Remember how when you were a kid you really wanted to be an adult? Even if it was just to get revenge on your parents for Brussels sprouts and not being able to go to parties, we’ve all had at least one moment of thinking “When I’m grown up, I’m not going to do that”. Eat vegetables, pay bills, groan about the younger generation being The Absolute Worst.
Then, of course, as an adult, you don’t do all the things you swore you’d do, like eat only chocolate or never shower or just watch your favourite shows all day. You save those things for weekends. Point is, it’s a cliche, but youth is wasted on the young. You wanted to be all grown up and now that you are, you realise that being grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Except it is. Sure, there are bills and the world isn’t so simple anymore and there are, well, other idiot adults to deal with, but perhaps it is time to remember, and to celebrate, the significant privileges of being an adult human.
You’re an adult. Congratulations. This is a Public Service Announcement.
You can put your hand out the window of a moving car, do those little waves up and over the wind, swerving from side to side so the wind billows up your sleeve. You can park your elbow out the window at the lights like a handsome cowboy slash cowgirl rolling into town with a mysterious way about you and nothing to lose.
You can take a drink outside and look at the stars. You can. Any time you like. Cup of tea. Something with ice in it. Just you and the drink and your own breathing, surrounded by night time.
You get to experience the lows, sure, but also the highs of adult connection. The gut-punch of sudden affection when you unexpectedly see someone you love. A hand slipping into yours when you weren’t paying attention. A night time kiss. Laughter that might never stop. Creative collaborations. Work friends. It’s kind of a miracle anybody gets along at all and yet, even as adults, complex and misshapen by our previous adventures, we manage to fit together, sometimes, in small ways, and that’s lovely.
Doesn’t matter how old you are, if you see an owl in the wild you will gasp. Some of you will gasp quietly, some of you will just stop still and grab the forearm of the person next to you with a certain degree of urgency, but technically all these responses are part of the same emotional genre as a gasp. It’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, ask an owl. They’ve seen us all do it.
You can change another person’s day. Deliberately. With kindness. You can make someone laugh or fix someone’s problem or let someone in front of you in the queue. Apparently, scientists have studied this and one of the key ways to make someone like you is by letting them do you a favour. Being altruistic is empowering and loving and kind and really quite good for your ego. Give it a go.
You can jump in a car or a train and put a day’s worth of travel between you and whatever you’re doing right now and you don’t even need a note from a parent or guardian. Think about it. You could go anywhere. Even an hour’s travel will take you somewhere unfamiliar.
Ice cream. Whenever you want it. Shut up, it’s worth it.
You can literally go to a machine and type in whatever thing it is in the world that you want and someone somewhere on earth will post it to your house in a parcel from yourself in the past to yourself in the future.
You can be entirely solitary. You can walk through the forest and feel your voice mute in your throat. You can float on the sea with your ears clogged and your lips salty, looking at the sky. You can sing to yourself in the shower.
You can change an animal’s whole life. Enjoy the leaping glee of a dog every day, or the late night purr of a cat, usually somewhere a bit annoying like draped across your neck and breathing into your face. They bring your blood pressure down, animals, when they’re not destroying things.
Being an adult isn’t terrible at all. Some of it might be, but a lot of it is absolutely sublime. It’s what you make it. Go and gasp at an owl. This has been a Public Service Announcement.
This column originally appeared in The Big Issue. Go and buy one why don't you.