple of hours each morning. Rest is important, as scientific studies confirm and confirm again. But through the posting of thoughts and interactions publicly on the internet, I can see how much is passed around by insomniacs. There’s more to contemplate and more to create outside of a daily schedule. I’m not around when the good things happen, all because I’m getting a healthy sleep.

Beyond posting inane dribble on Twitter, there are the chances to interact with others in constructive dialogue. There’s the surge of ideas that can come with sleep deprivation (or can be the cause of it, chicken/egg) that can be put into action by creating something. I’m missing that time and those conditions in my life.

I’m sure if I were still an insomniac I would be thinking along the lines of Hamlet, with much smaller problems mind you, that I hope death, if not just pure nonexistence, is eternal sleep. In the winter months especially, approaching as the sky stays dark into the start of my mornings, I long for hibernation and sleeping for three months in exchange for longer waking hours for the rest of the year. Despite the obvious benefits to my health, I want to reject the standard schedule of balancing sleep and waking time in favour of extremes.

My thinking is clear, but my ideas are worthless when I’m well-rested and functional. If not the creative process itself, a lack of rest at least instills the delusion that my bullshit deserves to be put out there, that my opinions matter, and that my writing is good.

A Sick Day in Time Saves Nine

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I’m not a material hoarder. I don’t have a mental illness that attaches me to things, assuming I might need it one day so I can’t get rid of it now. I’m a little bit wrapped up in frugality with unease towards debt, which has always been the case but got deeply personal when I was out of work for many months.

That’s not an uncommon or unhealthy way of thinking. It’s usually just called “good judgment” along with ageist complaints that Mi*****ials don’t have any of it. But I digress. The mentality behind this is separating what accumulates and what is bound by use-it-or-lose-it restrictions.

I switched from a job that allowed five paid sick days per calendar year to one that accrues about one sick day per month and carries forward. In the job that had five paid sick days, I knew I had to use them up, and did so strategically. Now that I can keep building on a bank of sick time, I am determined to use it less – in case I need to use it more in the future.

But the purpose of employers offering sick time is so people get rest when they need it to improve their overall performance. It’s so diseases aren’t spread around the office. It’s so brief illnesses aren’t dragged out to impede productivity and the whole, you know, wellness of a human being. So I did go home early yesterday after dryheaving all morning to sleep all afternoon. And I did come into work late today to sleep in a bit more as my neck was stiff and head was heavy after showering as per my usual routine.

But I took neither day off in full, because – to end this with another variation on an overquoted proverb – sick time saved is sick time earned…when you’re allowed to save it.

Adjusted for Inflation

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Currency is a fluctuating measurement of relative value, and inflation is a consequence. This is why penny candies are now ten cents, yet still more affordable because of what they’re now made of and how relatively cheaper other things have become.

But as the dollars, euros, yen, and pounds ebb and flow in their purchasing power, pounds of the not-so-sterling variety can’t. The measurement of weight doesn’t get adjusted for inflation as frequently as money, because we believe in absolutes: currency is a construct and the numeric value doesn’t matter; body mass is an absolute and there are limits to function and longevity if it’s outside a given range.

The “given range” is quite arbitrarily defined based on someone’s painted picture of kilograms as contrasted by height in metres squared. Changes in the Body Mass Index of our population show a drastic increase in obesity and as such a steep decrease in health in our generation. Forget the increased longevity, lower child mortality, et cetera and so forth. Tip past that point on the scale and you are officially part of the problem.

But that is not really true, is it? Doctors may say it is – “you should lose weight” seems to be an automated response from many physicians when patients visit, if for no reason other than to justify charging that appointment to the government’s bill. My doctor fortunately hasn’t brought it up and I’m not entirely sure why. I’m certainly overweight on the BMI scale, but it’s like…she sees through that or something. It’s like she asks questions about how I feel and takes my lifestyle habits into perspective. Maybe it’s because she’s new at her job – not that she doesn’t know any better, but that she was trained with a better perspective on how weight…weighs in.

See, we’re all getting larger because of drastic changes in lifestyle and quality of food supply. The average size and range of shapes of people are changing. Off-the-rack clothing has been lowering the size number for the same measurement for years. In that way, the value of the pound is changing. As our average size migrates our standards will eventually follow, too – even though our supermodels are still svelte surreal, our available pool for sex and/or love goes with the flow.

