Growing up

Growing up

What would you think of someone who’s 46, intelligent, capable, and healthy, but who still lives at home, and their parents make the meals, do laundry, clean the house, fix anything that needs repairing, etc. etc. etc.?

Not cool right?

What about someone who makes a bunch of money, and pays someone to do their laundry, clean their house, fix anything that needs repairing and eats out or gets delivery for every meal and just throws away the containers (then someone else takes out the trash).

There’s not really a lot of difference there in terms of that person’s ability to take care of themself! But society envies the person who can just pay other people to do everything for them.

Think about growing up and the stages of learning you go through when learning a skill. Baking: at what age would a parent trust you to crack a few eggs, measure the milk, and stir? Maybe 5 or 6 years old? Today, as adults, we don’t need to know much more to bake a cake! Fill a car with gas? Probably 5 or 6 years old. That’s the extent of car maintenance know-how many people have. What about turning a screw and banging a nail? Maybe 6 or 7 years old. Today, that’s all you need to know to build furniture! We don’t even know how to quickly figure out how much change we’re owed since it just goes on visa.

We all have specialties for our jobs and there are certainly things we still need to know to be effective adults,but there are many basic areas of life where we are still, as adults, quite dependent!

What’s wrong with this? I don’t need to be able to build my own furniture and I don’t have time to bake a cake completely from scratch!

Well, when you were a kid and a meal was put in front of you, there were often two main responses – it was fine and we ate it or “Blah! Don’t make me eat that!”

And that’s what we have for adults right now. That’s how I was. With everything!

We started doing more things for ourselves, from scratch (baking bread, building a chicken coop, butchering our own chickens, etc.), two things happened – one, the results were often better (though not always, especially at first), and two, we appreciated what we did ourselves WAY MORE!

If you have kids that don’t like to eat their vegetables or anything with “ingredients”, the best way to get them over this is to get them to make a meal. Why? Because when you make something yourself, when you put the time and effort and intention into making something as good as you can make it, you have much more appreciation for it, much more connection to it. When you eat something you’ve made you pay attention to the different flavors you can now identify because you put them there. You pay attention to texture. You pay attention to the proportions of the ingredients, you pay attention to the portion size… in general, you pay attention! Way more so than when someone else makes it.

And how does it make you feel to produce a delicious meal, from scratch, all on your own? Competent? Capable? Self reliant? How about… Grown up! That’s how you should feel at 7 years old making a meal from scratch, but I had to wait until my 30s before this finally happened to the extent that really triggered that feeling.

In my case, this means the first steps of making a chicken dinner are buying 2 day old chicks and planting seeds in the garden, but I would encourage you to start as far back in the process as you can – that may mean going to local farms and buying straight out of the veggie patch, or, if that’s too far, a local farmer’s market, or the fishing dock, then maybe seasoning with some herbs from your window box, or it may be trying to bake your own bread starting with wheat kernels, make soup stock from scratch, etc. – whatever you can do now/soon and then grow your skills from there.

Growing up is largely about learning how to competently meet your own needs. But, in general, the way we are taught to get what we need is to buy it. There is very little support or encouragement (if anything, there is quite a lot of discouragement) to do more things for yourself. Very few people in cities can afford enough space to grow any more than a token portion of their herbs and veggies, and when they do the environments are very controlled (contrasted to a rural garden). Imagine what your typical urbanite would do if they went to the store to buy chicken… and were handed a live chicken!

Beyond being surrounded by convenience foods, very few things you buy today can be fixed by the average do-it-yourselfer (home appliances, cars, etc. – this is why tinkerers like to buy older models of things!). Basic skills like sewing a button are rare. Fixing a toilet? A drawer that slides funky? Not likely.

I was like this, and didn’t like it. I felt enslaved to a system that treated me like a child (well, I still do but I’m working on it!), because the system creates a completely dependent relationship that, to me, while it feels convenient, is not healthy or beneficial. “Oh no, you can’t do that for yourself, but you can use some of your allowance to get it done for you!”. This goes for spirituality as well, but that’s for a different post.

The point here isn’t to make anyone feel stupid or incompetent or be your grandma tsking away at “kids these days”. The point is to bring awareness to the fact that you very well may be working your butt off to buy inferior products at higher prices, enjoying it less, while feeling helpless, instead of feeling empowered and being truly, deeply grateful for having better things in your life that you could get for less money or free (*gasp* sacrilege!) and feeling less and less dependent, and more and more “grown up”.

I’m not saying I know how to solve all the world’s problems and create a utopia, but it seems to me that such a utopia must have the principle of supporting the maximum potential of each person and do this partly by empowering them to support themselves and each other. I’m also not saying that everyone should know how to sew a button or fix a toilet, but these skills should all be found in every small group of people, so that everyone personally knows someone who can help them out when they need it.

I currently live in such a community (it was a lot of planning and years of executing to get here but it was that important to us!) and it feels great! I can’t wait to learn more, gain more skills and independence, while meeting other fabulous people whose interests are different from mine in complementary ways. I hope this post has opened you up to exploring ways you can start down this path, too, in whatever area of your life interests and excites you. Have fun!