The other week we came home after dark with the kids, and the power was out at our house. We assumed we were having a neighborhood power outage, till we realized everyone else’s lights were fine. So after some fussing around with the breaker box, we called an electrician. His examination took all of two minutes, after which he announced that everything was fine—our power had just been shut off.
So This Is Mortifying…
If we’d been struggling financially and unable to pay our bill, I would not be embarrassed to share this story. But that wasn’t the case. The mortifying truth is that we’d signed up for a fixed rate plan, and our energy usage had outstripped what we were paying, and we’d missed the letter (letters? I literally have no idea) with the bill. So they shut off our power,
for being total failures at adulthood for overdue payment.
If this had happened when I was a kid, when my family lived under some serious financial stressors, it would have been a bad scene. There would have been crying and tons of stress figuring out how to pay the bills. Because having our power shut off wasn’t cheap. Not only did we have to pay the electrician’s fee and the back payment, but the energy company made us put down a deposit in case we screwed up again. But we’re really lucky these days. Not only are we able to pay those bills, we’re the family and friends who are able to help other people pay those kinds of bills when they’re in a tough spot. So in the end, the kids had a fun candlelight night, and we only had to deal with our total mortification in the morning.
Perfect Adults and Disaster Adults
When I was a kid, I thought there were two kinds of adults. There were people who were the disasters (my childhood home was often two steps away from chaos), and the Girl Scout Troop Leaders (in my case, both literally and figuratively)—who had perfectly organized homes and much-lower-stress families. These Perfect Moms seemed to impart all of their Perfection Skills to their kids, setting them up for a lifetime of meal planning binders and organized closets. But I grew up in an impoverished city, which means that many of my friends were living in homes that were closer to organizational and emotional disasters. And without anyone to teach us the skills of closet organization, I figured we might just be doomed to chaos in our home lives. I thought you grew up and were one kind of adult or the other and that you could never change things.
But it turns out, that’s not true. At least, it’s not true for me.
Are Adults Just People Learning?
I’ve been married for eight years now and cohabitating with my partner for ten. When we moved in together we were in our mid-twenties in a tiny apartment, and there was a lot less to manage. These days we have a much bigger house, two chaos-sowing children, and a lot more paperwork and responsibilities to manage.
And what I’m slowly figuring out is that it’s all learning… forever.
As for our energy outage adventure, here is what went wrong: in the hustle and bustle of having two kids and two careers, and our over reliance on electronic communication, we’d been letting our mail build up in a stack on our “junk table,” and we’d missed something actually important. So, we got the message, and have since gotten our shit together. I cleared off the junk table, hung a board where we could hang up important things, and came up with a basic filing system for mail.
I have (I think) finally managed to figure out a system where the mail gets dealt with in a timely way, and our electricity doesn’t end up accidentally turned off (or a five dollar library fine doesn’t end up sent to collections). But I’m still pretty far away from Girl Scout Troop Leader levels of organizational skill. Just to run through a short list of our flaws, we have closets that are disasters, no real way of managing the family calendar, and we’re not sorting out our compost—which seems mortifyingly embarrassing in the Bay Area. But we’re working on it, and we’re better than we were last year, and way better than we were three years ago. Heck, by the time our kids are in high school, maybe we’ll have achieved color-coded pantry levels of efficiency, and they’ll never know any different.
Maybe Imperfection is Okay
Nearly ten years into marriage, I feel like I’m still figuring out adulting, day by day, and mortifying mistake by mortifying mistake.
And I’ve decided I’m okay with this. We recently visited a friend’s house that was run with all of the exacting efficiency I can only dream of, and it also wasn’t very… fun. It turns out you can spend all your free time organizing your closets—but you might not want to. So I’ve decided that I’m okay with our mix of spontaneity, organization, and mild disasters… as long as the lights don’t get turned off again. Because that? Nah.
So how about you? What parts of adulthood are you failing at? Any mortifying stories of power outages/other unwarranted disasters? What organization systems are working for you, and what are your best tips we can steal? Which of you are already at the Girl Scout Troop Leader level?