How to Be an Adult is Here! Preface Excerpt

posted September 8, 2013

I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to do what seemed a small task: to turn my 2008 paperback book How to Be an Adult into an ebook. Answer: almost 2 years. Really five years, since I had the thought as soon as I published the paperback. How hard could it be?

The problem was, once I reviewed the book, sometime last summer, I saw all the places I wanted to add, expand, and in a couple of cases, subtract. So I set about rewriting. And rewriting. And then factor in 2 kids, 5 careers, husband, beautiful summer weather, computer fatigue, etc and here you have it. September 6, 2013. A good a date as any to get started.

Once a week, I am going to publish an excerpt from the book. So here is the new Preface.

Preface to the 2013 Edition

In the five years since this book has come out, I have wanted, almost daily, to revise How to Be an Adult. This is natural, of course, as Adulthood is not a static state: one never arrives. New insights, new ways of changing car tires, organizing one’s finances, even new ways of roasting a chicken emerge, and I as an extroverted blabbermouth feel compelled to trumpet the new findings to the masses. Moreover, as the mother of two children (ages 7 and almost 5 as of this writing), I’ve had some good practice with some adultish skills that helped me to refine my perspective since the first edition, which was mostly written before motherhood, though edited and published when Lila was just two and Johnny was three months from being born. Those two kids have taught me more than all my life experiences to date combined. Also, as I am fond of saying, I was this close to enlightenment before I had kids. All that forgiveness work and cultivation of a relaxed attitude about the things that really matter, which I spout on about in the earlier edition—well, let’s just say I have been put to the test. And failed miserably. But as I have also written, it’s in the failing that we learn most.

When I asked for suggestions for the new edition, here were the requests:

• An expanded Vocation/Avocation section, especially with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn.

• Advice on resumés and interviewing

• More on time management (er, consciousness)

• A section on common illnesses and what to do about them

• A discussion of the importance of getting enough sleep

• A handy domestic toolbox full of tips

• Eggs and egg recipes

• More healthy recipes

• Skin care suggestions

I wrote this book because I love to give advice. I love to get advice too, and it’s extremely gratifying for me to find out the answers to the nagging questions—my own, and those of my friends. To this end, I regularly annoy my family by grabbing my iPhone as soon as anyone says, “I wonder how…” or “I wonder when…” or “I wonder what…” and then Googling like a madwoman. In my work as a life coach, I work with many twenty-somethings. I love it when they ask me basic questions to which I know the answers. But I love it even more when we work together to figure out some of the deeper problems we all confront—like how to break an addiction, or how to figure out what career would bring the most joy, or whether or not to marry the guy (or girl). I wanted to condense some of my coaching experience, too, in this new edition.

It can be lonely to be in one’s twenties. Not always, and not for everyone—sometimes the twenties are a rowdy extension of those bright college years. Some twenty-somethings are already married. But even then, even so, many folks I have spoken with confess to a sinking feeling of being alone with their cluelessness. Everyone else seems to know what to do. Why don’t I?

In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown talks about the important distinction between “fitting in” and “belonging.” We think these terms are synonyms, but actually they are worlds apart. “Fitting in,” to my mind, has always been about trimming off objectionable parts of myself so that I take up less space and don’t stand out in any way. I think that if I can do this, more people will love me. “Belonging” is the feeling I get when I’m among people who see my whole self––all the parts of me––and love me anyway. In fact, in many cases, it’s exactly those objectionable parts that create bonds between people. For me, my twenties were a journey that began as a “fitter-inner” and ended with a profound sense of belonging, and the way I got to this brave new place was through embracing my own objectionable parts. In doing so, I found my people, my Tribe, and through their collective wisdom, I got my answers, at least most of the time. When they failed me, when I had to strike out on my own, I came back with answers for them.

In this age of easy access to all kinds of information, we are training ourselves to Google things like, “Will my daughter have friends in Junior High School?” and “Is my neighbor stockpiling weapons of mass destruction?” as if Google were an oracle. The answers to many questions, in ancient Greece and modern-day America, are equally unknowable, but my sense is that when we’re compelled to reach out to the faceless unknown for answers, what we really want is to connect with the Tribe.

This book is in large part about identifying and finding that Tribe. In the beginning, you might start by looking among others who are equally clueless, and begin to commiserate with them. And then, ask questions. To that end, please join the conversation this book has launched at where I will be posting regularly. Here, you can actually ask questions and get answers. We need your input!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this book. I hope I have kept the very best aspects of the original and added and improved where it was lacking. If you have suggestions on other topics, send them my way. And of course, if you have better ideas on how to manage time, organize a budget, roast a chicken or change a tire, let me know.

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