Economic conditions of the past have placed desirability on physical features that go beyond the VERY misogynistic caveman stereotype of clubbing and raping women for their genes. It’s actually a slightly different kind of misogyny that makes desirable a woman’s features relating to her family’s wealth. Women who can hire personal trainers and have fresh food cooked for them may maintain a thinner figure than desk workers who have to make economic or family sacrifices not to microwave something prepackaged or go through a drive-thru on their way home – but if power’s in numbers, it’s the latter who need to be catered to in the larger market.

The solutions offered currently are the “lean cuisine” kinds of shite that produce little result and don’t get anywhere close to the core. Nutrition is still measured in calories and health is still measured in weight. It’s a more complex society and interwoven economies of trade that make food so plentiful. Why do we keep those oversimplified yardsticks in commission when we have the resources to evaluate on a deeper level?

We can’t yet see ourselves in our own context.

Does My Phone Make Me Less Active?

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It’s hard to answer this question when I was never particularly active to begin with. I’ve had many an excuse throughout my life that aren’t related to communication technology – health, size, gender, body issues, or the classic all-purpose giving up on what I’m not good at right away. All of my decisions to get more active over the years have been related to other things. The role my phone may play in this is how much more tolerable my long walks home from a previous job were because I could listen to music or podcasts along the way – if anything, making me more active.

That is, at least physically speaking. In other meanings of the word active – engaged, participating – it’s played a surprisingly large role in getting me out of my bubble and more involved in the world around me. When I showed up at a nearby coffee shop to join an open-invitation discussion group with strangers, I assured myself it didn’t matter if I chickened out or they didn’t show up or anything else, because I brought my phone with me, and I could sit and look like I was doing something instead of the embarassment of appearing to be stood up. I did not use that escape plan and I have somehow got myself way more involved than I should be (as I’m still lazy, through no fault of my phone) in my community.

And boy oh boy, has my phone made travel better for me. I haven’t travelled a lot lately, but when I have it’s been alone and with minimal use of public transit. I love walking, which as noted above my phone has helped encourage to a degree in my daily life, but I have a poor sense of direction and lack of confidence in my gut feeling. Having my phone on me to use Google Maps to see where I am related to where I want to be in other cities has made travelling alone an easy experience…except for the 35° heat, but I chose to deal with that anyway.

Back-Breaking Work

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I learned in an absolutely THRILLING ergonomics presentation at a work seminar recently that office chairs are designed for six foot tall men. This was particularly hilarious for the ergonomist giving the presentation – he himself was 5’11” and so not that far off, but through his work he was well aware that the typical person using an office chair is a 5’4″ woman. Dimensions and proportions are very different throughout the human population, and perhaps most different among roughly 5’4″ women (or, say, women in the 5’2″ to 5’8″ range).

I get to be assessed by this ergonomist to determine the ideal seating arrangement at my new desk. While I’m slightly above average in height, on the five-foot-seven side of five-foot-six, I have stubby legs and a long body with a high waist. This makes no chair fit me whatsoever.

People get amazed when they have to sit in my chair to clean up some sort of problem I created at how low it is. A lot of people don’t follow the wisdom that yes, the height of your chair should be set so your feet touch the ground. I’m also misleadingly average in height because I have a very long body, meaning the backing to the chair needs to be raised as high as it can be. Even still, since most chairs aren’t designed with a woman in mind, the groove built into desk chair backings doesn’t meet the small of my back as I’m also high-waisted. I would love to sit with the feet at the end of my short legs touching the ground, and a two-finger width of space between the edge of the seat and inside of my knee. I like my elbows bent at almost a right angle when typing on my keyboard, with arm rests spaced at their narrowest, most close to the seat. These are all things I’m doing right according to the ergonomist’s presentation. When I’m getting assessed perhaps I should hide my tendency to change positions in monkey-like ways. (Perhaps I’ll get credit for always moving around, which helps alleviate my doomed future as a hunchback.)

Another interesting part of this presentation was the ergonomist describing the right way to pick things up – the way a newly walking toddler does. The toddler’s head is too heavy and back too weak to bend over in the sexualized fashion, and so the toddler intuitively squats with the knees to pick up toys. The ergonomist described this as the way our bodies were “designed” to work, neglecting to acknowledge that nobody “designed” human bodies and rather we evolved with our large heads and a certain kind of spine to support our bipedal posture that together just happen to work best with bending knees. Nobody chose to give us these features, but I digress. Having been taught through 1980s PSA commercials to lift things up with my legs, I’ve gotten in the habit of doing this already and find it far more comfortable – AND FUN!

So to all the commentary spat out about my generation turning back into unerect apes because of the hours we spend in front of a computer – fuck you. There’s been enough advancement in understanding human posture for me to have been taught these things while habits could still freshly form. Typewriters, telephones, and television predate what I was raised on and were just as major contributors to sedentary lifestyles a couple generations before mine. Computers have at least enabled an acceleration in research and awareness pertaining to ergonomics – and older generations are just as bad at sitting in a chair for eight hours as us young’ns. Look in the mirror and call yourself an ape too.

Pain from the Past

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I had an insomniac throwback the other night, time passing awake and in pain just like it did over 20 years ago. My legs hurt from time to time in ways that can only be treated by a combination of heating pad, ibuprofen, time, and suffering. I was awake until one o’clock, and much like when I was a child I spent that time overthinking the unimportant.

When I was a kid I had fewer problems, on account of the precious naivete that makes things in compartmentalized colours (children don’t think in black and white because that gets beaten out of them in adolescence). Red was distinct from orange and orange was distinct from yellow, even though I knew colour theory since preschool art class. The digital clock in my room was an endless source of entertainment as I played with the digits in my head and waited to hit the buttons that made the ticking seconds appear so I would be awake to see 12:34:56. Now I’m not so amused by that. Now I have bigger problems to worry about. These bigger problems make the time kept up more stressful, but what hasn’t changed is the pain.

My legs hurt more often back then, in fact, and insomnia was more frequent with or without that pain. I couldn’t just lie still and fall asleep, especially not when there was a throbbing sensation with no rhyme or reason migrating from thigh to knee to shin on predominantly, though not always, my left leg. Sometimes I would have to scoot further down the twin bed to let my knee hang over the cold metal bar on the frame and have my leg autonomously kick out of general twitchiness and, I was told at one point, a very mild form of Tourette’s. Sometimes I would have to sleep on the floor. Sometimes I would have to sleep on the floor outside my bedroom with my face nearly shoved up against a vent. I tried sleeping in the bathtub a few times, or even more strangely on the bathmat or a combination of the two. I frequently tried lifting up the offending leg and propping it up against the cold wall. I don’t think I knew at the time the logic behind doing that, but now I understand the anti-inflammatory benefits of temperature and improved circulation. Every attempt like this to find a way to fall asleep, both in positioning and in counting minutes and seconds like sheep, didn’t actually help aside from brief soothing of the pain. I always had to go back into bed and sleep in a conventional position, for however much of the night was left.

Why this inflammation was happening at that age and why it’s simmered down since has never been a health issue I’ve explored. (There are just so many ahead of it in the queue of all that is wrong with me.) When I do get it now, I wish all that mentally came with extended consciousness into the wee hours was playing with integer numbers and compartmentalized colours (and the synesthesia that mixes it all). But those years built up the understanding of decimals, including the never-ending stream of 142857 in fractions of seven that blew my mind when I figured out why it’s ongoing. The categorical colour coding had to open up to ambiguous shades and the miniscule bothers of how the clothes hanging in my closet can never perfectly be arranged in a full spectrum gradient system. Not being comfortable in conventional sleeping positions has migrated to not being comfortable in conventional living positions. Perhaps these nights have become sparser out of necessity, shutting down conscious mental processes to not overwhelm.

Shutting down conscious mental processes is exactly what sleep is supposed to be. How I survived childhood with relatively little of it and yet still have a functioning adult brain is a curiousity. Was there lost potential in my cognitive growth because of it? What kind of groundbreaking discoveries or revolutionary ideas have been lost by recurring pain in one girl’s left leg?